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War and after war: The Great War and its aftermath in a Tasmanian region: The Huon, 1914-1926


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Martin, C 1992 , 'War and after war: The Great War and its aftermath in a Tasmanian region: The Huon, 1914-1926', Research Master thesis, University of Tasmania.

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On the eve of World War One the Huon felt itself to be on the
threshold of a bright and prosperous future. The recent rapid increase in
the export of its apples and timber had led the region's "boosters" to
believe that the long, dark night of the 1890s depression was at an end.
Such new found vitalism was soon translated into plans for the
construction of a rail link to Hobart, an overseas wharf at Port Huon, the
dredging of the Huon River to Franklin and the development of a diverse
range of industries for the area.
Such hopes were soon dashed by the Europe an conflict of 1914-1918.
Despite, perhaps because of, the Huon's remoteness, the region soon
suffered the fu II effects of war; its overdependence on the export of
apples and timber rendering it peculiarly vulnerable to any change in the
international marketplace. As a consequence the Huon soon found itself
a community under siege, held bondage in the grip of profound anxiety.
Such tension was reflected in the region 's bitter debates over
conscription and recruitment; in the growing conflict between the
worker and his employer; in the Huon 's growing sense of isolation from
main-stream political decision making and in the death of any pre-war
The first chapter of this thesis outlines the Huon's pre-war aspirations,
describes the area's first reactions to the outbreak of World War One
and notes the immediate effects of such conflict upon so fragile an
Chapter two details the Tasmanian Government's first tentative steps
towards a soldier settlement scheme and describes the Huon's less than
favourable reaction to such plans.
Chapter three outlines the increasingly disastrous effect of the war
upon the Huon; points to the growing divide between the area's selfdeclared
loyalists and their predominantly unionist antagonists; notes
the effect of such division in the 1916 referendum on conscription and
details parliamentary debate over the passage of the Soldier Settlement
Act of 1916.
Chapter four gives an account of the growing despondency that
overwhelmed the Huon as the war continued, such despondency clearly
evidenced by the near total collapse of the fruit industry in 1918 and the hardening of the area's attitude to the war as evidenced by the size of the
"no' vote in the conscription referendum of 1917. All hope was though
not entirely lost and war's end brought renewed expectations of a
prosperous future, though first experiences of resettlement gave pause
to such hopes.
Chapter five outlines the Huon's fate in those unsettled years of the
early 1920s. It was a period of great tension as orchardists sought to
reestablish markets; as unemployment rose dramatically; as Ireland's
problems saw reflection in the growth of Catholic antagonism towards
the British Empire and as unionists sought better pay and working
conditions. Such was the depth of despond that many left the Huon to
seek employment elsewhere.
Chapter six details the mechanics of resettlement in the Huon, a
process that doubtless typified wider Tasmanian experience, then
explores the impact of resettlement upon state politics, suggesting the
Labour Party's rise to power in 1923 to be largely the consequence of
Nationalist party indecision, perhaps intransigence, towards the
continued and ever deepening financial crisis posed by resettlement.
Chapter seven recounts the experiences of those soldiers who resettled
in the Huon and evidences the Closer Settlement Board's varied
attempts at overcoming those settlers' difficulties.
Chapter eight details both the background and findings of the
Tasmanian Government's 1926 Royal Commission into soldier
settlement, a minor study of the politics of the pragmatic.
Chapter nine discusses the final stage in the repatriation of the Huon's
soldier settlers, Justice Herbert Pike's Federal enquiry into resettlement
and considers factors which likely led to successful resettlement.

Item Type: Thesis - Research Master
Authors/Creators:Martin, C
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