THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
5 September 2011
The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, urged all Australians to honour the contribution of those who helped to defend our shores when the Japanese threat was at its greatest, on Battle for Australia Day on 7 September.
Mr Snowdon said Battle for Australia Day honours the servicemen and women, and civilians, who served in Australia’s defence during the Second World War.
“Battle for Australia Day recognises all those who served on the home front in Australia, and who fought on land, air and sea in battles in the Coral Sea and in Papua New Guinea, including Milne Bay and the Kokoda Track during 1942 and 1943,” he said.
“This was the most dangerous period in our country’s history, and involved direct attacks by the Japanese on the Australian mainland, in particular Darwin and Sydney.”
Australia was defended by more than a half a million full time Navy, Army and Air Force personnel as well as the women’s services during this time. Civilians also contributed, working in jobs geared towards the war effort and living with wartime controls including rationing and restrictions on movement.
Australia initially came under Japanese attack four days after the Fall of Singapore with two air raids launched against Darwin on 19 February 1942.
More than 240 Japanese fighters and bombers attacked Darwin twice during the day, killing more than 250 Allied service personnel and civilians.
Subsequent air raids continued across northern Australia including attacks on Port Hedland, Broome, Derby, Katherine and Townsville until November, 1943. In this month Darwin experienced its 64th, and last, air raid.
In May 1942 the battle of the Coral Sea was fought in waters to the east of Papua. Just a few months later, in July, the Japanese began an overland advance towards Port Moresby from Papua’s east coast before suffering decisive defeats on the Kokoda Track and at Milne Bay.
On 31 May 1942 three Japanese midget submarines attacked Sydney Harbour, killing 19 Australian and two British sailors on the depot ship HMAS Kuttabul.
Japanese submarines continued to operate along Australian eastern waters until June 1943.
To mark Battle for Australia Day, Mr Snowdon announced $65,000 to help fund an exhibition at the Museum of Sydney titled Home front: wartime Sydney 1939 – 1945.
“Funded through the Saluting Their Service commemorations program, this project will increase awareness and understanding of this important period in Australia’s wartime history,” he said.
The exhibition runs from 31 March 2012 to 9 September 2012. The opening coincides with the 70th anniversary of the battles fought in defence of Australia including the attack on Sydney Harbour by Japanese midget submarines.
Battle for Australia Day is commemorated every year on the first Wednesday in September – it marks the first defeat of Japanese forces in the Battle of Milne Bay. For more information on Australia under attack during the Second World War visit www.ww2australia.gov.au
Battle for Australia Day services are being held around the country.
A media backgrounder isavailable for download from the DVA Media centre at www.dva.gov.au/media
Media inquiries: Minister Snowdon: Alice Plate 0400 045 999 or 02 6277 7820
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203