The need for labour in wartime
One of the most pressing demands on
Australia during World War II was for the construction of infrastructure
and communications works, such as port facilities, aerodromes, fuel
depots, roads and bridges. Commonwealth expenditure on works increased
from £2 000 000 in the year preceding the outbreak of war to £32 000
000 in 1941–42.
|Extensive runway development took
place during the Second World War years, constructed by
authorities such as RAAF and U.S. Army construction units, the
Civil Construction Corps, Commonwealth Works Department, State
Road Departments and local Councils. The methods and materials
used were understandably directed towards speed of construction
rather than permanence. Nevertheless, some 138 runways were of
permanent value and formed the basis for the development of an
airport network throughout Australia.
In February 1942 the Allied Works
Council (CA 497) was created to take responsibility for carrying out all
works required for war purposes by the Allied forces in Australia.
Edward Granville Theodore, a former Premier of Queensland (1919–25)
and Federal Treasurer (1929–31) was appointed Director-General of the
Establishment of the Civil
The major difficulty faced by the
Allied Works Council was the supply of labour. In March 1942 the War
Cabinet accepted a recommendation from Theodore for the creation of a
Civil Constructional Corps (CCC), which would undertake war-related
construction projects within Australia.
The Corps was formed as a civilian
rather than military organisation and comprised volunteers and persons
called up under military impressments. Given the wartime climate and the
range of powers given to the Director-General, the Corps operated under
a more rigid discipline than would be normal industrial practice. While
members’ pay was based on civilian award rates, they could not refuse
work and were subject to regulations governing their conduct on the job
and to the orders of the Director-General for maintaining good order at
works or in camps.
By June 1943 some 66 000 men had
sought enrolment in the Corps of whom 53 500 were selected as medically
fit and suitable. Of these, 8 500 had volunteered, 28 000 had already
been working on Allied Works Council jobs at the time of enrolment and
about 17 000 had been called up for service. Most were over 35 years of
age. The major occupational categories were labourers, carpenters and
Members of the Corps were sent to all
parts of Australia to work on projects such as docks, aerodromes, roads,
gun emplacements, hospitals, fuel storage depots, pipelines and
Italy’s entry into World War II as an Axis power, life on the
home-front was often difficult for people of Italian origin in
Australia. Many of the men not serving in the armed services or held in
internment camps were conscripted into compulsory labour service. The
Civil Construction Corps for those with British citizenship, or the
Civil Alien Corps for Italian citizens, frequently meant work in remote
locations in the bush.
Supplementing the workforce in
The Civil Aliens Corps was
established on 3 May 1943 under the National Security (Aliens Service)
Regulations to come under the control of the Director-General of Allied
Works. War Cabinet had approved this step as a means of giving relief to
Australia's worsening manpower shortage as the War progressed. Under the
regulations any male refugee alien or enemy alien between the ages of 18
and 60 could be directed to serve in the Civil Aliens Corps.
Allied Works Councils, which came
under the Director-General of Allied Works, were established in all
states and the Northern Territory in February 1942 to administer the
work of the Civil Aliens Corps and other works labour forces, such as
the Civil Constructional Corps.
Aliens, who were required to register
with authorities following the outbreak of war, were classified
according to their nationality in the following categories: Allied,
Neutral, Indeterminate and Enemy. Many of those who joined the Civil
Aliens Corps were internees who were released from internment camps and
sent back to their home states to await call up to the Corps. Out of
some 15 601 registered aliens 1 671 were accepted into the Corps.
Members of the Civil Aliens Corps were
required to work on projects of a non-combatant nature managed by the
Allied Works Councils. These included projects such as road
construction, or the forestry industries.
The Corps was disbanded in May 1945.