The Australian Women's Land Army Records 1942-1975
In July 1942 the Australian Women’s Land Army was inauguated as an adjunct to the women’s auxiliary Transport Service modelled on those established in Great Britain during the First and Second World Wars. While policy was devised by the Commonwealth Government, the organisation of the AWLA remained State-based.
The AWLA helped fill the shortage of labour in the rural sector caused by male farm workers engaged in other essential war work or enlisted in war service. The AWLA was a voluntary group whose members were paid by the farmer, rather than the government or military forces. The Land Army provided training in farming skills for women and then organised their employment on rural properties. Recruits had to be between 18 and 50 years of age and be British subjects or immigrants from Allied nations. At its peak, 3,000 women were members of the Australian Women’s Land Army, 700 of whom came from Queensland.
AWLA women were generally drawn from city areas and were often unskilled in rural work. They were taught the daily routines of farm life milking, caring for animals, and ploughing. Those applying to work on station had to be good riders and be able to milk a few house cows.
The women received very modest wages for their long and arduous working week , the average for each member was 48 hours, with pay starting at the AWLA minimum wage of 30 shillings a week. Women were paid much less than their male counterparts for the same work, which covered a variety of agricultural labours, such as vegetable and fruit growing, pig and poultry raising, and sheep and wool work.
The John Oxley Library's Australian Women’s Land Army records 1942 – 1975 includes service record books, poetry, photographs, bulletins, reunion invitations, a green felt pennant, broadcasts and an MA Thesis by Pamela Carlton published in 1980.
We also have a range of books, photographs, audiovisual resources as well as Land Army Gazettes as you can see from this search of our One Search Catalogue.
Land Army gazettes provide an insight into social aspects of the service. They were usually published on a bimonthly basis and distributed to AWLA members. The gazettes often record the names of individual members and headquarters staff and were designed to bring together women in isolated regions and make them feel a part of the service. They include information on conditions of employment, uniform, camp news, and letters to the editor.
Karen Hind - Librarian, State Library of Queensland