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5.4 Other significant Australian events during the Second World War

The table below lists other significant events and issues involving Australia which occurred during the Second World War. Use the research questions column to help guide you as you investigate one or more of these events further.

Event/issue Research questions

1939: National Security Act

What powers did the national government gain during the Second World War?

1941: Tobruk

What was the siege of Tobruk? Why was it a significant event for Australia?

1942: Midget submarines

What was the outcome of the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour?

1942: Milne Bay

What happened at Milne Bay? Why was it a key event in the battle for Papua and New Guinea?

1942: Statute of Westminster Adoption

How did Australia’s independence change during the Second World War?

1942–43: Bombing of Darwin

Why were Darwin and other northern areas of Australia attacked? Was it a prelude to invasion?

1943: Sinking of the Centaur

Why was the Australian hospital ship Centaur sunk with the death of 268 medical and army personnel? Was this a war crime?

1943: Operation Jaywick

How were a small group of Australian commandos able to attack Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour?

1944: Cowra breakout

Why was there a mass Japanese POW breakout at Cowra camp in New South Wales? What is Cowra known for today?

1945: Borneo campaigns

Were the ‘unnecessary battles’ in Borneo, which led to the death of many Australians, for no strategic gain in the war?

1939–45: The homefront

How did daily life and roles at work and in society change during the Second World War? What did returning soldiers come back to?

1939–45: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander soldiers

What was government policy towards enlisting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians? How did they serve? What changes did this make to their lives?

1939–45: Nurses

What were the experiences of Australian military nurses (including as POWs)?

1939–45: Black Market

What was it? Who was involved in it?

1939–45: Propaganda

Why did the government create propaganda posters and other materials during the Second World War?

1939–45: Women

How did women’s status and position change during the Second World War?

1939–45: Union strikes

Why did some unionists strike during the Second World War?

1941–45: Americans

How did Australians respond to the ‘American invasion’?

1942–45: Prisoners of War (POWs)

Where were the POWs sent? What happened to them?

1951: Banning of the Communist Party

Why was it banned? When was the ban lifted?

Start your research into these events using the Australian War Memorial website or the Anzac Portal.

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