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World War II Re-explored

Some New Millenium Studies in the History of the Global Conflict

Edited By Jarosław Suchoples, Stephanie James and Barbara Törnquist-Plewa

This volume is a collection of thirty papers written by authors from around the world. The writers focus on topics related to their own research interests. As a result, readers obtain a worldwide perspective on World War II from academics working on nearly every continent, proving that World War II was, probably, the first ever truly global experience for humanity. Present are many and different perspectives on the war. Eighty years after the end of World War II, these academics share their knowledge and reflections about a gruesome, but still not very remote time. In the new millennium, their studies should remind readers that the ‘end of history’ has been an impossible illusion and warn that peace and stability in international relations are not a given.

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‘Aboriginal People Served Australia Well’1

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Auxiliary Indigenous Labour in Northern Australia, 1939–1945

Abstract: Australian Indigenous people were not citizens, but were ultimately drawn, willingly and unwillingly, into the general war effort in a variety of ways. This chapter considers the work that was auxiliary to the main defense forces: the attitudes of government officials; the conditions under which Indigenous labourers were employed; and the impact this wartime labour had on the wider conditions of employment for Indigenous workers.

Keywords: Australian Indigenous labour; World War II; northern Australia; industrial action; struggle for equal rights

Introduction

During the wartime crisis of 1941–1942, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders were not only drawn into service in the Australian defence forces and specialist units created to defend the north of the continent against Japanese attack, they were also employed for a range of auxiliary work supporting the national war effort and economy in the north.2 This occurred despite initial concern among government officials that Indigenous Australians, especially those in remote areas beyond tight government control, might be potentially subversive and disloyal to the Australian war effort. These fears proved to be groundless, despite the many reasons that Indigenous Australians had to be disaffected.3 Indigenous people were not citizens and were granted citizenship only in rare cases.4 Ultimately Indigenous people ←41 | 42→were drawn, willingly and unwillingly, into the general war effort in a variety of ways. This chapter considers the work that was auxiliary to the main defence...

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