Rosie in the Empire: Gender in British and Australian Film Propaganda during the Second World War

Women Workers in Australia

As in Britain, the war encroached on nearly every aspect of civilian life in Australia, and Australian women also wanted to “do their bit” to contribute to the Allied war effort. However, unlike the British government, the Australian government was reluctant to mobilize women for war work and include women in “men’s” work. Women such as Ivy Brookes, the daughter of the former Australian prime minister Alfred Deakin, lobbied the Australian government to mobilize women for war work. This lobbying combined with the desperate shortage of workers finally pushed the Australian government to mobilize women workers through legislation in 1942.  

Like their British counterparts, Australian women worked in the women’s branches of the armed services and in factories, though the Australian government did not mobilize women for civil defense work in Darwin and other bombed cities. Women in Australia joined the branches of the women’s services, which were often equivalent to British organizations, like the Australian Women’s Land Army or the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. They also entered factory jobs, some for the first time, others having long worked in factories. But the Australian government was more comfortable with women working in traditional feminine jobs, such as those that placed women in caretaker roles. This is a major difference between the British and Australian governments’ attitudes toward women workers.

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