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World War II Anniversary

Mr TRELOAR (Flinders) (12:49): I move:

That this house—

(a) notes that 1 September is regarded as marking the 80th anniversary of the commencement of the hostilities that became known as the Second World War;

(b) laments the devastation wrought across the world and, in particular, the extraordinary loss of human life numbering in the tens of millions;

(c) pays tribute to all those who served our country throughout the course of the war; and

(d) expresses our sincere commitment to honouring those who paid the ultimate price, remembering their sacrifice and ensuring that the lessons we have learnt are passed on to future generations.

1 September 2019 marks the 80th anniversary of the beginning of World War II. Although not directly threatened by the European conflict at the outset, Australia sent a volunteer army, the 2nd Australian Imperial Force (AIF), to support Great Britain, which had declared war on Germany after the German invasion of Poland. Almost a million Australians, both men and women, served in the war. They fought in campaigns against Germany and Italy in Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa, as well as Japan, South-East Asia and other parts of the Pacific.

The Australian mainland came under attack for the first time on 19 February 1942, with Japanese aircraft bombing Darwin and other towns in north-west Australia. Japanese midget submarines also attempted to attack vessels in Sydney Harbour in late May and early February 1942. During the Second World War, 39,000 Australians gave their lives and more than 30,000 Australian servicemen were taken prisoner. Two-thirds of those taken prisoner were captured by the Japanese during their advance through South-East Asia in the first weeks of 1942. While those who had become prisoners of the Germans had a strong chance of returning home, 36 per cent of prisoners of the Japanese died in captivity.

Nurses had gone overseas with the AIF in 1940; however, during the early years of the war women were generally unable to make a contribution in any official capacity. Labour shortages forced the government to allow women to take a more active role in the labour force, and in February 1941 the RAAF received cabinet approval to establish the Women’s Auxiliary Australian Air Force. At the same time, the Navy also began to employ female telegraphists, a breakthrough that eventually led to the establishment of the Women’s Royal Australian Naval Service.

The Australian Women’s Army Service was established in October 1941 with the aim of releasing men from certain military duties in base units in Australia for assignment with fighting units overseas. Outside the armed services, the Women’s Land Army was established to encourage women to work in rural industries. Other women in urban areas took up employment in industries such as munitions production.

After six terrible years, on 7 May 1945 the German high command authorised the signing of an unconditional surrender on all fronts—the war in Europe was over. After 4½ years of war in the Pacific, on 14 August 1945 Japan accepted the allied demand for unconditional surrender. For Australia and Australians, it meant that the Second World War was finally over. The world war had directly involved more than 100 million people from more than 30 countries. It was the deadliest conflict in world history, with—who would really know—estimates of between 70 million and 85 million fatalities.

The Second World War also had major effects on agriculture in South Australia. Those left behind were urged to increase production to feed both themselves and the troops. There were shortages of artificial fertilisers, shipping was disrupted, loading machinery and storage bins were out of use, chemicals were in short supply and, most significantly, there were labour shortages. It would be some time before the full effect of the war was felt by the average person on the land, but ultimately all were impacted by the war effort.

Around the nation, war memorials that had sprung up following World War I were either replicated or added to following World War II, and the soldiers who had served from each tiny community were commemorated for all time. I would also like to recognise the efforts of those involved with establishing the Virtual War Memorial. It is an outstanding commemorative collection purpose-built to honour the personal experiences of those who served. It continues to grow as people contribute more information from their own family histories. The Virtual War Memorial is acknowledged for its integrity and relevance and provides a worthy home for records and personal experiences for all involved, their families and communities.

 

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