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John Oxley Library

The Australian Women's Land Army Records 1942-1975

By JOL Admin | 28 April 2011

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.

Australian Women's Land Army Camp at Atherton, November 1943. From OM90-04 Australian Women's Land Army Records 1942-1975 - State Library of Queensland

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.

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Duchess of Gloucester chats with members of the Womens Land Army, Manly, 1945. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 141469

Beryl Pender in her uniform as State Superintendent of the Australian Women's Land Army, Queensland, 1943. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 177671

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.

two women walk through a field

Member of the Australian Women's Land Army and visitor, Redland Bay, 1944. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 98345

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.

Working on the farm, World War II ca. 1942. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 161585

Land Army camp in the Biloela area ca. 1940. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Neg 123953

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.

An edition of the Land Army Gazette. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

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


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