14 April 2020
PDF version [281 KB]
Dr Nathan Church (updated by David Watt)
Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
The purpose of this quick guide is to provide parliamentarians and their staff with helpful resources for researching various aspects of Australian military history. This document has been updated for 2020 and will continue to be updated when additional resources become available.
Online military history resources
The Australian War Memorial (AWM)
The AWM website provides an extensive amount of military history resources, including:
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA)
DVA offers a variety of resources, ranging from lists of anniversaries and commemorative events, nominal rolls for the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam (with preliminary work beginning on the Gulf War) and information on the Office of Australian War Graves.
The DVA website also contains a research tips guide and a large number of media backgrounder fact sheets on various aspects of Australia’s military history, including involvement in wars and conflicts, commemorations and related themes.
DVA has also published the following reference websites Gallipoli and the Anzacs, Australians on the Western Front 1914–1918, Australia’s War 1939–1945, Australia’s involvement in the Korean War and Australia and the Vietnam War.
The National Archives of Australia (NAA)
The NAA website contains an array of primary source military history documents and thematic fact sheets. These include service records, administrative records, internment records and national service records. The NAA guide to researching war service provides useful information, as well as a link to the RecordSearch database. The 376,000 First World War service records have been digitised in their entirety, following the three-year ‘Gift to the Nation’ digitisation project. Digitisation of other records remains ongoing.
On 3 October 2019 the NAA announced that the Australian Government had provided funding to enable the digitisation of service records from the Second World War. The announcement stated that the work would take place across four years but also noted that some 200,000 records are already available.
The NAA has also created the Discovering Anzacs website, featuring profiles of Australian military personnel, an image gallery and a mapping tool highlighting the places of birth and enlistment of those who served in the Boer War and First World War.
The AIF Project
This is a database coordinated by academic historian Peter Dennis and hosted by UNSW at ADFA which allows the searching of Australian First World War personnel by name, service number or location of birth/place of residence upon enlistment.
The National Library of Australia’s Trove website
As a result of the National Library’s newspaper digitisation program, more than 1,000 different newspapers across all states and territories have been digitised, spanning the early 1800s to the mid-20th century. These newspapers are keyword-searchable and provide substantial media coverage of the war front and the home front during the First and Second World Wars.
The Australian Dictionary of Biography
This website contains searchable biographic articles of notable personalities, including those involved in the military. It is an initiative of the National Centre of Biography at the Australian National University.
The Parliament of Australia ParlInfo database enables keyword searching across House of Representatives and Senate Hansard, committee reports and proceedings and Bills debated within the Parliament. This database is useful for identifying the parliamentary proceedings during times of conflict.
Parliamentary Library resources
Anzac Day traditions and rituals: quick guide (14 April 2020)
Gallipoli—frequently asked questions and general information: a quick guide (14 April 2020)
Political attitudes to conscription: 1914–1918 (27 October 2016)
Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war: the Second World War (9 September 2016)
Anzac Day 2016 (15 April 2016)
‘Our life goes on the same: the Great War at home’, lecture delivered by Professor Peter Stanley (11 November 2015)
Commonwealth Members of Parliament who have served in war: colonial wars and the First World War (19 September 2014)
‘A small navy in a Great War’, lecture delivered by David Stevens (audio, video and published extract) (27 August 2014)
Index of Victoria Cross recipients by electorate (6 August 2014)
‘To the last man’—Australia’s entry to war in 1914 (31 July 2014)
‘Going to war 1914–18: the view from the Australian Parliament’, lecture delivered by Professor Joan Beaumont (19 March 2014)
Honours and awards
The Department of Defence website contains information regarding the different types of Australian and Imperial military awards. The Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s It’s an Honour website provides further details on Australian honours, including the ability to search by an individual or a specific award or medal.
Australia’s defence force services
The Australian Army History Unit website contains primary source materials regarding the Australian Army forces’ contribution to conflicts spanning pre-Federation to Vietnam, support to peacekeeping operations, and information regarding unit histories and formations.
The Royal Australian Air Force website contains overview information about the RAAF’s contribution to Australian military operations. The history of the RAAF is also described, including a list of famous RAAF personnel. The RAAF website also provides information about the traditions of the red poppy, the last post, the dawn service and Remembrance Day.
The Royal Australian Navy website contains reference material regarding the histories of various ships, submarines and naval bases, customs, traditions, and navy personnel.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service
The Australian War Memorial website contains an overview of the history of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander military service, including specific sections regarding its involvement in Australia’s various military conflicts.
The Department of Veterans’ Affairs also has information for and about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
Historian Philippa Scarlett has published Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Volunteers for the AIF: the Indigenous Response to World War One (4th edn, Macquarie, ACT, Indigenous Histories, 2018) and provides updates to the book on the website Indigenous Histories. The book and the website are part of an ongoing effort to identify Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who served and, where possible, to provide information about those people.
In May 2014 the Indigenous Liaison Officer for the AWM, Gary Oakley, delivered the lecture ‘Aboriginals in the First AIF, a Secret History’, as part of the Parliamentary Library’s series Parliament, War and Empire. This lecture can be downloaded as an MP3 file, with an accompanying PowerPoint presentation and slide notes.
The Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies website has a section on Indigenous Australians at war and also provides details of other online and hardcopy resources regarding the military service of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander personnel. This includes an honour roll.
The Year Book Australia 1925, published on the Australian Bureau of Statistics website, contains an overview of the soldier settlement schemes across Australia.
The Public Records of Victoria website, ‘Battle to Farm’, holds digitised records relating to soldier settlers in Victoria from 1919 to 1935.
A Land Fit for Heroes? is a history of soldier settlement in New South Wales from 1916 to 1939, developed by the Australian Research Council, Monash University, the University of New England, DVA, and State Records NSW.
The South Australian State Archives holds records relating to soldier settlement in that state.
For copyright reasons some linked items are only available to members of Parliament.
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