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Australia in the 1910s

Irish in Australia

The First World War coincided with the Easter Rising in 1916 against British rule in Ireland. This meant that many Irish-Australians who had previously pledged loyalty to the cause of Empire and allegiance to Australia began to have significant doubts.

In May 1917, Les Darcy, an Australian-born boxer, died in Tennessee, USA. Darcy had secretly left the country in breach of wartime regulations to fight in the USA to further his career. Seen as having been unfairly maligned due to his Irish-Catholic heritage and his apparent unwillingness to fight in the war, his funeral in Maitland, New South Wales, became an occasion for anti-government protest.

In November 1919, a rally was held in Melbourne following the Australasian Irish race convention with Australian Labor Party (ALP) politician Thomas Joseph Ryan in the chair. A massive crowd voted to affirm Ireland's right to self-government. The prime minister, Billy Hughes, used these events to heavily damage the ALP, linking it with the Irish cause and accusing it of disloyalty to Britain and the British Empire.

Billy Hughes, prime minister between 1915 and 1923

A snapshot of 1918

  • January
    • The Australia Corps formed out of five separate Australian divisions fighting in France during the First World War.

  • April
    • A factory opened in Caulfield, Victoria, to manufacture artificial limbs for returned soldiers.

  • September
    • The first direct wireless message was transmitted from Britain to Australia.

  • November
    • On the '11th day of the 11th month at the 11th hour', the Armistice between the Allies and Germany flagged the cessation of fighting on the Western Front.
    • Preferential voting was introduced for the first time in elections for the House of Representatives.
    • Two significant children's books were published: The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay and Tales of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie: Their Wonderful Adventures by May Gibbs.


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