Breakout win for Cowra

The 60th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout featured prominently at the recent Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales cultural awards. Other winners included Bathurst, Baulkham Hills, Canterbury, Clarence Valley, Coolamon, Fairfield, Great Lakes, Hastings, Lane Cove, Tweed, Central West Regional Organisation of Councils, Southern Councils Group, Western Sydney and two joint entries from Manly and Pittwater and Fairfield and Holroyd.

Local Government Association President, Councillor Genia McCaffery, said all entries demonstrated the commitment Local Government has in working for cultural development in collaboration with local communities.

“Together we are delivering core community needs,” she said. “When it is all boiled down, people enjoy cultural activity. The winning entries show our regional centres leave nothing to the imagination in their enthusiasm.”

The President of the Shires Association, Councillor Phyllis Miller, said New South Wales Councils had invested more than $350 million on cultural development.

“It is not window dressing,” she said. “The contributions made by Councils are a positive investment in our future. Through our galleries, museums and heritage programs, we are creating a magnet to attract professional people to the hinterland. And our efforts boost our tourist industries, giving visitors a reason to come to our towns.”

Cowra Shire Council took out the Cultural Program or Projects Award. Mayor Bruce Miller said that the award recognises the hard work that went into commemorating events that occurred in Cowra just over 60 years ago.

“On 5 August last year, Cowra commemorated the 60th Anniversary of the breakout of Japanese prisoners from the Cowra Prisoner of War (POW) Camp,” the Mayor said.

“The story of the Cowra POW Breakout in 1944, where 231 Japanese prisoners and four Australian guards were killed in the single largest POW breakout in world history, is well known. Not so well known is the tremendous spirit of reconciliation that has developed between Cowra and Japan immediately following the cessation of hostilities in 1945.”

In 2002, a committee was formed under the auspices of Cowra Shire Council to coordinate the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the Cowra Breakout. It was staged over an eight day period from 31 July to 8 August 2004.

Council and the committee members were mindful that the 60th anniversary would probably be the last opportunity to bring together a significant number of actual Breakout participants. Councillor Miller said the result was an event of international significance that saw the collaboration of local and visiting organisations to an extent rarely before seen in Cowra.