While the men of Australia went to war, the women left behind took on the enormous task of keeping the nation going through some of its darkest days. Their sacrifices were given official recognition through the creation of a special badge for the female relatives of those men who were serving.
The Female Relatives Badge was established for issue to the nearest female relative of a serving member of the Royal Australian Navy, Australian Military Forces or Royal Australian Air Force.
Although women would serve in many different roles by the war's end, in the beginning it was the men of the country who streamed to the recruiting stations, leaving their wives and mothers behind.
The badge not only recognised the sacrifice being made by the women through their husbands and sons, but also the greater roles they took on in their families, community and industry.
The badge was a round white metal device edged with laurel leaves and surmounted by a crown. In the centre was a map of Australia and the words, 'TO THE WOMEN OF AUSTRALIA’.
Underneath was a bar bearing stars to represent each man on active service abroad.
Varying numbers of gilt stars were issued to attach to the bar to signify the number of relatives in service. For a single relative in service a single star was displayed; two stars for two relatives, etc. The reverse of the badge featured a stamped serial number. It was designed by an unknown technical artist at the Melbourne Technical College (now RMIT).
Issue of the badge was not automatic. Badges had to be applied for through post offices. Mrs Mary Hutchins of Victoria, for example, applied seven times, proving she was the nearest closest relative for each of her sons. Four of them died in combat.
Thousands of Australian Female Relative Badges still survive today in family collections. It is not uncommon to find specimens with a jeweller-fitted chain and pin.