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Australians reject conscription in the First World War

Extract from Cavalcade of Australia: 1901–1951 (1951). 1396113, National Film and Sound Archive

Scenes from a documentary which uses archival film to highlight and illustrate the main events that occurred in the history of Australia in the fifty years following Federation. On the celebration of Australia’s Jubilee as a Commonwealth, Australian film production organisations, both governmental and commercial, made archival material from their libraries available for this film.

In 1916 and 1917, during the First World War, the Australian people were asked in two referendums if they thought that Australian men should be conscripted (forced to enlist in the armed forces) to fight overseas. The conscription debates were among the most bitter in Australia’s political history.


1. What does this short film clip show? Summarise what you see and hear.

2. Does the film appear to have a main purpose or message? If so, what do you think it is?

3. Who made the film clip and when was it made? Use this information to try to work out why the film was made. Does this change what you think about the purpose of the film?

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