Conflict in New Zealand

A photograph on a journal cover features a family receiving notification that the father’s name has been drawn in a ballot for compulsory enlistment.

“Called to the Colours”, The Auckland Weekly News, 1918.(external link)

“Called to the Colours”, The Auckland Weekly News, 1918. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. 7-A14534.

Context

This staged photograph shows a family receiving the news that, under the New Zealand Military Service Act, the father’s name has been drawn in the ballot for Class B reservists – those men who were married with one child and were compulsorily enlisted into the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) Reserve. Conscription, making going to war compulsory for certain people, began in 1916 when volunteer numbers fell below requirements. Initially, only unmarried non-Māori men aged between 20 and 46 with no children were conscripted. Later this was extended to married men and then to Māori.

The First World War caused many different kinds of conflict between individuals and groups of people in New Zealand. Most people felt a patriotic and moral obligation to support the war effort. Many supported conscription but would have felt internal conflict when their loved ones were called up. There were some people who supported the war but opposed conscription. A number of Maori iwi who had suffered land confiscation during the fighting with the British Crown in the 1860s opposed fighting for that same Crown in the First World War and refused to enlist. People who were opposed to the war for moral, religious, or political reasons were known as conscientious objectors and Wobblies. A number of them were fined, jailed and deported. These conflicting viewpoints created pockets of debate and dissent in communities and in families.

The Auckland Weekly News was a publication that featured pictures of current issues affecting life in New Zealand.

Key questions

  • What can we observe?
  • What do we already know?
  • How might people view this image in different ways?

Possible discussion questions

  • What do you notice on this page? Who are the people in the image, and what are they doing?
  • Why do you think this photograph was staged?
  • How do you think the different people in the picture might be feeling?
  • Why did some people support conscription? How might they have reacted to being chosen in the ballot?
  • Why did some people oppose conscription? How might they have reacted to being chosen in the ballot?
  • Why did some people become conscientious objectors? How might they have reacted to being selected in the ballot?
  • Why do you think The Auckland Weekly News chose to publish this image on their cover?
  • What changes would you make to conscription to reduce the amount of conflict it caused?
  • How do you think the different people in your family would react if a family member was conscripted?
  • Think about a time when you were told you had to do something you didn’t want to do or didn’t think was right. How did you feel? How did you react? How did the other people or person feel? How did they react? Can you think of any different ways you or the other people could have reacted to create a better outcome?
  • What are some positive and negative ways people can show that they don’t agree with something?
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