A World War II era Women’s Land Army Recruitment poster.
ANZAC Cottage is marking Women’s History Month with its March Anzac Afternoon dedicated to the Australian Women’s Land Army.
The AWLA was formed after Japan entered World War II, with Australian prime minister John Curtin’s response to the threat to build-up the armed forces, leaving labour shortfalls at home.
Women were recruited to work the emptied farms and keep the nation fed.
They were often from cities and unskilled in rural work, prompting skepticism as to whether they’d be up to the task. But soon “skeptical attitudes … generally changed to praise and respect,” according to the Australian War Memorial.
By December 1943 there were 2300 full timers doing at least 12 months’ service, and 1000 auxiliary members working for a few weeks at a time.
They grew vegetables and fruit, raised pigs and poultry for food, and sheep for wool, but were still paid far less than men working the same jobs.
Cabinet endorsed a plan from labour and national service minister Eddie Ward to improve their conditions in 1943, but the legislation wasn’t completed until the war was over, and the farm workers missed out on the benefits given to other women’s services.
In 1997 ALWA members were made eligible for the Civilian Service Medal.
The Anzac Cottage event is on Sunday March 28 from 1.30-4pm at 38 Kalgoorlie Street, Mount Hawthorn. There’s a talk on the skills and work of the Land Army women at 2.30pm. It’s free, and a gold coin donation covers afternoon tea.