In 1939, Sydney Ure Smith had recently retired as editor of Art in Australia and the Home, magazines he had co-founded in 1916 and 1920, respectively, and sold to the Fairfax press in 1934. After establishing a new company, Ure Smith Pty Publications, he began a number of projects, including a new magazine, Australia: National Journal.
With this new magazine, Ure Smith aimed to 'give expression to [Australia's]progress in Art, Architecture and Industry'. His previous magazines were admired for their developments in the reproduction of graphic art, and architecture had become a prominent feature of Art in Australia. With an additional focus on industry, Ure Smith's new magazine engaged with the progress of the modern world, but as with its predecessors, contemporary artistic movements such as futurism and surrealism were largely ignored.
By the early 1940s, the Second World War influenced the production and content of the magazine in a number of ways. Articles on industrial topics often focussed on defence projects and advertisements used military images to promote many products, including paint, light globes and bank accounts. Responding to calls from the federal government, intranational travel was also promoted in the magazine with many advertisements and regular travel articles on Australian destinations. News from the front lines and biographies of prominent military figures featured with many photographs of military life. Furthermore, war-time paper rationing resulted in a smaller magazine than the issues of 1939-40, and the quality of the printing also declined. Nevertheless, throughout the war years Australia: National Journal maintained regular sections on the cinema, social happenings fashion and the theatre with photographs of Australian life from the beach to the bush.
Australia: National Journal attracted contributions from a different group of writers than Ure Smith's previous publications. Although occasional contributions were received from Hugh McCrae, Norman Lindsay and Lionel Lindsay, a new group of writers were employed, including Allan Aldous, Marjorie Barnard, Jon Cleary, Charmian Clift, Eleanor Dark, Frank Dalby Davison, Mary Finnin, Donald Friend, Eric Irvin, Alan Marshall, Myra Morris, D'Arcy Niland and Ruth Park.By 1947, Australia: National Journal had begun a new series, adopting a larger format and resuming the printing quality of its earlier numbers. But the new series lasted for only several numbers. In October 1947 Australia: National Journal was incorporated into Ure Smith's new publishing project, Art and Design.