CENSORS IN AUSTRALIA
|visits since 7 January 2003|
Strict censorship was imposed in Australia at the start of the war. The Menzies Government established the Department of Information to control publicity and censorship. The Government censor issued an average of eight instructions per day to Australian newspapers and radio stations between 1940 and 1945.
Censorship was necessary:-
to prevent valuable information getting into enemy hands
to prevent false impressions of Australia overseas
to maintain high morale on the home front
When General Douglas MacArthur moved to the AMP Building in Queens Street Brisbane, to establish his GHQ, South West Pacific Area, he brought with him his own unique rules for censorship.
The Editor of the Courier Mail newspaper in Brisbane, Queensland, Mr. Theodor Bray, said that the task at hand was "to report a world at war, to keep readers as well informed as possible under wartime censorship".
Many articles that were allowed to appear in the newspapers would often refer to unidentified troops from unnamed units at an advanced base. Unit names and their locations were protected. A number of journalists criticised the censors for being excessive and not consistent in their rulings, claiming that they were worse than the censors in Europe.
In 1944, a number of Sydney newspaper got so frustrated with the Censors that they printed articles with blank spaces left in the article to indicate the extent of the censors deletions. By doing this they had breached National Security Regulations and the police were ordered to stop distribution of these editions of the paper. Newspapers in Melbourne and Adelaide also had a number of disagreements with the Censors. The Courier Mail in Brisbane seemed to have no major problems in their dealings with the Censors.
Author Robert Bell, believed that the impact of the Censors was so great that the Australian press "behaved more like the propaganda arm of the Government than a genuine free agency."
The Australia Army looked after censorship in the field. All letters written by troops back to their family and friends were all seen by the censor who would often cut out or blot out sections of the letter to protect the identity and location of units, etc to ensure useful information could not fall into enemy hands.
Many troops would devise codes etc to allow them to keep their family informed of their whereabouts. For example my father, James Thomas "Jim" Dunn, who was in the 42nd Battalion used a numbered code in his letters home to his mother in Rockhampton. This allowed her to determine exactly where her son Jim was. She would then write to her other son John "Jack" Joseph Dunn who was based in Townsville with 36 Squadron RAAF. Jack was a flight mechanic on Dakotas. Jack would then volunteer for a flight to the area where Jim was in New Guinea and attempt to meet up with him. In the mean time their mother would bake some cakes and post them through to Jack in Townsville so that he could take them up to his brother Jim. On one of the trips to New Guinea, Jack went to the open air picture shows that were held for the soldiers. He sat against a 44 gallon drum and whistled their special whistle which they used to help locate each other. Jim was leaning against the other side of the same drum!
© Peter Dunn 2005
This page first produced 7 January 2003
This page last updated 08 July 2005