Monthly Archives: July 2014

5. The Shire’s sense of its history at the outbreak of the War – Part 1

Effective European occupation of Gippsland began in the Port Albert area in the early 1840s which meant that the collective historical memory of people living in the Shire of Alberton in 1914 went back not much more than seventy years. At the same time, there was the Indigenous (Gunaikurnai) history that went back for thousands of years; but this history was largely unrecognised. It was not part of the Imperial narrative.

Those aged in their twenties in 1914 would have experienced, either directly or vicariously through their parents, the rise of Yarram as the chief town of the Shire. They would also have been aware of the ongoing efforts to extend settlement in the Hill Country of the Strzelecki Ranges, which was pursued relentlessly, under very difficult conditions, long before there was any modern sense of ‘Environment’. They would have followed keenly the work to improve roads, both within the Shire and across the Ranges to towns like Traralgon and Rosedale. They might have even started to think about the likely impact of the gradually increasing number of automobiles on the Shire’s roads, most of which were expensive and difficult to maintain. They would have been aware of the extent to which the Shire’s boundaries had been consolidated, with sections shifting across to both the Shire of South Gippsland (1894) and, only very recently, the Shire of Rosedale (1914). They would have known about the 1890s Depression and the abandonment of selections; but they would have been buoyed by the dramatic growth in the dairy industry – kick-started by new technology – which had been able to turn round the local economy and make a name for the district in terms of the excellence of its dairy produce. There was also the success of the timber industry. The extension of the southern railway to Alberton would definitely have been seen positively; but there was also the decline in the townships closer to the coast – Port Albert/Palmerston and Tarraville – and even in Alberton buildings had been dismantled and shifted to Yarram. Also relevant would have been the experience of the Boer War and pride in the small number of local men – probably no more than 10 – who enlisted and served in South Africa.

At the same time, even though the likes of town elders, local businessmen and successful dairy farmers would have taken pride in what had been achieved in such a comparatively short time they would also have been aware that there was much unfinished business and progress could be slow. For example, the foundation stone for the Yarram hospital was not laid until October 1914 and it would be another seven years before the train was continued from Alberton to Yarram. There was also the realisation that while the Shire had acted as the original gateway for Gippsland’s development, by 1914 the focus for regional growth had shifted beyond the Shire of Alberton and towns like Sale and Traralgon were larger than Yarram.

Moving back a generation to those of the Shire in their forties, recollections would have covered the original bush tracks that were hacked across the Ranges, and the settlement of places like Carrajung, to link with Central Gippsland. They would have recalled 1864 when the Shire of Alberton was proclaimed. They would also have recalled the various Selection Acts of the 1860s and 1870s that initially opened land in the lower parishes of Darriman, Woodside, Devon etc but which also, over time, led to holdings in the steeper, less accessible and progressively more impenetrable country in the Ranges. Settlement – always against the odds – spread from centres such as Binginwarri and Stacey’s Bridge right along the limits of what became the Grand Ridge Road to Gormandale. From this period of settlement there would have been memories of the many selectors who struggled with limited capital, limited experience of farming in such difficult country, and the seemingly overwhelming difficulties in just clearing the densely wooded land. There were many who abandoned their holdings. People would also have known of the pastoralists who used the same land legislation to consolidate their holdings. They would also have remembered all the various economic ventures that were pursued at the time: the shift from sheep to quality cattle; and success stories with mining – at Foster and Toora for example – and the timber and fishing industries.

Move back another generation and those in their sixties or older would have been able to add to the collective history of the Shire memories and impressions of the 1850s Gold Rush and the flight of labour from the district. There would certainly have been stories of the early pastoralists and their expansive runs which, effectively fenced in by the coast and the Ranges, stretched east to Merriman’s Creek and beyond. They would have known the origins of this industry in Gippsland, driven as it was by the profits associated with supplying meat to the convict settlement in Van Diemen’s Land. Port Albert was the critical shipping port for the trade and, fortuitously, it was at the very time the convict population was increasingly sharply. Perhaps this generation knew too of the frontier conflict between the squatters and the Indigenous people. But they might also by then have slipped into a form of collective amnesia on these matters, or glossed the whole business with reference to the Imperial narrative on ‘inevitability’. Some might even have been old enough to hold personal memories of the very beginning of European settlement in Gippsland, centred round Port Albert/Palmerston and Tarraville. There were probably also memories of the multiplicity of failed ventures, damaging rivalry between townships and the isloation and attendant lawlessness that characterised the first decade of settlement.

Overall, the common history shared by people in the Shire at the outbreak of WW1 was dominated by the theme of pioneering. At the start, the Shire had been geographically isolated. The bush and scrub were apparently impenetrable. The financial risks for squatters and other speculators had been great and, in time, everything would be stacked against the struggling selectors. There had been isolation and lawlessness, and services like education and health had had to be created from scratch. Families had had to rely on themselves and the family functioned as both a social and economic unit, with children’s labour – outside the requirements of compulsory schooling – a critical element in the success of the farming venture. Life for children, especially for children of dairy farmers, was particularly physically hard. Beyond the family, in the face of common hardships and extreme events like bushfire and flood people relied on their close neighbours and the local community. Life had always been a struggle, but as things then stood in 1914, the land had been conquered, settlements had been established – and they were generally successful and still expanding – the outlook both economically and socially was positive and, overall, the spirit of the pioneer had triumphed. The Shire’s success stood as a proud copy, although obviously on a smaller scale, of the very triumph of the Empire itself.

Even though short in years, the collective history of European settlement in the Shire of Alberton was a powerful one, and it is hardly surprising that the essential characteristics of the ‘pioneer’ or someone of ‘pioneer stock’ – toughness, resourcefulness, independence etc – were shifted so easily to the shoulders of the men from the Shire who enlisted.

However there is one significant qualification. Taken together, the generational memories outlined above shaped the Shire’s history; and, in turn, this shared history of the Shire fashioned people’s sense of responsibility and duty when the war began. But this dynamic relates exclusively to those of the Shire: those who were born and grew up in it or those who had been there long enough to identify with it. At the same time, there were many others in the Shire: the large group of itinerant rural workers, many of them immigrants, who made up the paid labour force. And men from this group – they described their occupation on enlistment forms as ‘farm labourer’ or, more commonly, just ‘labourer’ – enlisted in very large numbers. The complex relationship between these two groups – pioneers and labourers – living in the same location but not sharing the same history will be tackled in future posts.

For a general, comprehensive history of the Shire see:

Adams, J 1990, From these Beginnings: History of the Shire of Alberton (Victoria) Alberton Shire Council, Yarram, Victoria.

It was published just a few years before the Shire of Alberton was amalgamated within the new, larger Shire of Wellington (1994).

4. News of the Assassination reaches the Shire

Seen against our 24/7 array of print, radio, television and digital sources, the media of 100 years ago was very limited. In terms of international news, there was also the additional handicap of Australia’s isolation. At the same time, there had been major advances in technology, with the most relevant being the shift from cable to wireless telegraphy. In 1905 the Commonwealth passed its Wireless Telegraphy Act (No 8 of 1905), whereby the Postmaster-General was given ‘exclusive privilege’ of both the new technology and the granting of licences to use it. By 1914, the new technology was forcing down the cost of transmission and increasing its speed and volume. The new technology of moving pictures would also come to play an increasing role in both news and propaganda between 1914-1918. However, radio did not appear until the mid 1920s – the ABC was not established until 1932 – and, overall, the mass media in World War One was essentially newspaper-based.

For people living in rural communities in Victoria at the outbreak of the War, the press options were local newspapers and/or metropolitan newspapers, both dailies and weeklies, from Melbourne. The metropolitan option inevitably involved some delay in terms of accessibility, but at the same time the local newspapers were commonly only printed once or twice per week. In this particular post the local newspaper I am looking at is the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative which was printed twice weekly in Yarram. The paper was one of several papers run across regional Victoria by the Rossiter Brothers.

Local papers hardly claimed to break international news stories or even report them in any great depth. Instead, they tended to cherry-pick key stories from the metropolitan papers and then rework them slightly, with not much acknowledgement of sources. In 1914, there were hardly any illustrations or photographs in local papers.

It is interesting to consider what a person who read only the local paper would have known about events leading to the outbreak of the War. In an abbreviated way, we can do this by looking at the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative from the time of the assassination of the Austrian royal couple on Sunday 28 June 1914 through to the declaration on 5 August 1914.

The first reference to the assassination was on Friday 3 July when in the editorial section the following appeared:

Widespread horror and grief have been caused in all parts of the Empire at the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Heir-Presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and of his consort, the Duchess of Hohenberg. As the motor car turned into Franz Josef street, Prinzap, a Servian student from the High School, threw a bomb which fell into the roadway and did not explode. Then he whipped out a Browning pistol and fired three shots at the occupants.

The paragraph that immediately preceded this brief account dealt with a dance for the Port-Goodwood Football Club and the one that immediately followed with a football match to be played at West Alberton the next day. It was a nicely balanced mix of very local and, as things turned out, truly world-changing news.

Nothing further on the matter was reported until the very end of July (Wednesday 29 July) when, again in the editorial section, the following appeared:

Austria and Servia are at war. The British Government has suggested that Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy should mediate in the dispute.

In keeping with the theme of football, the same editorial in the local paper that day devoted considerably more copy to  yet another disturbance at a local football match. This time it was at Gelliondale, on 25 July. One of the Devon players had been ‘laid out’ and the teams faced off while some 200 spectators rushed onto the ground. Order was restored by the umpire who had the good sense to bounce the ball and get play underway.

Then two days later (Friday 31 July) there was a separate article with the headline, Austria Declares War. Europe in Arms. Forces Concentrating. It was only a short article but it did state, ominously, A strong opinion prevails in St. Petersburg that in the event of war England will support Russia and France. Presumably this would have rung alarm bells in any reader.

Finally on Wednesday 5 August there was a series of cascading headlines announcing that War had been declared –  WAR. LATEST NEWS. Britain, France, Russia and Servia against Germany and Austria. Help form the Colonies. Canada’s Offer Accepted. AUSTRALIA Offers Fleet and 20,000Men. Melbourne Ports Closed. Naval Engagement. Russians Driven Back. Enthusiastic Crowds in London, Melbourne and Sydney. – and that Australia was well and truly involved. It seems fortuitous that the local paper, only published on Wednesday and Friday each week, happened to appear on the very day war was declared in Australia (9.00 a.m. 5 August).

The overall point is that if someone in the Shire had relied solely on the local paper then the War and Australia’s involvement in it would definitely have come as a surprise – far more of a surprise than the one historians generally acknowledge. Bean (1941, p.11), for example, noted, War fell upon the British people out of a clear sky. But in the case of someone reading only the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative over July 1914,  the metaphor would have to be extended somewhat because there was little reason for them to even think of looking skywards, at least until it was too late.

By way of contrast, the Melbourne papers covered the assassination in detail. The Argus for example on 1 July gave a detailed account of the event itself and at least some political background. For example, it noted:

The Russian Press insists that Austria is reaping what she has sown, and a section regards the removal of the Archduke as the removal of a danger to European peace, by giving Austria an opportunity of reconsidering the course she has been following.

The paper adopted a sombre tone and gave details on the sympathy message conveyed to the Acting Consul for Austria-Hungary from the Victorian Premier, Sir Alexander Peacock. The violent death of royalty, of any kind, at the hand of nationalist fanatics was unnatural and shocking.

Similarly, the next weekend the Weekly Times (Saturday 4 July) presented a graphic account of the killings under the heading Austrian Royalties Assassinated. A  more detailed account appeared in The Australasian on the same day. Again the reporting was sombre and very sympathetic to the slain royal couple. There was a clear sense of shock and outrage over the attack, with even reports of the impact the deaths had had upon King George and how … all Court functions in London were cancelledThe Australasian also managed to insert an Australian link to the Archduke:

A little more than 20 years ago the Archduke Franz Ferdinand paid a visit to Australia, during which he saw each of the capitals, several of the State provincial cities, and took part in a Kangaroo hunt in New South Wales.

It is worth noting, by way of contrast to the respectful and sombre reporting of the conservative papers, that the left-wing Truth one week later on Saturday 11 July gave a very different assessment of the the Archduke and his politics. It was dated 3 July 1914 and began by blasting the other papers:

The puerile piffle and pawky platitudes that have been poured out in the Australian press over the murder of the Archduke Louis Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife, are a disgrace to humanity. What do Australians know or care about the dead Archduke? Little, if anything at all.

The assessment of the man was not flattering:

He was neither a great nor a good man; he was merely a narrow-minded mediocre man: the bad representative of a bad system, which he would have rendered infinitely worse had Providence permitted him to live long enough to occupy the throne of Austria-Hungary for any  considerable time.

And his politics was as bad as his personality:

Ferdinand stood for reaction and repression. He was prepared to use the influence of the throne and the armed force behind it, for the purpose of resisting the popular aspirations towards racial and religious emancipation; and to suppress with slaughter and stifle in blood the social and political improvement of the people. … The unfortunate Ferdinand was just sane enough to seem not to be mad; but mad enough to believe sincerely that he had been divinely designated to play a mediaeval role in the Dual Monarchy in this Twentieth Century.

Allowing for the different reporting styles and different interpretations of the events and the main players, and their significance – both internationally and in Australia – it is clear that there was considerable coverage in the metropolitan press of the assassination and this continued through July. The reports began to tease out likely scenarios for what was going to play out. For example, in The Argus on 27 July readers were told that the French Press had condemned the Austrian ultimatum and declared that …should Servia be forced into war she will not appeal in vain for support from the Powers who wish to maintain the balance of power in Europe at all costs. The same article noted that the British Press saw well beyond the assassination itself. The Daily Telegraph was quoted:

The dispute does not turn on the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. That at most is only the occasion. The real causes are deeper. The Austro-Servian differences are the first symptom of a gigantic Slav-Teutonic struggle.

The same article noted the Russian response: In St Petersburg Austria’s ultimatum is unanimously regarded as a direct challenge to Russia. … The newspapers declare that Russia cannot remain indifferent to Servia’s fate. … It is reported that five army corps have been mobilised.

Lastly, the article noted that advice from German papers was that any action against Austria would draw Germany into the conflict. There were also reports of German crowds turning on German socialists who were trying speak out against the possibility of war.

In short, even though events moved quickly, and escalated dramatically over a relatively short timeframe, a reader of the metropolitan Melbourne papers would have formed a sense of the seriousness of what was happening in far off Europe and the increasing likelihood – even certainty – of war. They would also have known that Australian involvement would immediately follow any British declaration. This was important news that wasn’t buried in between running commentary on football matches. Nor was it written up well after the event. Special and extra editions of papers were printed, and large crowds gathered in front of newspaper offices keen for the news from the latest ‘wires’ from overseas.

WW1 became the defining event of the early 20C and as Australia’s involvement deepened, more and more families were to have intensely personal, tragic and traumatic associations with it. The need for news was paramount. News of the War itself – major campaigns and battles, new technology, international politics, national politics associated with the War’s pursuit etc – while highly censored, became the province of the major metropolitan papers; and the majority of these became the voice of the Government as the War unfolded.

At the same time there was a critical role for the local press. Because the War affected so many  – virtually every family – in both metroplitan and rural communities, its impact in every single local community became a story in its own right and this became the natural province of the local paper. Just as it had always reported on what was local – sports, local government, religion, schooling, committees and other organisations etc – so now it reported on the local impact of the War, and as this impact would go well beyond what anyone imagined in the heady days when war was declared in early August 1914.

Most importantly we will also see that the local press went well beyond just reporting the impact of the War. It became the voice of the local community’s response to the War. It came to craft the narrative of the War for the local community. It did not just report the sacrifice. Rather, it came to justify the sacrifice. It effectively wrote, by instalment, the narrative of the War – in essence, the defence of the Empire – to convince its readers and their families that just as all sacrifice was justified, even more was required of them.  It is this political function of the local paper in WW1 that makes it so interesting for social historians.


Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

Editorial Section, 3 July 1914, p.2
Editorial Section, 29 July 1914, p.2
‘Austria Declares War…’, 31 July 1914, p.2
‘WAR…’, 5 August 1914, p.2

The Argus

‘Austrian Tragedy…’, 1 July 1914, p.15
‘Servia Defies Austria…’, 11 July 1914, p.9

Weekly Times

‘Austrian Royalties Assassinated’, 4 July 1914, p.33

The Australasian

‘Austrian Heir Murdered…’, 4 July 1914, p.36


‘The Austrian Assassinations’, 11 July 1914, p.9

Bean, CEW 1941, Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918, Volume 1 – The Story of ANZAC from the outbreak of war to the end of the first phase of the Gallipoli Campaign, May 4, 1915, 11th Edition.




3. Empire Day 1914

Even though she was long dead, Queen Victoria’s birthday (May 24, 1819) fell on a Sunday in 1914 and that meant that Empire Day was celebrated in Victorian schools on Friday 22 May.

The common arrangement across all public schools in Victoria saw the morning devoted to lessons or talks on the Empire, and the afternoon to extra-curriculum activities.

The following account of Empire Day 1914 is based on a series of articles that appeared in the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative at the time. The schools involved in the articles were: North Devon State School, Yarram SS, Hedley SS, Carrajung South SS, Bulga SS and Binginwarri SS. This is certainly not the complete list of public schools in the shire at the time, and Hedley SS was not even in the Shire of Alberton, but the reports taken collectively certainly give a lively account of what Empire Day looked like in state schools at the time.

Commonly, there were several days of preparation and on the day the school was decorated with flags, bunting and floral displays. In the morning, special guests – local councillors, the Shire President, clergymen, school committee representatives, visiting dignitaries etc – would attend and present stirring speeches on the theme of the British Empire. For example, at North Devon, Cr. Barlow spoke about the Union Jack … the emblem of unity, peace and honesty. He reminded the boys that the red of their flag stood for bravery. At Yarram SS that same morning, the  Rev. Geo Cox (Church of England) spoke on the “Symbol of Empire” and his religious confrere, Mr Rymer, covered the topic of “Freedom within the Empire.” While at Bulga SS, the President of the School Committee (Mr S Wills) addressed the children on … their duties, as children of the Empire.

In some cases the children read their own reflections on the Empire and there were also special topical lessons. For example, at Yarram the staff had prepared lessons for the day covering: “Why we keep Empire Day,” “The Royal Family,” “The Union Jack,” “The Australian Flag,” “The Possessions of Britain” and other topics of a suitable nature.

There was also plenty of singing and recitation. At Bulga SS the children sang “Rule Britannia” and “The Sea is England’s Glory” ( J W Lake, 1885) and keeping up the nautical theme they also recited, “Jack the Sailor”.  Here is the first verse of  The Sea is England’s Glory which you would have heard had you been there that day:

The sea is England’s glory!
The bounding waves her throne;
For ages bright in story,
The ocean is her own.
In war the first, the fearless
Her standard leads the brave,
In peace she reigns so peerless,
The Empress of the wave!

To modern ears the lyrics might sound jingoistic or at least embarrassingly simple, but at the time the British Navy was the most significant asset in Australia’s external defence policy.

The other key piece of formality in the morning was the ritual of saluting the flag and singing the national anthem:  At noon the Union Jack was saluted and the usual oath recited, after which cheers were given for the King, the Empire, the Flag and for “Australia, our Own Land”   (Yarram SS)

If the morning was given over entirely to outpourings of imperial loyalty and scripted lessons on Australia’s place and destiny within the Empire, then the afternoon was a far less formal affair. The most common pursuit was a sports carnival with a picnic or special lunch to precede it.

One variation on the children’s afternoon entertainment saw their parents also participating in in the sports with their own events. For example, at Carrajung South SS, the afternoon crowd swelled to some 300 people as parents joined. The same applied at Binginwarri SS, and at Hedley SS the parents appeared to take over because while the children’s sports ran from noon to one o’clock, the parents’ events started immediately after and ran through to dark.

There were variations. Yarram SS did not go down the path of the sports carnival. Instead they opted for a skating afternoon at the Mechanics Institute. Some of the children brought their own skates, while others were provided with those so generously lent by the Yarram Town Band Committee.

With all these events involving parents and others, Empire Day reached well beyond the local school to the wider community. Moreover, in many locations the activities went well past the normal school day. Admittedly Yarram SS finished its celebrations at the child-sensible time of 5 o’clock but other communities continued well past dusk. For example, at Carrajung South SS A dance was held in the school that night to terminate the days enjoyment, when about 40 couples tripped the light fantastic... At Binginwarri SS the dancing went to midnight. At Hedley SS the community organised a major bonfire with fireworks, before the dance; and the dancing did not end until 2.00am the next morning.

Empire Day in 1914 across the Shire seems to have been a rather relaxed celebration. There was a balance between the formality of the local primary school’s focus on both the central place of the Empire in every aspect of Australia’s national life, and every child’s corresponding duty to the Empire, and a more relaxed opportunity for people, not just the children, to come together, have some fun and celebrate the sense of belonging to the greatest empire on earth. Most importantly, there was no sense at all that the Empire itself was under dire threat from external forces or a major war was about to engulf Europe.

However there were challenges to the Empire and while it would have gone unsaid at the celebrations in all the schools on Friday May 22, the most significant threat came not from without but from within. It was, of course, the ever-present question of Ireland. Consider the timing. The Home Rule Bill was passed by a substantial majority in the House of Commons on May 25 1914, the day after Empire Day.

Ireland then was an Imperial flash point even before the War began. It was the one part of the Empire that did not share the  narrative on the greatness of the Empire and its manifest destiny. Further, the fundamental issue of Home Rule was not settled before the War began. It was merely put ‘on hold’ but it was clear to all that it was by then a compromised package.

While there was a significant separation between what was happening in the United Kingdom and what was happening in Australia, the conflict from  ‘Home’  – whether England or Ireland – did play out in various forms in the new Commonwealth of Australia.

Specifically in relation to the celebration of Empire Day, it is worth looking at how parallel tensions ran in Australia at the time. Empire Day was seen by the Catholic Church hierarchy in Australia as a distinctly British celebration. Its implementation from 1905 had been driven by the British Empire League and it was viewed with deep suspicion by the Catholic Church. In direct response, from 1911 the church hierarchy directed that May 24 was to celebrated as Australia Day. The day would be one where ‘patriotism’ was equated with commitment to Australian nationalism. The flag would be unfurled and a special Australian National Hymn was to be sung. There was also the option of a holiday with entertainment for the children. May 24 happened to be not only Queen Victoria’s birthday but also the feast day of Our Lady Help of Christians, the patron of Australia.

It is not clear how keenly the Australia Day celebration was taken up by the Catholic schools across the Nation but, not surprisingly, merely the suggestion of opposition to celebration of the Empire prompted incandescent outrage. The Argus on 29 May 1911, p.6  reported a speech by O R Snowball MLA, who was also Grand President of the Loyal Orange Council of Australasia. His comments are informative because they tend to confirm Catholic fears that the version of the Empire promoted by the likes of the British Empire League was decidedly Protestant. Snowball stated categorically, The Empire rested on Protestantism.  … He trusted that the Protestant people would more and more realise that it was not material wealth, but sturdy Protestantism, and its observances and spirit, which had made and would maintain the empire. It was because the Lord God of Hosts was with us.

But not only was the Empire a Protestant creation, the Catholic Church was its mortal enemy. Even then, in 1911 – three years before the War! – the claim that WW1 was a Vatican plot was being floated:

It was common knowledge that the aims of the Roman Catholic Church were a danger to our national life. He hoped that Protestants would deal with that church in the way it deserved. The head of that church in Australia had declared himself in unmistakable terms that he would have none of this empire celebration recognised by his church. This church was a great standing menace to the British people. German hostility to Britain was being engineered by the Vatican which hoped to set the two great Protestant powers at each other’s throats next year. That would never be. (Applause.) Protestants need not charge the Roman Church with disloyalty it charged itself, and declared itself. It was a treacherous influence which would tear down our flag and trample it underfoot.

So in the lead-up to WW1 there were major tensions over such as the celebration of Empire Day and Home Rule for Ireland, and sitting behind these flash points there was the more fundamental issue of whether Protestantism, the natural religion of the Empire, was also therefore the proper religion of the Nation; and even behind this there were other concerns: for example, was it possible for the new Commonwealth to have any distinctive identity outside the Empire. But none of this was evident in the reporting of celebrations for Empire Day in the Shire of Alberton in 1914. There is no reference to tension of any kind.  The day was simply an unqualified celebration of the British Empire and a chance to have some fun.

It is also worth pointing out that the lack of Catholic primary schools in the Shire at the time meant that great majority of Catholic children were exposed to the same strong messages on the Empire. For children across the Shire it had been a near universal experience for many years, even before the formal introduction of Empire Day in 1905. Catholic children had been schooled, in the state sector, to honour and identify with the Empire. Most of the young men from the Shire, both Protestant and Catholic,  who enlisted in the AIF over 1914-1918 had been well and truly taught all the prescribed lessons on both the the glory of the Empire and the loyalty they owed it.

As a final observation, it is hardly surprising  that the Catholic  Australia’s National Hymn did not take hold as any sort of national anthem. It just swapped the jingoistic British Empire for a higher order, but far too ethereal, Heavenly Empire.  The following version was published in the Freeman’s Journal (Sydney) – later the Catholic Weekly – Thursday 11 May 1911, p25. It ran to seven stanzas with the three below recommended.

God bless our lovely morning-land!
God keep her with enfolding hand
Close to His side,
While booms the distant battle’s roar,
From out some rude, barbaric shore,
In blessed peace for evermore,
There to abide!

Love lives in promise otherwhere,
But we are brothers – in the care
Of one birthright;
One God above, one home below,
One foot against our country’s foe,
And – if needs be – one ringing blow
The wrong to smite.

God bless thee, lovely morning-land,
God keep thee with enfolding hand
Close to His side!
Make thee the home of liberty,
While sweeps the Murray to the sea,
And lifts a proud front dauntlessly,
The Great Divide!



 Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative

‘Empire Day. Yarram’, 27 May 1914, p.2
‘Empire Day. Bulga’, 29 May 1914, p.2
‘Binginwarri. Empire Day’, 3 June 1914, p.4
‘Empire Day. Hedley’, 3 June 1914, p.2
‘Empire Day.Carrajung South’, 5 June 1914, p.4

The Argus

‘Australia Day. Ne Temere Decree. Mr. Snowball’s Criticism’, 29 May 1911, p.6

Freeman’s Journal (Sydney)

‘Australia Day’, 11 May 1911, p.25