Interpretations and Perspectives of the Great Conflict
Stephanie James - ‘The Empire for the British. “No Foreigners Need Apply”. ’ German and Irish-Australian Encounters with ‘British Fair Play’ during the Great War
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School of International Studies Flinders University, Australia
‘The Empire for the British. “No Foreigners Need Apply”. ’1 German and Irish-Australian Encounters with ‘British Fair Play’ during the Great War
Abstract: This chapter focuses on ways the Great War exposed inherent divisions in Australian society, identifying both German and Irish-Australians as ‘outsiders’ in a society where the ‘insiders’ were part of the dominant British culture. Irish-Australians were judged as inferior, but according to the 1911 census they constituted almost 25 percent of the population. German-Australians (less than 5 percent), apparently enjoyed greater acceptance. Visible markers, for example parliamentary influence, suggested Australia could accommodate both German and British lifestyles. Thus few German-Australians were prepared for either community vitriol or the official wartime policies. Nineteenth century evidence reveals explicit anti-Irish sentiment typically at times of crisis. Despite most Irish-Australians supporting the war unconditionally – because Irish Home Rule seemed certain – historians argue the dominant culture always viewed their contribution as qualified. Even before the 1916 Easter Rising, Irish-Australian enlistment rates were disputed, and their loyalty questioned. After the Rising, when Irish-Australians were struggling with its consequences, and the majority judged the Irish events as treachery, Australia faced the conscription crisis. In two referenda the population voted against introducing compulsion: the outcome left scars for generations. The personalities of Prime Minister Hughes and Melbourne’s Irish Archbishop Mannix ensured there were wider issues; choosing the Australian flag not the Union Jack made Irish-Australians un-British during...
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