World War I and Australia

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are kindly advised that this website includes images, sounds and names of people who have passed.

All users should be aware that some topics or historical content may be culturally sensitive, offensive or distressing, and that some images may contain nudity or are of people not yet identified. Certain words, terms or descriptions may reflect the author's/creator's attitude or that of the period in which they were written, but are now considered inappropriate in today's context.

Key to library resources

Access anywhere with a library card In the Library (or anywhere with a Library card for NSW residents)
Available to access in the library Only in the Library
Publicly available online Publicly available

Internment camps

During the war almost 7000 people were interned by the Australian government in the interest of national security.

The government considered the interned as ‘enemy aliens’. Initially, the interned were men, women and children who were born in countries that were at war with Australia. As the war went on the government also interned “people of enemy nations who were naturalised British subjects, Australian-born descendants of migrants born in enemy nations and others who were thought to pose a threat to Australia's security”. Most of the people who were interned in Australia were German. The camps were located at Holsworthy near Liverpool, Berrima and Trial Bay in New South Wales and Torrens Island in South Australia.

Wartime internment camps in Australia

Camp publications

Visit us to view publications that were produced by staff and internees at the camps during the war.

Reise-Abenteuer eines braven Deutschen im lande der Kangaroo

Personal papers of internees

We have a significant collection of personal papers of the internees and their Australian guards. The Papers of enemy aliens interned in Australia, 1914-1919 collection contains the diaries and personal papers of internees, information on the administration and management of the camps, along with publications, drawings, concert and theatre programs produced by internees.

You can read about the internment camps from the perspective of Lieutenant Edmond Samuel who was an Australian officer of the guard in An illustrated diary of Australian internment camps.

Visit us to view our collections of personal papers of internees as well as to read An illustrated diary of Australian internment camps.

Photograph collections

We've digitised some of our internement camp photograph collections for you to view online. You will need to visit to view the collections we haven't yet digitised.

Life as an internee

Learn about life as an internee through our collections of photos, maps, camp newsletters and personal papers of internees.

You can view records about these camps, their development and administration at the National Archives of Australia.

Copying, publishing or purchasing digital copies

You can make copies of pictures for research and study purposes by:

  • using a digital camera
  • using our microfilm reader printers 
  • ordering paper or electronic copies
  • ordering high quality digital scans  

You need to contact us for permission to publish our original materials. You must also acknowledge the Library and provide the correct location details. 

Find out more about copying and purchasing digital copies.