• Cherry Parker arrives in Australia with her husband Gordon Parker and her family. (SBS)Source: SBS
Cherry Parker, the first Japanese war bride to come to Australia, had to wait four years before she was allowed to come to Australia. War brides often faced hostility, distrust and racism.
Sharon Verghis

19 Mar 2019 - 10:09 AM  UPDATED 26 Mar 2019 - 8:54 AM

Cherry Parker, the first Japanese war bride to come to Australia, married her husband, AIF serviceman Digger Gordon Parker, in Japan.

But it took four years, and the birth in Japan of the first two of their eight children before she was finally allowed to come to Australia. 

SBS series Australia In Colour, highlights the fight for some of Japanese war brides like Cherry to return with their husbands to Australia, which was still in the grip of the White Australia Policy.

All over the world, World War II resulted in an unprecedented number of war brides.

They came from a land hugely different to Australia. They had to learn not just the language but the customs, culture and expectations. These were women in war zones who married foreign soldiers stationed in their countries during the war or in occupation when the fighting stopped.

Many Australian servicemen would meet their Japanese brides in this period post-war.



Unlike the US, where up to 35,000 Japanese women migrated during the 1950s, there was no legal framework in Australia, like the US War Brides Act of 1945, that allowed American servicemen who married abroad to bring their wives home.

But a grassroots lobbying campaign from Australian servicemen, their families and the community resulted in an exemption for the Japanese brides of Australian servicemen.

Still, these lonely young women, far from home, had to jump through all kinds of hoops.

They were permitted to enter Australia, initially with five-year visas, but only if they met a number of conditions: that their husband could prove he could provide for his bride, that the bride supply x-rays and medical certificates and pass character and security checks, and that the marriage took place legally and according to Christian rites. They tackled hostility, distrust and racism. In some suburban communities in their new homeland, there was still a strong sense of Japan being the enemy.

On arrival in Australia, some new arrivals were reportedly physically attacked on a Melbourne wharf by factory girls angry that Australian men had chosen foreign wives.

In total, about 650 Japanese women arrived in Australia between 1952 and 1957 as war brides, two decades before the White Australia Policy ended in 1973.

Half a century later, there is now, finally, some recognition of these stories, the difficulties faced, and recognition of these war brides in the telling of Australia’s war history.

Last year, the wedding dress of Yoshiko Ishikawa, a young Japanese seamstress working as a waitress who fell in love and married Australian soldier Victor Creagh in army camp in Tokyo in 1956, went on display at the National Museum of Australia. To NMA curator, Laina Hall, it illustrates the wider story of Japanese war brides, the obstacles they faced, and how their arrival engineered a small shift in the White Australia policy.

Experience Australia’s story brought vividly to life with the new four-part series Australia in Colour premiering on SBS at 8.30pm on Wednesday March 6. Available anytime and anywhere on your favourite device after broadcast on SBS On Demand.