How Taz has worked to improve Japan-Australia relations
AUSTRALIA now enjoys a strong relationship with Japan -- but that wasn't always the case.
Ballina's Taz McLaren has worked hard in improving relations between the two countries, and the Japanese-born woman on Australia Day was honoured with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM).
It's an honour she said was a "surprise”, and one that she was "humbled” by.
"It's wonderful,” she said.
She thanked all the "countless” people who have helped her in her work founding the Father Glynn Japan Australia Centre at Southern Cross University, and the fundraising effort that went with that.
She particularly thanked her family and members of the Isabella A Cappella group who over the years supported the fundraising, and continue to tour to Japan.
The lecturer in Japanese at the university said she was inspired to create the centre, and strengthen local ties with Japan, through the story of the late Fr Glynn.
She met his brother, Fr Paul Glynn, at a church service for Japanese people at the Lismore Cathedral in the late 1990s, which she attended after seeing a classified ad in The Northern Star.
Fr Tony Glynn, who was born in Casino and passed away in 1994, was an Australian missionary priest in Japan whose work for post-war reconciliation earned him honours from both countries.
But learning of the wartime experiences of Australia soldiers also added to Mrs McLaren's motivation to set up the centre.
When she arrived in Australia in 1972, she and many of her generation knew nothing of the horrors inflicted on the Australian prisoners of war when Australia and Japan were fighting as enemies.
Mrs McLaren had married the late Terry McLaren, a trawlerman and member of the McLaren boat-building family in Ballina whom she met while she was working as an interpretor at a Japanese airport.
While she said he didn't speak about the war, there was, back in the 1970s, a lot of "anti-Japanese sentiment” in Australia.
It was a movie that first brought her attention to the dark history of World War II, and she said she was "shocked”.
As part of her roles as Japanese Liaison Officer and co-ordinator of the Japanese Exchange Program at SCU, she said she still ensures young Japanese people are made aware of that part of history.
She said she today receives "great joy” in seeing people of the two countries connecting.