Convincing Australia - Appeals to identity

When Britain came to France’s aid in 1914 by declaring war on an expansionist Germany, it brought the nations of the British Empire into the European conflict. Australia, along with other British dominions and colonies such as Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India, sent troops to assist Britain and defend the Empire. Australians in the main saw the war as as a great international adventure, an opportunity to demonstrate the prowess of the new nation and do their duty as members of the British Empire. Others were more circumspect about Australia’s involvement, because of their ideological convictions (socialists who saw the war as a capitalist war), or because they were against the British Empire (Irish-Australians whose opposed British rule in Ireland). At the time, however, Labor opposition leader and soon-to-be prime minister, Andrew Fisher captured the mood of the fledgling nation when he pledged Australian support ‘to the last man and the last shilling’.  

Gathering information

  1. Read the articles 'A Place in the World - Imperial Ties and World War One' and 'The Empire is at war so Australia is at War'   
  2. View the First World War recruitment posters at First World (1 2 3)

Analysing information

In a group of five or six students, give half the group the responsibility for Task 1, and the other for Task 2below.  

Task 1

Read 'A Place in the World - Imperial Ties and World War One'; & 'The Empire is at war so Australia is at war'  

  1. How is Australia’s relationship with Britain described?
  2. How is Australia’s involvement in the war justified?
  3. How is Australia characterised?
  4. What benefits is the war seeing as having for Australia’s identity as a nation?  

Task 2

View the Recruitment Posters.

  1. Select a poster and describe in a few sentences what you see.
  2. Using the same poster answer the following questions.
  • What is the purpose of the poster?
  • How is Australia represented?
  • Who is the enemy and how are they represented?
  • How is Britain represented?
  • Who is the poster designed to appeal to?
  • What kinds of appeals are used?
  • Can you guess at what stage of the war the poster was created – beginning, during, or end?
  • Looking at all the posters, which appeals do you think would have been most successful with young Australians at the time? Why?  

Working with information 

  1. View the film clip 'It’s not our Bloody War'  (Australian Screen Online) from the movie Gallipoli, with the two main characters debating Australia’s participation in the war.  
  2. View the recruitment posters and select the ones you think might have appealed to each of the characters in the Gallipoli excerpt to enlist? Justify your selection. 

Presenting Your Findings

Write a play entitled 'It’s not our bloody war' which makes the case for Australia’s involvement in the Great War by appealing to the values and sentiments of the time. Your play should be about 10 minutes long, and be centred on one of the following artefacts that reflects the historical period. You or your group will need to create one of the artefacts below:

  • an editorial for a newspaper
  • a song in the style of the period
  • recruitment poster in the style of the time
  • an address to the nation as a political leader.


For the teacher | Background | Introductory Activity | The Origins of the First World War | Convincing Australians | Forging an Identity | The Conscription Debate | ANZAC in contemporary Australia