Second World War: home front

PAIU2007.077.31 Observing aircraft in the Second World War home front PAIU2007.077.34

This environment represents a typical backyard in northern Australia during the Second World War. The threat of air attack was always present on the home front, and air defence, observation and air-raid drills were taken seriously. There were public air-raid shelters but most schools and families had also had their own. Children were taught to identify aircraft, as they were usually playing outdoors, children would think of rhymes and songs to remember the shape and names of aircraft.

While investigating this environment try to discover what children were doing at this time.


Civilians were expected to volunteer in some capacity for the war effort. This could include Red Cross work, camouflage net making, or training in essential services such as first aid or the emergency fire brigade. John Curtin, the Australian Prime Minister, referred to life in Australia as an “all-in effort” for “all-in war”.  

 Kids making camouflage nets in the school playground.136304


Food and many household items were rationed more and more as the war went on. Mothers were provided with “Austerity Cooking” recipes, which used whatever ingredients were available as alternatives.

 Students learning to prepare the new austerity meal menu, 1942.136304


Women took over many of the jobs traditionally done by men, such as working in factories to make uniforms, working as part of the Women’s Land Army and in the auxiliary armed services as drivers, radio operators and mechanics.  Women working in these roles were issued uniforms of their service.

 Two Australian Land Army girls harvesting rice. 014904
 Australian Women's Army service personnel from the Northern Territory leave an RAAF Dakota C47 transport aircraft.088097


During war metals and other resources are in high demand but are only available in limited supplies. Australian children were encouraged to salvage aluminium, rubber, paper, rags and other items, these would then be recycled and used for the production of weapons, aircraft and other vehicles required.

Members of the Ginger Meggs Salvage Corps with their billy cart.138617

Australia Under Attack 1942-43