Imagining Australia Home MV Home



During the first world war, the Australian Imperial Forces (AIF) were all volunteers-over 400,000 troops were raised from the adult male population of approximately 2.7 million. By 1918 the AIF had suffered a casualty rate of more than 64%, leaving few Australian families untouched by the loss or injury of a loved one.

Christmas invitation.

The First World War challenged the identity of the new Australian nation as never before. Australian soldiers demonstrated conclusively that they came of brave stock, and that, when tested in battle, they would not be found wanting. The 'digger' joined the 'bushman' as an image of what was best about Australia.

The country became deeply divided as the war continued and the Commonwealth Government tried to introduce conscription for overseas service. While the war dragged on, Australians began to debate the extent to which the Anzacs represented the 'true Australian'. And how was the Australian character to be best expressed once peace came?

These pages, presenting material from Museum Victoria's collections, raise issues about depictions of Australian identity during the war.

Glossary of Terms

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Creating the legend

Ballarat High at war

'God knows it was hell'

Depicting the war

Soldiers' diaries

Coming home

Case Studies

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Web links

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