Australia in the 1940s


On 5 January 1943, the Defence (Citizen Military Forces) Act 1943 (Cth) was passed. The federal ALP conference approved prime minister John Curtin's proposal to extend the use of conscripted forces to fight in some non-Australian territories in the south-west Pacific area. Curtin had great difficulty in persuading state branches to agree to this radical change to traditional Labor policy, which had long held that men should not be conscripted for overseas fighting, but ultimately he was successful.

On 19 February 1943, the 'Militia Bill' became law and all of the Australian forces became available to US General Douglas MacArthur in planning the Pacific campaign.

Australian troops in Buna, New Guinea, during the Second World War


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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