Were Australians against the introduction of conscription during WW1?As the war was happening people back home in Australia were starting to realise that the war was not as much about bravery and pride as they originally thought because very few men were returning, but the government needed young healthy men because of the amount of men on the front line dying and they needed to be replaced.
Australian men werent volunteering so in November 1917 prime minister, Billy Hughes wanted to introduce conscription to Australia and ask the people are you in favour of the proposal of the commonwealth government for reinstating the Australian imperial forces overseas? Conscription was like the lottery, you would be randomly chosen to go to war because of the day that you were born. Australians were given the opportunity to vote for or against conscription and campaigns were made to support each point of view. Two referendums were held, the first on the 28th of October 1916 and the second on the 10th of December 1917, both referendums were lost, the second showed 1181747 votes against and 1015159 votes for conscription.
Two referendums were held because men kept dying on the front line and the government were getting desperate. Both referendums ended with majority no votes, the first with 72446 votes against and the second with 1181747 votes against. Women were the main target for pro and anti conscription campaigns because they were seen as weak fragile and sensitive. Propaganda was largely aimed at women to intimidate women and target their emotions, either to make them feel like they were sending their husbands and sons to die or that it was their duty to send them to fight for their country.
It was a hard decision deciding whether or not to vote for conscription. Some people thought they should vote yes because of pride and defending and protecting their country and coming back as a war hero and also because of loyalty to Britain because they were still part of their empire, voting yes or no also targeted Christian women because killing is a serious sin. Songs and posters were made to persuade Australia to vote yes or no. People were told that if you vote yes it is your fault they die but also that if you vote yes the country wont be taken over and that you could save Australia from the enemy. A white feather was sent to the people who voted no to represent and parade that they are cowards and to embarrass them publicly.
Conscription broke people apart and divided the country, it destroyed friendships and families because there is either yes or no and no in between. The way you voted reflected your character and the way you were thought of. Anti conscription appealed to woman and made them feel like killers but pro conscription also appealed to women making them feel like they were sacrificing men for the good of the country.
Conscription divided Australia and turned their worlds upside down. People didnt want to be forced to go to war or force someone to go to war because they realised how bad it was. Australians voted no because they wanted freedom of choice and not to be conscripted as if it was just a game.
bibliography:-shannon mckinnon ww1- class sheets
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