Australia after World War I – Behind the News


GIRL: This is the Victory Medal. AMELIA: Polly, Maya and McKenzie have been learning about
their great-great, sometimes even
great-great-great-relatives, who fought in the Great War. My great-great-grandpa, his name was Douglas Guthrie. Um, he was a private in World War I. Um, he enlisted when he was 21. He got captured
as a prisoner of war. When I first saw this photo,
I thought he looked really brave. For Maya,
it was her great-great-great uncle, who she discovered
was Indigenous Australian. GIRL: His name was Edward Heath,
and he was 30 when he enlisted. I think he felt really,
um, brave going to war ’cause he was probably
trying to prove that Aboriginals can do
what white people can do, and that they shouldn’t be treated
any differently just ’cause
they’re a different colour. These are his dog tags that he wore. And for McKenzie,
it was her great-great-grandpa, but he was actually British
fighting alongside Australians. My great-great-grandpa
was George Thomas Brigendon. He joined
the Royal Garrison Artillery as a gunner, um, in 1914. He was 30 when World War I started, and he said that
his scariest experience was, um… ..running new telephone wires
to the front trenches after the old ones
had been blown up. Polly and Maya’s relatives are two of the more than
400,000 Australian men who enlisted in World War I. By the time the war ended,
around 60,000 of those men had died, and about 170,000 of them
were left wounded or ill. It wasn’t actually until 1919 – months and months
after the war ended – that troops finally started
coming home. But it wasn’t easy
for many soldiers and nurses to forget what they’d lived through. It would be hard to just get back
from the war and go on with normal life. ‘Cause you’ve got the memories
and the wounds and… ..all the injuries and stuff. While Polly’s great-great-grandpa
made it home to New South Wales after being taken prisoner
in Germany, he was left permanently injured. It was before the war that this was taken because after the war, he had
those three fingers amputated off. Australia had to work out some ways
to help the survivors, the wounded, the war widows
and their families to recover. So, the Government decided to offer
free medical care, pensions and places to live
to permanently injured or sick service people. And carnivals and parades
were held to raise money for them. Whole organisations were even created
to defend war veterans’ rights and help them get back
to normal life. You’ve probably heard of
the Returned and Services League, or RSL, that still exists today. There were other struggles
the country had to face too. Many Australian industries
weren’t doing so well, people didn’t have as much money
and jobs were way harder to find. So, programs were created to help
returned soldiers learn new skills, like construction,
mechanics or even haircutting. And farming too. In fact, state governments offered
some soldiers a small piece of land to farm if they wanted to. The war touched so many lives
in so many different ways but while it wasn’t easy, many of
them were able to get through it. My great-great-grandfather, he used to live behind a shop
when he was a child, so they went back there
and they started it as a shop and then they had
four children, all boys. And the youngest one
was my great-grandfather. After the war, he would’ve gone back
to England and had a family and then his grandson,
my grandfather, was the first person in our family to come to Australia. GIRL: I think it’s important
to remember them because they did so much
for our country. And lots of people fought and didn’t survive very long. And they’ve helped us go on
to have what we have today.

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