Conscription during the Second World War, 1939–1945

Port Moresby, Papua, 1939 or 1940. Group portrait of personnel of the 126th Heavy Battery, a Citizen Military Forces component of the 13th Heavy Battery, Royal Australian Artillery.  C59774

At the outbreak of the Second World War a new volunteer army was raised for service overseas: the Second Australian Imperial Force (AIF). Members of the Citizen Military Forces (CMF) remained in Australia to ensure home defence.

When the Labor Party assumed power on the 7 October 1941 the defence of Australia included the defence of Australian territories in Papua and New Guinea. When the Japanese entered the war, members of the CMF fought together with the Second AIF in New Guinea.

In November 1942 Prime Minister John Curtin argued at a special Federal Conference of the Labor Party that it was necessary for the war effort to extend government powers to compel service in the south-west Pacific Area, which comprised Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and the Netherlands East Indies. Despite opposition, a bill was passed on 19 February 1943 that obliged soldiers in the CMF to serve in Australia, all of the island of New Guinea and the adjacent islands. This was called the South-West Pacific Zone.


    • Paul Meernaa Caedwalla Hasluck, The government and the people, 1942–1945, vol. 2, Canberra, Australian War Memorial, 1970, pp. 305–370
    • Peter Dennis et al., The Oxford companion to Australian Military History, Oxford University Press, Melbourne, 1995
    • T.B. Millar, Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces Report, March 1974, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra, 1974

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