They had to keep the country fed: Australian Women’s Land Army

The Second World War was an active time for Camden. Numerous sons, brothers, and husbands were once again sent to fight in overseas conflicts, and many who stayed participated in organizations that had formed during World War One, such as the Camden Red Cross, that again sent aid to those overseas. But WWII left an even greater strain on the developing country. There were serious concerns about who would help feed the country. The answer was the Australian Women’s Land Army.

Group of Land Army Girls who were working on Camden Park during World War II. Some names available on back of photo at the Camden Museum. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Group of Land Army Girls who were working on Camden Park during World War II. Some names available on back of photo at the Camden Museum. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

It was no small feat to join the Land Army. The 4,000 who joined would be sent all over the country, from the cotton fields of Queensland, to the sheep sheds of Goulburn and the potato fields of Batlow. Accommodation included sheep sheds and hostels, with only a few having the luxury of bedding down in guest houses or Scout halls. Additonally, they received for their efforts £3 per week for a 48 hour week; half the pay of the men who would have done the same work. (Lutton-Midson, 2008).

Working on Camden Park during World War II. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

Working on Camden Park during World War II. Copyright: Camden Historical Society.

One of the areas where the Army worked was Camden Park. The volunteers came from all around Australia and many went on to marry local men from the Camden area and would stay. Although they contributed a vital service to the war effort, for a very long time the Women’s Land Army went largely unrecognised. It has only been in the last few years that efforts have been made to recognise the significant contribution that the Women’s Land Army provided. The 70th Anniversary saw a reunion of those who served and provided them a chance to reflect and reminisce. It also saw many public figures, including Macarthur MP Russell Matheson and Camden MP Chris Patterson, show the appreciation of a nation for their efforts and tireless work during a time of need (Armstrong, 2012).

Despite the difficulties and delay of recognition, it is inspiring to remember that all those who served in the Australian Women’s Land Army were volunteers, united by a single, powerful, selfless notion: “they had to keep the country fed” (Abrahams, 2012).

References:

Abrahams, L. (2012). The Women’s Land Army. The District Reporter.

Armstrong, K. (2012). Ladies of the Land Army Reunite. Camden Advertiser.

Lutton-Midson, B. (2008). Women’s work still unrecognised. The District Reporter.

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