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And that as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians.

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd 1939, see’s Australia enter the Second World War. Around a million people enlist out of a population of just 7 million.

Michael Bell, a Ngunnawal Gomeroi man, is the Indigenous Liaison Officer at the Australian War Memorial. He talks about the important contribution of first nation’s people to the war effort.

Michael Bell:

With the threat of the Japanese invasion after the bombing of Darwin, the need to defend the top end of Australia particularly around the coast was great and our men particularly where using their traditional skills to go out and find downed pilots and to show them how to live on the land. That’s the non-indigenous service people that where up there. Show them how to access water, technologies, utilising the bark and the natural resources to build their huts and their protection. Cures for tropical illness and diseases. What not to eat and what to eat. The traditional knowledge that comes from living up the top end were transferred to the radar stations, air bases and the army camps that where utilised for the Second World War.

Ray Martin:

Michael Bell providing a fascinating insight in to Indigenous war participation. As 80 years on we remember the Second World War.

Transcript

And then as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians. 

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd 1939, see’s Australia enter the Second World War. Around a million people enlist out of a population of just 7 million.

Hilda Grey, now 91, is one of them. Hilda joins the Women’s Land Army when she is just 16. She works on a farm replacing the men who have gone off to war. But it’s on September the 3rd 1939 when Hilda’s war suddenly becomes very real. 

Hilda Grey:

When war was declared, we lived out in the bush where there was only 5 houses and we had a wireless.

Robert Mezies via radio transmission:

 “Fellow Australians, it is my melancholy duty to inform you that in consequence of persistence by Germany and her invasion of Poland. Great Britain has declared war upon her and that as a result, Australia is also at war".

Hilda Grey:

It’s just that all the women burst into tears, because of course they’d been through it before. And that’s how I remember it.

The men straight off said, ‘Well, we have to go”. My father joined up the very next day.

I was only a child then, but I do remember it.

Ray Martin:

Hilda Grey is one in a million as 80 years on we remember the Second World War.

And then as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians.

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd, 1939 sees Australia enter the Second World War. Around a million people enlist, out of a population of just 7 million.

27 year old Melbourne footballer, Ronald James Barassi is one of them, but sadly he is killed at Tobruk. That’s the day the war becomes very real for his son, and AFL legend Ron Barassi, who is just five at the time.

Ron Barassi:

Well the thing that I remember the most is the news that my father had been killed. Unfortunately, he was the first VFL footballer killed in the war. My mother was crying, and I guess the fact that she was crying hurt me more than anything else. I think we should feel hurt, when to think people have been killed defending you, and that’s what this war was about. War is a shocking, tearful, awful waste of people’s efforts and lives. When they die, the shock comes to the mothers and fathers, and husbands and wives. I haven’t been this emotional like this for years.

Ray Martin:

Ron Barassi Senior was one in a million, as we remember the Second World War 80 years on.

Transcript

And then as a result, Australia is also at war. 3-nine-39, the day the war became real for Australians.

Ray Martin:

I’m Ray Martin. September the 3rd 1939, see’s Australia enter the Second World War.

Karl James, head of military history at the Australian War Memorial, gives us a sense of how the Second World War changed Australia and Australians.

Karl James:

The Second World War was one of defining moments of Australian history, and I think is probably one of the key moments in the influence and development of Australia. From a population of nearly 7 million Australians, almost a million men and women at uniform during the conflict.

Half a million served overseas and some 40,000 died during the war. This was a huge military contribution. Beyond the battlefield, the Second World War was a time when Australian industry boomed, we see the birth and the development of the Australian wartime industry, science and technology all rapidly increase, during the conflict to, Australia develops a more sophisticated relationship with Britain as well as looking towards the United States.

It is a great time for the changing role of women and we have post war migration to Australia, so people from all over the world are coming to Australia and making their homes here.

So for many reasons the Second World War was one of the defining moments of Australian history and certainly I’ve argued, one of the key moments of the 20th century.

Ray Martin:

Historian Karl James, as we remember the Second World War 80 years on.

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Control: Stories of Australian peacekeeping and humanitarian operations

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