National Archives of Japan and National Archives of Australia Commemorative Ceremony

  • Speech, check against delivery
Tokyo, Japan

I was proud to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 1957Japan-Australia Commerce Agreement during my first official visit to Japan lastyear.

Today's event makes it clear that we would be mistaken to assume thatthis is where Australia and Japan's economic partnership began and I am sopleased to have just witnessed the signing of this Memorandum of Cooperationbetween two great institutions – the safe-keepers of invaluable nationalrecords; the protectors of key moments in the histories of our two countries.

I acknowledge the Australian and Japanese historians and archivists whodrew out the stories these documents tell.

The stories behind the correspondence, bank statements, reports, objectsand photographs illustrate the trade history between Japan and Australia.

As early as 1902, we can read that the NewSouth Wales Government appointed a dedicated Trade Commissioner to the 'FarEast' who was stationed in Kobe.

In the 1920s, the Japanese marketaccounted for 7 per cent of Australia's exports, and by the mid-30s – despitethe hardships of the Great Depression – this had doubled, reaching 14 per cent.

Ourswas a vibrant commercial relationship, full of promise by any measure – butdue, of course, for a great disruption come World War Two.

Itwas during this time that these Japanese company trading records were seized bythe Australian Government, eventually finding their home for the next 60 yearsin the National Archives of Australia.

Among these records are touchingly candid photos of Japanese life inearly Sydney – revealing glimpses of what those first Japanese business peoplein Australia made of our vast outdoors and bright sunshine.

There are familiar stories – it seems picnicking was a favouritedowntime pursuit, even then.

There were membership ledgers of Japanese Societies housed anywhere fromSydney to Broome – proof that despite global politics, friendships were growingbetween Australians and Japanese.

I am pleased to say that many such friendships still exist today.

Just last night, a group called Club Australia were hard at work puttingon a good old fashioned Aussie barbecue in Roppongi Hills!

Incredibly, a number of the Japanese companies with a history of tradingin Australia continue to have a significant role in Australia's economy today.

These are companies that have become household names in Australia suchas Mitsui and Mitsubishi.

It is a privilege to share this occasion with representatives from theseand so many other notable Japanese companies.

I thank you for the contributions you have made – and continue to make –to Australia.

Today,Japan remains Australia's second largest two-way goods partner and secondlargest export market.

TheAustralian Government does not take the Japan partnership lightly, nor does ittake it for granted.

Weare committed to working with Japan for our mutual prosperity and stability.

We now pass these records back to the Japanese people – we are proud tohave kept them safe for 60 years, and proud today to hand them back to wherethey belong.

They represent an acknowledgment of our past and a symbol of our deepfriendship moving forward together.

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