Created to allow for the naval and military defence of Australia, the Defence Act 1903 is still in existence today. The document has undergone various amendments since its creation, including the removal of discriminatory sections.
In 1909, section 138.1 (b) was added, excluding those not substantially of European origin or descent, from participating in peacetime military training. The following year, section 61(h) was added in relation to military service:
“The following shall be exempt from service in time of war, so long as the employment, condition, or status on which the exemption is based continues:—
(h) Persons who are not substantially of European origin or descent, of which the medical authorities appointed under the Regulations shall be the judges;
In 1917, after large numbers of Australian casualties in Europe and a need for more manpower, an additional military order was issued. Order number 200 stated that “half-castes” (a term now considered derogatory) could enlist if the examining medical officer was convinced that one of the parents of the recruit was of European origin.