‘In every coastal city in Australia this last fortnight, one question has run like a refrain through the news and rumours of war. It is: What are we going to do about the children?’ — The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 27, 1941
During World War II Australia was under threat of invasion. Could Australia be invaded by the Japanese? Even with the heavy censorship by the government many certainly thought so and the nation was gripped by fear that the danger would soon be on their doorstep.
The Japanese appeared to be looming closer; there were submarines in Sydney Harbour, Japanese planes flying overhead and harassment on our coastline. Australians were fearful for their safety. Anxious parents made decisions to protect their children, with or without government sanction. Small children were sent away, often unaccompanied, by concerned parents to friends, relatives, or even strangers living in ‘safer’ parts of the country. Some had little comprehension of what was happening and thought they were going on holiday to the country.
The history of these child evacuees in Australia remains largely hidden and their experiences untold. Author Ann Howard, who was evacuated with her mother from the UK during World War II, has set the records straight. A combination of extensive research and the first-hand stories of the evacuees captures the mood of the time and the social and political environment that they lived in.
Unlike the sometimes sad and horrible experiences of their UK counterparts, for many Australian child evacuees there enforced ‘holiday’ was a surprisingly happy time.
A Carefree War tells the story of the largest upheaval in Australia since white settlement using oral memoirs and box camera photos, all placed within the frameworks of history. The voices of over one hundred contributors join together to paint a vivid picture of wartime Australia; the fear, the chaos and civilians floundering under the impact of a war that would change their way of life forever.