POW and internment camps

POW and internment camps for Japanese prisoners of war and internees

A total of 18 detention camps were established in Australia. Of those, five camps detained Japanese prisoners of war and civilian internees. Loveday in South Australia, Tatura in Victoria, and Hay in New South Wales, held civilian internees, while Cowra and Hay, both in New South Wales, and Murchison in Victoria, held prisoners of war. During the war, a few reorganisations of detainees took place between camps.  In addition to these, there were other transit/staging camps where the Japanese were temporarily held before settling in their designated permanent camps.

 Name of camp State Location Capacity Remarks
Gaythorne Queensland Gaythorne 1800 Mainly used for interrogation.

(No 12)

NSW Cowra 4000 Breakout happened in August 1944.
Hay (No 6) NSW Hay 1000 Accommodated Japanese civilian internees and later PWJMs only after 1943.

(No 7, No 8)

NSW Hay 3000 Accommodated Japanese prisoners of war.
Liverpool NSW Liverpool 500 Used as a staging or transit camp.

(No 4)

Victoria Tatura Mainly accommodated women and families.
Murchison (No 13) Victoria Murchison 4000 Accommodated Japanese officers and other ranks.

(No 14)

South Australia Barmera 4000 Accommodated single civilian men.

(No 11)

Western Australia Harvey 500 Used as a transit camp.


Australian authorities operated prisoner of war camps and civilian internment camps according to the Geneva Convention of 1929 relative to the Treatment of Prisoner of War. Consequently, living conditions in the camps were satisfactory. The Japanese were confined to the compound, but, they were essentially allowed to run their own affairs while the Australian authorities oversaw them.


Source: Mayumi Kamada ed., Retracing National Memory, 2012, p. v.

The Cowra Japanese War Cemetery Database Project ( 2016-2024 ) © Embassy of Japan, Canberra