Hula girls and teddy bears: Red Cross posters tell many stories

New acquisitions

In 2016, the State Library of New South Wales was given the honour and responsibility of becoming the custodian of Red Cross Australia NSW Division’s archive.


The collection commences in 1914, when the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society was formed in response to the outbreak of World War I, and continues until 2014 when the organisation celebrated its centenary. It comprises photographs, manuscripts, memorabilia, framed pictures, branch records, Red Cross publications and posters.

In April 2017, a team of State Library of New South Wales curators and archivists selected 13 posters from the Red Cross New South Wales archive to add to the Mitchell Library collections. From mass-produced fundraising advertisements to one-of-a-kind artworks, the posters provide a visual timeline of Red Cross New South Wales Division’s many contributions to humanitarian aid at home and overseas.

You can find a catalogue record for the posters collection on the State Library of New South Wales catalogue. The record includes descriptions of each poster including date, size, history, colour and content.

Here are some of the posters:

Red Cross poster
Red Cross fundraising Air Race, 1944, detail of handmade poster. POSTERS/2017/23/11

Air race

This gorgeous poster from a Red Cross Air Race in June 1944 is a decorative take on a fundraising thermometer. Each stop on the journey is given its own symbol, such as a hula dancer for Honolulu or a kiwi for New Zealand. The money raised during each leg of the flight is recorded beside intricate, hand drawn leaves, trees, birds and spectacular sea life. The poster was created by Miss Linfay Lonsdale, a graduate of the Sydney School of Design. The POW Section of the HQ Branch raised 1121 pounds in a race covereing 15,000 air miles from Sydney to Geneva. 

Food Coupons Poster-Red Cross
After World War II, the Australian Red Cross asked families to send in any spare meat and butter coupons, so that they could send them onto the British Red Cross where food was in short supply.  POSTERS/2017/23/8

Send meat and butter coupons to help British Food Relief

This 1947 poster urges Australians to “Send meat and butter coupons to help British Food Relief”. Like their British allies, Australians were subject to rationing during and immediately after World War II. Coupons were distributed for clothing, butter, eggs, milk, tea, sugar and meat however, although the rationing in Australia was not as severe or prolonged as it was in Britain. Thanks to the generosity of ordinary Australians, the Red Cross transported much needed goods and food to Britain. 

Cyclone Tracy 

Following the devastation of Darwin by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve, 1974, the Australian Red Cross brought much-needed help to the area by providing food, shelter, clothing, medical aid and emotional support. This fund-raising poster illustrates the organisation’s community and disaster relief work. 

Trauma Teddies

Trauma Teddies were the brainchild of Campbelltown ambulance service superintendent, Richard Hamilton who had witnessed the calming effects of teddy bears on traumatised children. With the help of the Red Cross and their members, sponsors and volunteer knitters, the colourful knitted teddy bears have become a source of comfort for children of all ages and a symbol of the Red Cross’ commitment to people in need. Note how this poster differs from the others by the number of corporate sponsors acknowledged. 

Junior Red Cross posters
Red Cross posters

Junior Red Cross

This vibrant publicity poster from c. 1989, was produced to encourage young people to join the Junior Red Cross. As we know, charities, if they are to survive, must look to the future and ensure their membership comes from all age groups and communities. What better way to attract youngsters than by producing a bright and lively poster showing the many interesting and fun ways they can help people AND make friends. 

Anne Drayton - Librarian

Find out more about the Red Cross Archive