This year being the 20th anniversary of the founding of JAFA I thought it would be interesting to go back over the history of those years and highlight some of the significant achievements of the Association.

JAFA was formed as a purely social and cultural organization not as a quasi-business organization or a networking group for people with commercial interests. Its aim is to promote friendship and understanding and cultural links between Australia and Japan as well as supporting the teaching and use of the Japanese language.

To achieve these aims we set about doing the things that other organizations weren’t interested in or capable of doing.

We began by focusing on obvious social needs in the community. This involved the establishment of a children’s playgroup as a social support network for Japanese partners of Australians and to provide an opportunity for their children to play in a Japanese speaking environment. This was followed by setting up of a telephone answering service to provide information and assistance to newly arrived Japanese as well as State and local government, schools and the general public. These initiatives led to JAFA organizing Japanese community participation in the Australia Day parade.

We then resurrected the Kodomo no Hi celebration which had been started in 1995 but abandoned in 1998 the year JAFA was founded. So, the following year we organised it again at Immanuel College where it was held for the next three years, before moving to Cowandilla Primary School. And after 15 years there the festival outgrew the venue and has recently moved to Thebarton Community Centre where it has attracted even bigger attendances.

Each year a dedicated team of volunteers have organized the festival registering performers and stall holders, recruiting volunteers, hiring equipment, designing posters and doing the PR to ensure a good attendance. So successful have they been that it has twice received the City of West Torrens Community Event of the Year award and in 2014 the Australia Day Committee of South Australia Community Event of the Year award.

While the festival is not “a traditional Japanese festival” it was never intended to be. Rather than present a stereotyped image of Japan we have created an event that showcases what Australians interested in Japan and Japanese living here are doing. We’ve had a jazz/pop trio, a South American band, a belly dancer and recently flamenco dancers and have welcomed performers from interstate and overseas including Japan and the US.

With the Kodomo no Hi event re-established our next endeavour was to promote and encourage the study and use of Japanese language. To do this we set up a number of awards including an Outstanding Achievement Award for students scoring 20/20 in the Year 12 assessment, an Excellence in Japanese Award at the School of Languages and a Merit Award for the Interpreting and Translating course at Adelaide TAFE. And this year we have established two awards for students of Japanese at the University of Adelaide with awards for Excellence in Intermediate and Advanced Japanese.

We established a close relationship with the Japan Foundation, Sydney and coordinated the first Japan Film Festival in Adelaide in 2001. Subsequently we lobbied the Foundation to be allowed to conduct the Japanese Language Proficiency Test in Adelaide and in 2002 were permitted to hold the test on a probationary basis. After increasing the number of examinees the following year, Adelaide was included as a full test venue and this year 162 people have registered to take the test.

Our contacts with schools and local governments has involved our members in conducting origami and calligraphy lessons at schools and local libraries. As interest in these crafts grew we started our own classes held twice a month attracting some very talented practitioners. And for some years now have been asked to judge origami creations in the craft section at the Royal Adelaide Show.

With the establishment of the OzAsia Festival I was invited to be a Festival Ambassador to help promote the event and JAFA has participated in the Moon Lantern Festival each year with the very popular origami and calligraphy workshop.

Although our focus is primarily on conducting events in South Australia we established connections with our counterpart organizations interstate and were instrumental in the formation of the National Federation of Australia Japan Societies and hosted the inaugural conference of the Federation in 2003. The Association has been represented on the Federation committee since then with Ben Sparrow the current Vice President. And we have recently received enquiries as to whether JAFA would be interested in hosting the next conference in 2020.

Over the years we have worked to promote links with Japan through a number of projects including:

  • a celebration of the Australia Japan Year of Exchange in 2006
  • presenting the Australia Japan Historical Photo Exhibition “Partners in a New Vision” in 2007
  • beginning the revitalization of the Adelaide-Himeji Sister-city relationship in 2010 culminating in the 30th anniversary celebration in 2012
  • and following up in 2016 with the Koinobori Project involving students in Adelaide schools decorating koinobori carp streamers that were sent to Himeji to celebrate the reopening of Himeji Castle.
  • We also assisted the State Government in its relations with Okayama Prefecture and held an exhibition and photo contest to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the sister-state relationship in 2013 and were involved in this year’s 25th anniversary.

Our links with Japan have also been promoted in times of adversity particularly in 2011 when the earthquake and tsunami struck north east Japan. At that time, we donated $10,000 to the Japan Red Cross to assist with disaster relief and set up the JAFA Disaster Relief Volunteer program to recruit volunteers to go to Japan to assist in the clean up and reconstruction. Our first group of volunteers worked with the Peace Boat organization in Ishinomaki and later with OGA For Aid in Minami Sanriku where we donated over $2,000 to assist in revitalizing the local economy and provide jobs for local people.

In 2016 after an earthquake in Kumamoto Prefecture we donated $3,000 towards restoration of Kumamoto Castle, which had been damaged in the quake and this year we made a similar donation to Save the Children Japan to support their work in Okayama Prefecture where they are creating safe places for children and offering psychological and material support for those affected by the devastation resulting from the heavy rain event in early July.

But our willingness to help communities in need hasn’t been restricted to Japan as we made a donation of $10,000 to UNICEF to assist the people of Nepal after a devastating earthquake in 2015 and another donation of $3,000 for relief work in Peru after an earthquake there in 2016..

Our latest project has been the AnimeGO! anime film festival started in 2016. The festival includes a short anime film competition as a showcase for aspiring animators. This year we received 16 registrations not just locally but from interstate and overseas including New Zealand, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan. Judges for the competition came from the Media Studies departments of the three universities as well as Joseph Mitchell, the artistic director of the OzAsia Festival. This event has generated a lot of interest and is set to be a significant celebration of Japanese pop culture. 

As an active volunteer community organization we don’t take ourselves too seriously but we do take our endeavours seriously. We are able to do this through the dedication and hard work of the JAFA committee. We have been fortunate over the years to attract very talented people to the committee all of whom have worked together as a team to ensure the success of all our projects.

For the next year the team will farewell one member and welcome another. Kate King joined the team as Treasurer about 5 years ago when we were in need of someone to get our financial records up to date. She soon had everything under control and has kept a close watch on our finances ever since. Her report tonight will show that again this year we have a surplus of income over expenditure.

Kate’s role as Treasurer will be taken up by Martin Pietsch who has been our Secretary with Victoria Kyriakopolous becoming Secretary. Other committee members include Emiko Mayer as Vice President, Wade Beger as Public Officer, Herbert Dorfmeister and Naomi Pietsch with our newest member Chris McKay joining us after coordinating the AnimeGO! festival. JAFA is a dynamic organization distinguished by its imagination and creativity and the passion and energy to bring its ideas to fruition and with the new team this is sure to continue.

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Diary Dates


Due to COVID-19, all JAFA events have been cancelled until further notice.



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