First World War Defining Moments, 1914–1918
Investigation 3: The Australian home front
3.3 Analysing conscription propaganda
The issue of conscription split the Australian community and created a sense of bitterness and tension.
The conscription debates involved two sides arguing their case and trying to persuade people to support one or the other side.
The two questions put to voters in the 1916 and 1917 referendums were:
28 October 1916
Are you in favour of the Government having, in this grave emergency, the same compulsory powers over citizens in regard to requiring their military service, for the term of this war, outside the Commonwealth, as it now has in regard to military service within the Commonwealth?
20 December 1917
Are you in favour of the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for reinforcing the Commonwealth Forces overseas?
There were mass meetings, public debates, articles in newspapers, discussions in hotels, shops, workplaces and in the streets. Many pamphlets or leaflets were also printed and circulated.
Look at these two leaflets. They look similar, but are from different sides of the conscription debate.
1. Select one of the leaflets and respond to the questions in the table below.
Now look at some other leaflets from both the first and second referendums.
2. Which leaflet do you think is the most powerful and why? You can use the questions from the table above to help you form your response.
3. Both conscription referendums ended in a ‘no’ vote. But the results were very close. What impact do you think this may have had on local communities?
4. Do you think disagreements would have been forgotten after the votes, or would they be likely to remain in the community? Explain and justify your view.