A town at war

In 1944, Jim Fitzpatrick, an official war photographer with the Australian Information Service, was sent to document the impact of war on the people of Drouin, a small dairying town about 100 kilometres south-east of Melbourne on the Princes Highway. His assignment was part of an intensive publicity and propaganda campaign to prove to Australia's allies, most particularly the Americans, that Australians were 'doing their bit' for the war effort.

Some months after Fitzpatrick took the images, twenty-seven of them were published in an article written and captioned by David Stevens. The article 'Small town at war' was published in December 1944, in the South West Pacific Annual, an information and copy resource produced by the Department of Information and distributed free of charge to overseas press and radio editors. The images are remarkably candid, somewhat idealised and apparently were never intended for Australian eyes.

In his article, Stevens highlighted the wartime sacrifices and contributions made by the townspeople of Drouin, a typical Australian country town during World War II. More than 150 of the town's 1100 inhabitants were away fighting. As well as their generous financial contribution to the war effort, many of the townspeople would have been involved in the wartime production of Drouin's local produce, flax, butter and cheese. Like all other Australians, war rationing and shortages would also have affected them.

xty years on, the Drouin Collection reveals how effective war propaganda can be when created by a talented photographer. Just as fascinating is the way the collection allows us to see how the then Federal Government wished others to see us.

[Michelle Hetherington, Pictures Branch, National Library of Australia]

The original 88 images of Drouin have been digitised and are held in the Pictures Collection at the National Library of Australia in the series: 'Drouin town and rural life during World War II'.

Last updated: 7 October 2021

Cite this page

DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) (2021), A town at war , DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 13 August 2022, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/resources/all-australian-homefront-1939-1945/town-war
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