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Parliament and the war

'Enemy aliens'

Within a week of the declaration of war, German and Austro-Hungarian residents of Australia were forced to register with the police. A fear of possible German-Australian 'conflicted loyalties' led to several regulations under the War Precautions Act 1914, such as forbidding German-Australians to leave Australia or send money overseas. These immigrants, naturalised subjects and Australian-born people rapidly moved in the Australian consciousness from 'our Germans' to 'enemy aliens'.

As the war progressed and propaganda about the 'Hun' German continued, the pressures on German-Australians increased. Many lost their jobs or found their communities no longer safe. Internment without charge or trial was implemented around Australia (in 1915 all internees were moved to the Holsworthy camp at Liverpool, NSW). By 1918 nearly 7 000 men, women and children were interned by the Australian Government. Some were interned voluntarily after they were no longer able to support their families; others were German settlers deported from former German colonies in the Pacific; others still were working class men who had been born in Australia to a German father or grandfather. The aim of internment was to protect Australians and the Australian war effort from 'disaffected and disloyal' 'enemy aliens'.

At the conclusion of the war most internees were deported from Australia. They had no recourse to judicial appeal and many did not know why they were being expelled from the country they had lived in for most or all of their lives. Some chose to leave the country that had abandoned them.