AustLit logo
The Blood Votes
Teaching Conscription: World War One Debates.
Coordinated by Blood Votes
  • Introduction

    This teachers pack has been designed to be used within the context of a Year 9 history audience.  Specifically, this pack is designed for the in-depth topic discussion on "The impact of World War I, with a particular emphasis on Australia including the changing role of women (ACDSEH096 - Scootle)".

    Within the context of ACDSEH096 are the following points which will be adressed within this teachers pack;

    • identifying the groups who opposed conscription (for example, trade unionists, Irish Catholics) and the grounds for their objections
    • studying the first and second referenda on conscription, including the division within the Labor Party over this issue
    • and lastly;investigating the short- and long-term impact of World War I on the role of women in Australia

    This should be building on previous knowledge on World War One.

  • Overview of Teaching Package

    Quick Summary: Student will explore the conscription debates, with the assistance of the play “The Blood Votes” written by Michael Futcher.  They will explore the important people and groups associated with this time period.  They will also deal with the themes that stemmed from these debates, such as Division, Loyalty, Propaganda, Religion, Censorship and Nationalism.

    As we remember and commemorate the impact of WWI in Australia, no other aspect of home front life so clearly embodies the strains of a community at war. The conscription debates have an unrivalled educational value for current and future generations reflecting on the experiences of Australia’s ANZAC generation.

    Learning Goals:

    • Students understand the historical importance of the conscription debates
    • Students learn about the various groups and people that shaped the debates
    • Students undertake research on the various themes and propaganda used during the debates.

    Australian Curriculum Mapping

    Content Description:

    Year 9 History

    • The impact of World War I, with a particular emphasis on Australia including the changing role of women (ACDSEH096 - Scootle )

    General Capabilities;

    • Critical and Creative Thinking
    • Personal and Social Capability
    • Ethical Understanding

    Australian Curriculum Cross-Curriculum Priority

    Topic: World War One

    Time Required: 4 X 60 Mins - plus additional time for homework, requiring student reflection activities and research

    Level of teacher scaffolding: High - Facilitating the students and their activities

    Required Resources:




    Video: Recording of "The Blood Votes" by Michael Futcher

    Additional Resources





    Digital Technology Opportunities; research opportunities using digital technology.

    Homework and extension opportunities: Includes opportunities for both through researching activities.

    Keywords; Conscription, World War One, Home Front, Citizenship, Division, Loyalty, Propaganda, Religion, Censorship, Nationalism, Conscientious Objection.

  • Teaching Sequence

    Here are some example activities you could use within your lesson sequences.

    Introductory Activity

    With the class’ attention, the lesson should begin with creating a “mind map” of the concept of conscription.

    Questions that can be asked to help prompt discussion;

    • What is conscription?
    • Why did conscription become a topic for discussion during 1916 and 1917?
    • What is a plebiscite
    • Why were people for/against it?
    • How would like affect people’s lives?

    Explain to students the nature of conscription, if they have not come across it within their studies. 

    Activity 2 - The Blood Votes

    The Blood Votes is a dramatic reinactment of the conscription debates.  It is highly influenced by historical research and a viewing of the play would engage students on conscription, specifically highlighting how some of the debates would act out.

    Students would watch the play and throughout write down any themes, groups and/or people that stood out.  They will be asked to present what they found and discuss as a group, sharing ideas.

    If time does not allow for a viewing of the play, sample sections of the script can be used by students to complete this activity - important sections that highlight the various themes within this era. 

    Activity 3 - Voices of the Past

    The conscription debate was a highly complex and emotional issue.  Prime Minister Hughs had expected his compulsory conscription to be enthusiastically endorsed.  However, there was opposition within the Australian community, which included unionists within the labor movement, peace activists, the catholic church and lastly QLD Labor Premier T.J Ryan.  Gender and Age were not obstacles as both sides were attracted to the Conscription Votes to participate in voicing their opinions.

    Students will follow this link for their research task;

    This link provides an interactive audio experience for students to explore.  Students will be encouraged to focus on a particular “voice” which interested them.  Students should write a brief summary on why they chose that particular “voice”, what it meant for that person?, why are they for/against? After hearing the voice of the past, would the student vote for or against??

    Activity #4 - Conscription Debate

    Using their "voice" from the last activity, students formulate groups based on this to debate the issue of conscription.  Students will have time to prepare their arguments, assign speakers in order going back and forward and responding to each other.  The focus of the activity should be on the students ability to use the reasoning used at the time to debate each other.

    Students can use material from; to help facilitate different arguments. 

    Activity #5 - Propaganda

    Students will visit; ""

    After viewing various pieces of anti and pro conscription propaganda, students will be assigned a side and then formulate their own propaganda.  Their pieces must be founded on actual reasons given by either side, ie. Soldier who wouldnt even wish his worst enemy on the front lines exploring anti conscription.