Civilian internees in Australia
During the First and Second World Wars, nationals of countries at war with Australia who were living in Australia were classed as “enemy aliens”. Included as enemy aliens were naturalised British subjects who were born in enemy countries, Australian-born descendants of migrants born in enemy countries and others who were thought to pose a threat to Australia's security.
Australia interned almost 7,000 people during the First World War. About 4,500 were enemy aliens and British nationals of German ancestry already resident in Australia.
During the Second World War, Japanese residents were interned en masse. Germans and Italians were also interned on the basis of their nationality. Australia interned about 7,000 residents, including more than 1,500 British nationals. A further 8,000 people were sent to Australia to be interned after being detained overseas by Australia's allies. In 1942, more than 12,000 people were interned in Australia.
The following sources held in the Memorial’s Research Centre contain lists of names.
First World War
- [Enemy Subjects:] Index of secret intelligence records 2MD [List of names and organisations of a non-military character including aliens, deportees, internees, International Workers of the World [IWW], Bolsheviks, Sinn Feiners, etc; cards and indexes passed to Inspector D A Machiehan, Attorney General's Department, Sydney] [Part 2 of 2] AWM27, 425/11 PART 2
- [Enemy Subjects:] General index (Supplementary No 1) to 6MD, Record of Aliens Intelligence Section, General Staff [Alphabetical list of names and personal details of persons who have come under notice during the period of the war] AWM27, 425/12
- [Enemy Subjects:] "Aliens (Naturalisation)" [Lists of names of all aliens to whom certificates of Naturalisation of British nationality had been issued before 31 December 1913, published 1 May 1914] AWM27, 425/2
Second World War
- [Secret files - Enemy aliens - Enlisted in and discharged from AMF (Australian Military Forces)] AWM61, S56/1/3153
- [Enemy Aliens] AWM60, 702 (includes lists of enemy aliens serving in the AMF)
- Private record PR00108, Membership subscription card index and membership cards from the Nationalist Socialist Democratic Workers Party (NSDWP), Adelaide branch, at the outbreak of war in 1939. Many of the members were interned as enemy aliens.
Most records relating to internees and internment camps in Australia are held at the National Archives of Australia. For information on relevant records, see the National Archives fact sheet Wartime internment camps in Australia.
Published works can provide insight into life in the internment camps.
First World War
- Ernest Scott, Australia during the War, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918, Volume XI (Sydney : Angus and Robertson, 1941) Chapter 4 – The enemy within the gates [www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awmohww1/aif/vol11/awmoh ww1-aif-vol11-ch4.pdf]
- Gerhard Fischer, Enemy aliens : internment and the homefront experience in Australia, 1914-1920 (University of Queensland Press, 1989)
- Nadine Helmi and Gerard Fischer, The enemy at home : German internees in World War I Australia (UNSW Press, 2011)
Second World War
- Paul Hasluck, The government and the people, 1939-1941, Australia in the War of 1939-1945, Volume 1 (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1965) Appendix 4 – The wartime treatment of aliens [www.awm.gov.au/collection/records/awmohww2/civil/vol1/awmohww2-civil-vol1-app4.pdf]
- Bill Bunbury, Rabbits & spaghetti : captives and comrades, Australians, Italians and the war, 1939-1945 (Fremantle Arts Centre Press, 1995)
- Margaret Bevege, Behind barbed wire : internment in Australia during World War II (University of Queensland Press, 1993)
- Yuriko Nagata, Unwanted aliens : Japanese internment in Australia (University of Queensland Press, 1996) Appendices include statistics of local and overseas internees held in Australia and a list of permanent POW and internment camps in Australia (1939—1947)
- Klaus Neumann, In the interest of national security : civilian internment in Australia during World War II (National Archives of Australia, 2006)
These books are available for viewing in the Research Centre Reading Room. Check with your local library for other locations.
The Memorial’s collection includes photographs of internees and internment camps during both wars. Search for these in the Collection Search database.
- Australia’s War 1939-1945, “All in – ‘aliens’” includes images, stories and related documents
- Italian Historical Society database of Italian civil internees including people living in Australia at the time of capture, people resident in New Guinea and the British protectorate of Palestine, and passengers and crew from Italian ships captured in Australian waters.
- Italian Australian History presents stories of Italians living in Australia 1930-1950, with a focus on experiences during the Second World War
- Loveday Project: Japanese civilians interned in Australia during WWII includes personal stories, sources and links