Divided sunburnt country: Australia 1916-18 (33): The second conscription referendum viewed from Gippsland

‘Divided sunburnt country: Australia 1916-18 (33): The second conscription referendum viewed from Gippsland’, Honest History, 30 January 2018

The ‘Divided sunburnt country’ series

Once again, we find some very useful research on Phil Cashen’s Shire at War blog, based in Yarram (Alberton Shire) in South Gippsland. Most recently, we read about recruitment problems in the Shire. Shire at War now looks, in blog no. 150, at the other side of that story, specifically the aftermath of the December 1917 second conscription referendum (plebiscite).

Alberton was strongly pro-conscription, even the second time around (67 per cent pro- at both votes), and this helped feed bitterness during and after the second vote, bitterness often manifested as sectarianism. Shire at War looks in detail at local meetings, pro- and anti-conscription, during December, then analyses the farmers’ vote, the returned soldiers’ vote, and the position of the local newspaper, as expressed on the eve of the vote by its editor, AJ Rossiter:

To-morrow Australia will decide whether reinforcements are to be sent to our brave men in the firing line. We cannot conceive that any right-thinking man will have been so influenced by anti clap-trap to record “No” at the polling booth – tantamount to signing the death warrant of thousands of our boys in the trenches.

Alberton, observes blogger Cashen, ‘could start 1918 confident that it was one of the few places in Australia that had remained “loyal”’. But the bitterness was replicated across the country.

V0077Alberton Shire 1924 (Victorian Places)

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