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Australia entered WW2 as a self-governing Dominion of the British Empire. Its participation in the war was dictated by several factors: its legislative dependence on Britain, and its loyalty to Britain and shared cultural association with Britain. Its Armed Forces were deployed in all Theatres. From the earlier months of the war, Australia felt threaten by the Axis Powers – German submarines were observed on the Australian coast, and later with the commencement of the Pacific War (from December 1941), the possibility of foreign invasion became very real.
The following documents are listed with the intention of providing insight into the Australian experience of WW2.
|Robert Menzies, Prime Minister of Australia, announcing to the Australian people that WW2 had begun||Type||Speech (radio broadcast)|
|Date||3rd September 1939|
|WW2 Context||At the expiry of the ultimatum issued by Britain and France for Germany to end its invasion of Poland and withdraw its troops (2nd September), a de facto state of war came into effect. Australia, as a British dominion that had not ratified the Statue of Westminster, became automatically a participant in WW2.“It is my melancholy duty to inform you officially that in consequence of a persistence by Germany in her invasion of Poland, Great Britain has declared war upon her and that, as a result, Australia is also at war. No harder task can fall to the lot of a democratic leader than to make such an announcement.”|
|Sources||Transcript and sound file|
|John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia, announcing to the Australian people that they were now at war with Japan||Type||Speech (radio broadcast)|
|Date||7 December 1941|
|WW2 Context||With the surprise Japanese attacks on the Philippines, Malaya and Hawaii (Pearl Harbour), the long feared war with Japan has begun. In his speech to the Australian people, Curtin was determined emphasise that the Japanese were the aggressors and they had rejected efforts to negotiate. Curtin urged Australians to realise that the country faced its ‘darkest hour’:‘The call is to you, for your courage, your physical and mental ability, your inflexible determination that we, as a nation of free people, shall survive’.|
|John Curtin, Prime Minister of Australia, New Year’s Message to Australians||Type||Newspaper article|
|Date||27 December 1941|
|WW2 Context||With the growing crisis in the Pacific since the beginning of the Pacific War, Curtin emphasised that Australia’s true focus in the war would be the struggle with Japan. Further, that Curtin would seek closer ties with the United States to jointly prosecute the war.‘The Australian Government, therefore, regards the Pacific struggle as primarily one in which the United States and Australia must have the fullest say in the direction of the democracies’ fighting plan.Without any inhibitions of any kind, I make it quite clear that Australia looks to America, free of any pangs as to our traditional links or kinship with the United Kingdom.’|
|Sources||Copy of article – The Herald (Melbourne), 27 December 1941Discussion|
 In 1939, the Dominions were Australia, Canada, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa. In 1931, the British Parliament passed the ‘Statute of Westminster 1931’ which offered legislative equality between the British Parliament and the national parliaments of the Dominions. The Australian Parliament did not ratify the Statute until 1942, and even then only partially, to clarify its wartime powers.