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CCH Seminar – 24th April – Anna Wilkinson

Join us online or in person for a special Anzac eve seminar with Anna Wilkinson.

“A love story that would have inspired immortal Shakespeare”: The history of Asian Australian war bride marriages and a case study of the Vietnam War.

Vung Tau, South Vietnam. 27 November 1971. Private (Pte) Ian Harty of Ascot Vale, Vic, completed a long series of arrangements when he married Miss Le Thi Huong in a simple Roman Catholic ceremony in a Vung Tau church. (AWM)

After the Second World War, Asian war brides became one of the few official exceptions to the White Australia Policy. The arrival of Japanese war brides in 1952 has been characterised as a symbol of reconciliation, a pivotal turning point in Australia’s immigration policy and a reunion between Japan and the Allied Powers after the Pacific War. Although Australia continued to engage militarily within the region, little is known about subsequent Asian Australian war bride marriages including over 100 couples who met during the war in Vietnam.

This paper examines the history of marriages between Vietnamese war brides and Australian servicemen and, in doing so, brings attention to these little-known marriages and their impact on Australian society during a time of rapid change. Through official military directives, newspaper reports and oral testimonies, this paper seeks to explore the ways in which Vietnamese war bride marriages were regulated by the military, defined by the public, and experienced by couples themselves. As part of my PhD thesis, this paper will contextualise Vietnamese war bride marriages within the broader history of Asian war bride marriages, and discuss the contemporary relevance of exploring Asian-Australian history.

In the lead-up to ANZAC Day, the history of Asian war bride marriages provides an alternative intimate narrative through which we can understand Australia’s military engagement in the Asian region. These marriages challenge the masculine discourse surrounding wartime histories and provide diverse ways to understand wartime experiences. These intimate histories also track the continued existence of Asian Australian communities – spearheaded by women – throughout the White Australia era.

11am, 24th April

Burwood: C2.05.01
Waurn Ponds: IC2.108
ZoomClick here.

Anna Wilkinson (she/her) is a PhD student at Deakin University. She is the granddaughter of a Japanese war bride and, wanting to discover more about her Eurasian background, began her doctorate in Asian-Australian History at the beginning of 2022. Her thesis focuses on the larger history of Asian war bride marriages between 1945 to 1975. She is currently examining the meeting and marriage of Japanese, Malayan and Vietnamese women to Australian servicemen, and their subsequent migration to Australia. Utilising an ‘Asian war bride’ framework, Anna hopes to contribute to the discourse of Australian history in the immediate post-war period, which is too often characterised by a distinct lack of Asian-Australian history and identity.


Cover Photo from Stanley Middleton’s personal archive