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The Wellington community, World War I and beyond: Wartime transformations in the Bunbury–Harvey community of Western Australia

Warburton, Margaret Jane (2020) The Wellington community, World War I and beyond: Wartime transformations in the Bunbury–Harvey community of Western Australia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Researchers have concluded that, in regional Australia, World War I exacerbated existing social divisions. My study demonstrates that, for the Wellington community of Western Australia, the war intensified the existing sense of community, altered private and public gender beliefs and relations, and yet left the community struggling to adequately manage the needs of veterans. When Charlie Snell of Harvey, Western Australia, wrote of enlisting in the war, his parents kept his letters, creating an archive of his experiences at war, his death in France and his community’s grief at his death. Research into the background to the 200 names from Western Australia’s Bunbury-Harvey community encapsulated in the archive has created a longitudinal study of a population, before, during and after World War I, revealing private and public lives and community relationships and showing how they were transformed by war. This thesis argues that in the Wellington district, social capital developed during the pioneering period provided the community structures and social cohesion needed to fight the war on the home front and the battle front, as existing community organizations became committees of men and women working tirelessly to support their young men at war. In the aftermath of war however, the efforts of local committees, veteran support associations and families were insufficient to adequately cater for the needs of veterans. The repatriation files depict the war’s long-term consequences in the private suffering of veterans from a multiplicity of injuries, illnesses and emotional traumas. Limited understanding of trauma and government repatriation policies that effectively diluted social capital, ultimately isolated veterans in their confrontations with the repatriation system. The thesis also argues that the testing of gendered behaviours, roles and relationships in wartime led to new understandings as men expressed their emotional selves in new ways and women moved from the pre-war domestic sphere to the public sphere where they learnt new skills and rhetoric and interacted as equals with men. While some women retreated into the domestic sphere after the war in response to the needs of their disabled men, many continued to utilize their newfound skills in their private dealings with Repat, while others continued to make an impact in the public sphere.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Global Studies
Supervisor(s): Sturma, Michael and Webster, Andrew
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