• Exhibition time
  • Exhibition location
    Located on the Ground Level

Austerity suits and home-made toys

With Australian production dedicated almost exclusively to the war effort, supplies of non-military goods dwindled. There were shortages of civilian clothing. People were encouraged to reuse clothes. Cheaply-made “austerity” garments replaced clothing stocks as they sold out.

Luxury items and commodities the government considered “non-essential”, such as children’s toys, became almost unobtainable from 1942. Factories that had once made mechanical toys converted to the production of weapons or military equipment.

Carved kangaroos

Flight Lieutenant Harold Venning, No. 14 Squadron, RAAF, of Youanmi, Western Australia, purchased carved kangaroos for his son and daughter from Aboriginal artisans on the Nullarbor Plain. He was heading home on leave aboard a Perth-bound troop train when it stopped to take on water. By 1943 children’s toys were very scarce.

During his leave Harold spent time on the south coast of Western Australia with his wife Eileen and their two children, Lorraine and Keith. Originally from the goldfields, Eileen and the children had agreed to live with Harold’s parents in the south-west while he was serving in the RAAF.


Carved kangaroos - Private collectionCarved kangaroosPrivate collection

The Venning family at the beach near Denmark, Western Australia, 1943 - P02175.007The Venning family at the beach near Denmark, Western Australia, 1943P02175.007


CWA Toys

Helping mothers manage in austerity, the Country Women’s Association of Queensland mounted an exhibition in Brisbane in 1943 to demonstrate that household items, such as these toys, baby booties and apron, could be made from material readily available without coupons.


CWA apron - REL/15581CWA apronREL/15581

CWA doll - REL/15582CWA dollREL/15582

CWA blue toy rabbit and pink bootees - REL/15583.001CWA blue toy rabbit and pink booteesREL/15583.001


Austerity suit - 013240Austerity suit013240

Madame Maude’s patterns - RC02462Madame Maude’s patternsRC02462