Dr Christina Twomey

Margaret George Award 2004

Topic: An exploration of the experiences of Australian civilians interned by the Japanese in World War II

Biographical note

Dr Christina Twomey is a lecturer in the School of Historical Studies at Monash University and the author of Deserted and Destitute: Motherhood, Wife Desertion and Colonial Welfare (2002). She has also written on the history of internment by the Japanese in the World War ll with particular reference to issues of trauma, gender and captivity.


Dr Christina Twomey was the first recipient of the Margaret George Award. The Margaret George Award enabled Dr Twomey to complete research for a book about Australian civilians interned by the Japanese in World War ll.

During the war, the Japanese arrested an estimated 1500 Australian civilian nationals and detained them in prison-like camps. One quarter of the internees died while captive. Civilian internees had personally suffered hardship, privation and loss at the hands of the enemy, but were not military personnel in service of their country. Internees themselves felt the ambiguities of their position keenly, as did the Australian Government when it was forced to consider their plight at the conclusion of hostilities.

The National Archives has extensive holdings in relation to civilian internees in the Asia-Pacific region and the Australian Government response to their plight. Material relating to the liberation and repatriation of the internees, the activities of collaborators, internees’ requests for compensation and the operation of a trust fund offer rich material for the historian. Dr Twomey closely examined experiences of internment and debates about the citizenship entitlements of former internees, and reflected on the awkward legacy of internment.


Co-winner of the National Archives' Margaret George Award, Dr Christina Twomey, discusses the internment of 1500 Australian civilians by the Japanese in World War II.

Using the rich material held by the National Archives, Dr Twomey argues that civilian internees occupy an ambiguous place in the history of Australians at war.

She discusses internees' experiences of repatriation, their quest to be compensated for hardship and loss and the responses from the Australian Government.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019