Vale Jan Ruff-O'Herne AO (1923-2019)

Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has today expressed her sadness at the death of World War II rape survivor, human rights activist, author and great-grandmother, Jan Ruff-O’Herne AO.

The 96-year-old International Peace Prize winner and decorated peace activist passed away peacefully surrounded by her family yesterday morning.

Attorney-General, Vickie Chapman said today that Mrs Ruff-O’Herne was an inspiration of her generation, bringing to light her extraordinary story of survival in 1992 after seeing Korean War rape victims making appeals for justice on television.

“Today we pay tribute to her courage for breaking her 50 years of silence to tell the world of her pain, both physical and psychological, during the Japanese invasion of Indonesia in World War II,” Ms Chapman said.

“Jan Ruff-O’Herne has worked determinedly for decades to support the plight of ‘comfort women’ and for the protection of women in war and armed conflict.

“I have always admired her extraordinary capacity to forgive and her preparedness to break her silence and to tell the world of her suffering in the hope that it will assist future generations to protect the women and children of today and of the future.

“She has worked with the Human Rights Commission, International Red Cross, and Amnesty International, speaking in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, the US and UK, the Netherlands and many other countries, sharing her incredible story.

“Her story of survival is a tribute to her strength and courage, and she will be sorely missed not only here in South Australia, but around the world.

 “We must ensure Jan Ruff-O’Herne’s story is never forgotten. May her legacy never be lost,” Ms Chapman concluded.

Mrs Ruff O’Herne’s autobiography, ‘Fifty Years of Silence’, published by Random House has been translated into six different languages, including Japanese, Indonesia, Indian, Chinese and Korean.

A documentary film about Mrs Ruff O’Herne, ‘50 Years of Silence’ won numerous accolades, including the 1995 Most Outstanding Documentary TV Logie, winner of the Australian Film Institute Awards, Best Documentary, winner of the 1995 EAC Dendy Awards, winner of the Best Film Non-Fiction, Asia Pacific Film Festival and winner World Film and TV Festival in Japan.

Mrs Ruff-O’Herne also received an Order of Australia in 2002, a papal honour from Pope John Paul II, Dame Commander of the Order of Saint Sylvester in the same year and in 2004 received a Centenary medal from Prime Minister John Howard for contribution made to Australian society.