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Australia's Involvement in World War II and How It Affected Its Citizens: Essay

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As part of the British Empire, Australia was one of the first nations to declare war on Nazi Germany between 1939 and 1945. Nearly one million Australian men and women served in World War II. They fought in campaigns against the Axis powers across Europe, the Mediterranean, and North Africa, as well as against Japan in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. The Australian government used wartime regulations like conscription, manpower, rationing, and censorship controls during World War II that affected the lives of Australian citizens on the home front.

First, I want to discuss how wartime regulations affected the lives of Australians through various forms of government control. Conscription control is sending people to war and forcing them to be a part of the war effort. Australia was desperately in need of men to fight in the war, so at the start of World War II, all unmarried men aged 21 were to be called up for three months of military training. The volunteers in the AIF called the conscripts 'chocolate soldiers' as they were believed to 'melt' under the harsh conditions of the war. Censorship control was choosing what can be published in newspapers and sent to people by mail. The Australian government was trying to cover what they did not want to publish to prevent valuable information from falling into enemy hands and to maintain high morale at home, colorful posters were used to encourage people to join military services. Manpower control is choosing where people could work and sending them to a certain type of workforce. From the first of April, 1942, all engagement of male labor was controlled and jobs were assigned to both females and males. The government had the power to place men and women in the armed services, war industry, and civilian industry. It maintained economic stability during World War II and ensured there was no large industry with no labor force. And rationing control is that people were only allowed a certain amount of food and everyday items each to preserve what was available. The use of coupons is limited to clothing and food items such as tea, sugar, butter, and meat. From time to time, eggs and milk were also rationed under a system of priority for vulnerable groups during periods of shortages during the Japanese attacks. Rationing regulations for food, petrol, and clothing were gazette on 14 May 1942 to manage shortages, curb inflation, and ensure equitable distribution of food and clothing, and it was also hoped to increase savings due to the cut on consumer spending, which in turn could be invested in war loans. It was indeed successful, however, Australians were never rationed as heavily before and not everyone embraced the war effort, many sold scarce items at greatly inflated prices in the black market (where coupons are not needed but it costs more).

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Furthermore, in considering the subject of Australia's involvement in the Second World War and its effect on its inhabitants, I think it appropriate to consider the impacts of direct Japanese attacks on Australians and how this transformed Australians' views towards the war. The Australian mainland came under direct attack during World War II on 19 February 1942, with Japanese aircraft bombing towns in Darwin, and during 1942-1944, with Japanese midget submarines attacking Sydney Harbour. Japanese submarines attacked ships in Australian waters around Sydney Harbor from January 1942 until July 1944. Major submarine offensives were carried out against trading and shipping along the Australian east coast from May to July 1942 and January to July 1943. On the evening of 31 May 1942, Sydney Harbour came under direct attack from Japanese midget submarines. 1 depot ship was sunk, 21 sailors were killed and 10 were heavily wounded. Japan also suffered greatly, with 2 midget submarines sunk and 2 spotter planes lost. This attack was carried out because Japan was concerned about Australia's role as a port for American vessels, and Japan had no intention of invading Australia. The bombing of Darwin was part of a strategic plan to damage the Allies’ base for interfering with Japan's invasion of Timor and Java. All the attacks around Darwin were aimed at weakening the Allied ability to strike at the Japanese. Japanese forces mounted two air raids on Darwin on 19 February 1942. The two attacks were all planned by the commander who directed the Pearl Harbor attack 10 days ago. It involved 188 Japanese attack aircraft which were launched from 4 aircraft carriers in the Timor Sea, and a second raid of 54 land-based bombers. Half the civilian population of Darwin fled after the attack, and three days after the raid 278 servicemen were still missing. The two raids killed 235 people in total and 400 were wounded. 30 Allies' aircraft were destroyed, 11 ships were sunk, and some of the civil and military facilities in Darwin were destroyed. The Japanese attacks highlighted Australia's lack of preparation for a possible invasion and the weak defense of Australia, and Australian land and air defenses were strengthened after the bombing of Darwin.

And the final point I would like to make when discussing Australia's involvement in the Second World War and its impact on Australians is the role of women in the war effort. Because of men going to war, women are left at home and were forced to support their families on their own. Companies were in high demand of labor force, therefore for the first time, women were in traditionally male occupations, previously considered too challenging for them, including working in factories, shipyards, and farms. As the war progressed, more and more resources were directed to the war effort, and it soon became clear that women would have to take a more active role in the workforce. Brightly colored recruitment posters encouraged young women to sign up to join the military force. Thousands of young Australian women left home to join the new women’s auxiliary services, like the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force, the Australian Army Nursing Service, the Australian Women’s Army Service, and more. Not only that, but women also participated in the manufacturing of weapons and goods for war. More than 66,000 of them enlisted in the Army, Navy, and Air Force. They made up 7% of the nearly 1 million Australians who served. World War II assisted in changing the public face and perception of women in Australian society, and by the end of the war, they were seen as equally as capable of providing essential and technical services as the men, their contribution to the war effort cannot be ignored as they provided essential weapons for war and also fought in the war with men for the first time.

Summarizing the above information, Australia's involvement in the Second World War was not only important to its course but also had a significant impact on Australians.

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Australia’s Involvement in World War II and How It Affected Its Citizens: Essay. (2023, November 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Australia’s Involvement in World War II and How It Affected Its Citizens: Essay.” Edubirdie, 21 Nov. 2023,
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Australia’s Involvement in World War II and How It Affected Its Citizens: Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Nov 21 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from:
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