All there in black and white

Topic: Australians at War: World Wars I and II (1914-1918, 1939-1945)
Student activity

This is the student activity 1 of 4 of the WWI: recruitment, conscription, propaganda learning activity.

Task No. 1

Media pressure

In the lead up to the 1916 Referendum the government required all single men between 18 and 42 present themselves for military service, even those rejected for service overseas. Of the 600,000 eligible men less than 30 per cent complied, however, and of those who did many sought exemptions. The government convened a flurry of tribunals to hear the avalanche of these applications in the lead up to the referendum.  

One week out from the referendum, Special Magistrate Mr MH Fitzhardinge heard from McCulloch and 60 others in a marathon one-day sitting in Parramatta Police Court. The local Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate reported on each applicant under the headline The Men Who Want Exemption.  Study the full page of the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate on which this article appeared in its entirety, found here, and answer the following: 

  • In which way could the layout of the page on which the report about this sitting at the Parramatta Police Court be ‘read’ in terms of positioning the reader to have an opinion about the applicants seeking exemption, and how has this been achieved?  

Extension Activity 

Research further into the way in which the media covered the events leading up to the 1916 and/or 1917 Referendum in regards to applications for exemption (as per the analysis of the page from the Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, above) and how these were received by the media and/or public.

Or research the role of newspapers of the time in regards to ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ vote campaigning to get a better sense of the debates from both sides of the divide.