A lapel badge or button, 'A Soldiers Mother Says YES'. Associated with the unsuccessful 1916 or 1917 referenda to introduce conscription into the Australian armed forces for overseas service. Made by A.E. Patrick, 94 Wilson St, Newtown, Sydney.

While the Australian Government could compel domestic service, men could only be sent overseas if they volunteered to do so. By 1916 this led to a shortage of reinforcements for the front. Prime Minister Billy Hughes attempted to resolve the matter twice by referendum: once on 28 October, 1916 and once on 20 December, 1917. Though both votes were close, both referendums ultimately failed. The debates surrounding conscription proved highly divisive both amongst the general public and within the Labor Party. As a result of the failed 1916 referendum, Hughes left the Labor Party and started the Nationalist Party.

Physical Description

Circular pressed metal badge with a plastic covered obverse, and a metal back with an attached pin. On the obverse text printed in white on a blue-green background. Obverse has some discolouration. Reverse has a small dent visible on the obverse. The metal back & pin are tarnished. Some light scratching on the rim.


Statement of Significance

In 1916 and 1917, in an attempt to increase the number of reinforcements at the front, the Australian Government conducted two referenda to allow conscription for overseas service. The public debates for these referenda were divisive, drew large crowds to rallies and meetings and ultimately caused a split in the Labor Party. Both referendum failed, though the votes were close and front-line Australian forces remained volunteer-only for the duration of World War I.

This badge, from the pro-conscription side of the campaign, highlights the emotive quality of the debate. While some other badges within the collection, simply urge a 'yes' vote, this example claims support from a mother whose son is already in action. Mothers and motherhood were frequent symbols in the campaigns and both sides of the debate invoked mothers as authorities. Objects from these campaigns demonstrate that the Australian public was not always unified in their view of how the war should be conducted or their troops deployed. The homefront was the location of debate and discussion, not simply mute acceptance.

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