Compare and Contrast: Outcomes of Ww1 and WW2 for Australia

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1584 |

Pages: 3|

8 min read

Published: Jun 12, 2023

Words: 1584|Pages: 3|8 min read

Published: Jun 12, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Australia’s Involvement in WW1 and WW2
  2. Consequences of Wars for the Social, Economic and Political Life of Australia
  3. Conclusion

WW1 and WW2 are a huge part of modern history with over 100 nations involved and millions killed. These wars are the largest scale wars in world history which is why they are so significant for all parties involved. Often, historians look to consider which war was of higher significance. Whilst the global fatalities as well as media input often suggest that WW2 was of far greater significance, this can be very misleading as there is much more to consider than simply their numerical value. By considering other factors including most memorable battles as well as economic and social impacts, we can compare and contrast WW1 and WW2 to understand which was of greater significance. This essay will aim to come to the conclusion of whether WW2 was actually of greater significance and had a larger impact on Australia specifically, looking at Australia’s involvement in each of these wars separately before making a judgement about which had the overall greater significance for Australia. This involves analysing specific battles which had large involvement by Australians including Gallipoli in WW1 and the Pacific War in WW2, as well as the social, political and economic impacts of both wars.

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It would be easy to assume that globally, WW2 had far larger consequences than WW1 with a much higher death toll. But in terms of Australia, involvement is arguably larger, according to statistics in WW1 than WW2, with an estimated 60, 000 Australian’s killed (as of in WW1 and just 39, 000 killed in WW2 (as of the Australian War Memorial, London).

Australia’s Involvement in WW1 and WW2

WW1 was just the second time Australia’s military had fought as a united nation. The Bore War had been the first with 16, 000. Australia’s involvement in WW1 began in 1914 when Britain and Germany went to war. As Australia was a close ally of Britain, we soon became involved. Looking at the most significant battles in either war, Australia’s involvement in WW1 is prominently remembered by most Australian’s by the Gallipoli campaign. In 1915, a British attempt to gain a new front to attack Germany and Austria through the Dardanelles, which did not go to plan resulting in a gruesome 8-month stalemate along with thousands of deaths. This is by far the most famous, significant and most recounted battle in Australian history. But this campaign means far more to Australia than just a battle, it is what this battle represents and has come to represent for Australian culture. According to Australian War Memorial principal historian Dr Peter Stanley “Gallipoli has become a symbol of Australia's national identity”. This symbol of our identity is a result of “The Anzac Myth”, the so-called legend which distracts the Australians from the gruesome horrific times of the war and turns it into something to be celebrated. This is a major issue with how WW1 is remembered by Australian’s, but it is also what makes it so significant. So why are the Gallipoli landings, the battle which killed 11,400 Australians and injured 24,000 more, stand as a pride moment in Australian history? Well, Gallipoli is far more than just a battle, it was what it symbolised. This campaign shaped Australia’s identity and identified what it meant to be Australian. Mateship, Bravery and Compassion was what this country was built off of, as a result of this war. And whilst many historians argue that this battle should not be as significant as it is, with Marilyn Lake from the history department at La Trobe University stating that “it was untrue that Australia's national identity was formed in Gallipoli, what matters is how this campaign will forever be perceived by the public. The fact that Australia has the National Day of ANZAC to commemorate this single battle truly shows the significance of this battle and the significance it had and will continue to have on Australia’s identity.

Australia’s involvement in WW2, is less depicted and accounted although that does not retract from contribution and significance to our nation which this war had. The significance of this war is first noted as WW2 marked the first time in Australia's history that people felt directly threatened by an external aggressor. This is a fairly significant event which occurred in this war that had a large effect on Australians. After the Japanese joined WW2, they declared war with the Americans and began what would be known as the Pacific War. Australia had a large involvement in this war, committing over 500, 000 troops. During this war, weeks after the Pearl Harbour bombings, the Japanese planned to extend the battlefield to Australia, planning bombings of Brisbane and Darwin. They used the same carrier-based force they had used for Pearl Harbour to attack Darwin, which had become the home to the most functional American military base in the Pacific. 188 planes loaded with 13,000 kilograms of bombs was the initial plan of attack on Darwin. Fortunately for Darwin (who would’ve been left in fragmented pieces if this original attack had taken place) American soldiers came to the rescue and were able to reduce the amount of damage caused by the bombings. Despite their best efforts though, these bombings were still disastrous and had a dramatic effect on Australia. All in all, the official casualty figures totalled up to 243 killed with more than 300 wounded. Considered by National Geographic to be the “most significant campaign fought by Australians during World War Two” the Kokoda trail was another very important battle for Australians during World War 2 resulting in a thousand men dead. Whilst this battle does not compare to many others in terms of statistics alone, the significance comes from other aspects. This campaign involved a gruesome four-months in some of the worst conditions Australian troops have ever seen. Scarce supplies and tropical diseases include some of the issues facing troops of this campaign. The significance of this campaign for Australians is shown as the Kokoda trail walk which has become a major tourist attraction, particularly for Australians to remember and commemorate those who fought in this conflict. Overall, whilst this campaign cannot compare to the significance of Gallipoli, it plays a significant role in that it is what most Australians will remember when thinking of Australia in WW2.

Consequences of Wars for the Social, Economic and Political Life of Australia

Looking at the economic, social and political impacts of each of these wars more specifically, it is clear that both wars had dramatic impacts on Australia as a nation. WW1 had a damaging effect on the Australian economy. The first world war was harsh on Australia, particularly economically. “Gross domestic product declined by 9.5 percent between 1914 and 1920” according to Ian McLean of Princeton and Oxford. This was primarily caused by a loss of working men due to death and injuries from the war as well as a severe drought which reduced yearly harvests in Australia. One large negative impact of WW1 on Australia was the great depression. This would cause unemployment rates to drop even lower reaching a record high 29%. and Australia’s economy to hit an all-time low. There is a lot of evidence to support that WW1 had a majorly significant economic impact on Australia, although this impact was mostly negative. On the other hand, the economic impact after the Second world war was completely different from the first world war. Whilst the impacts of the first world war were largely negative, after and during the second world war it was the exact opposite. Australia’s economy boomed during the second world war, bringing an end to the great depression. During this time, large industries such as manufacturing of munition and aircraft becoming much more prominent and prosperous businesses. Another large impact of the second world war was immigration to Australia. According to the migration heritage centre, between 1945 and 1952 an estimated “2 million migrants came to Australia Most were assisted: The Commonwealth Government paid most of their fare to get to Australia. In return, they had to stay in Australia for at least two years and work in whatever jobs the Government gave them.” This would’ve also heavily boosted the economy as there were a lot more workers in Australia doing whatever job required of them. It is clear that both wars had very influential whilst contrasting social and economic impacts in Australia.

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It is clear that both WW1 and WW2 were of extreme significance to Australia, but the question still arises of which was of higher significance. Considering the economic and social impacts of both wars, both wars are highly significant. From WW1 the impacts are mostly negative with the Great Depression and high unemployment rates being a side effect. In WW2 the impact was very positive with the result of the war largely benefiting Australia, boosting the economy and bringing in millions of migrants. Overall these impacts leave the argument at a level playing field. When considering the major battles of both wars, the Kokoda campaign and Pacific war had lasting effects on Australia, with the first Australian military threat from Japan being highly significant. Despite this, there is no question that the significance and influence of the ANZAC campaign in Gallipoli is far greater than any battle during WW2. For this reason, WW1 has a much higher significance for Australian’s because of the ANZAC Legend. Whether fact or fiction the ANZAC legend holds a unique place in Australian history for the role it plays in shaping Australian culture that will never be forgotten and commemorated every year on April 25. 

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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Compare and Contrast: Outcomes of WW1 and WW2 for Australia. (2023, Jun 12). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
“Compare and Contrast: Outcomes of WW1 and WW2 for Australia.” GradesFixer, 12 Jun. 2023,
Compare and Contrast: Outcomes of WW1 and WW2 for Australia. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 May 2024].
Compare and Contrast: Outcomes of WW1 and WW2 for Australia [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jun 12 [cited 2024 May 26]. Available from:
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