Australia in the 1940s

Post-war reconstruction

The National Security Act 1939 gave the Australian government new powers during the war, and the government used those powers to make laws and regulations such as issuing personal identity cards, rationing clothing and food and forming the Women's Land Army.

In December 1942, the Department of Post-war Reconstruction was set up by the federal government to coordinate public works programs, and handle the resettlement of refugees and rehabilitation of servicemen. The reconstruction program prioritised full employment bolstered by large-scale public works initiatives. Additionally, it initiated a housing program for low-income workers, a new emphasis on Australia's manufacturing industries, particularly the design and production of an all-Australian motor car and a large-scale immigration program to stimulate and implement development.

In 1946, the first post-war immigration agreement was made with British Government for 70,000 people a year to migrate to Australia. This immigration scheme would provide labour for the new industries and increase Australia's population as part of the 'populate or perish' call. The agreement meant that a migrant paid £10 towards the fare while the two governments would share the rest of the cost. These immigrants were known colloquially as 'Ten Pound Poms'.

A snapshot of 1948

  • January
    • Employees working under the Federal Award System begin working a 40-hour week.

  • May
    • The Housing Commission in Melbourne holds its first ballot to allocate new homes for families of returned servicemen.

  • June
    • The federal government ends the rationing of meat and clothing.

  • August
    • The federal government's legislation to nationalise private banks is declared invalid by the High Court.

  • October
    • The first Australian Holden motor car comes off the assembly line and becomes a symbol of Australian prosperity.

  • December
    • Dr Herbert Vere Evatt (1894–1965), former minister for external affairs and attorney-general, is elected president of the General Assembly of the United Nations.


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