Today, we commemorate the Battle for Australia, remembering the brave Australians who defended our nation by land, sea and air during the Second World War.
When the island fortress of Singapore fell on 15 February 1942, Prime Minister John Curtin said it was time for the Australian people to fight and work harder than they ever had before.
Our nation’s resolve was tested, not just in the Pacific, but at home as well, and we were not left wanting.
War reached Australia’s shores on 19 February 1942, with the bombing of Darwin, killing more than 250 Australians, Allied service personnel and civilians. By the end of the war, northern Australia had endured 97 air raids, 64 of which targeted Darwin.
It was in this light that Prime Minister Curtin overrode the British Prime Minister and returned our 7th AIF forces for the battle at home.
The threat of invasion must have felt very real when three Japanese midget submarines infiltrated Sydney Harbour, throughout the course of the night on 31 May – 1 June 1942, sinking HMAS Kuttabul, killing 19 Australian and two British Sailors.
With the home front under attack, our forces overseas remained strong, contributing to a major Allied victory at the Battle of the Coral Sea, and fought with tenacity and courage in a series of battles in Papua New Guinea, none more famous than those fought along the Kokoda Track.
More than 39,000 Australians made the ultimate sacrifice during the Second World War, some 22,000 became prisoners of war, and over 8,000 never made it home.
We commemorate the Battle for Australia on the first Wednesday in September. This day represents a defeat of Japanese forces on land during the Battle of Milne Bay.
Today, I encourage all Australians to pause and remember the brave Australians who answered the call to stand tall against the threat of invasion during the Second World War.
Read more about the Battle for Australia on the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Anzac Portal.
The Hon Matt Keogh MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
Minister for Defence Personnel