SEPTEMBER 18, 1943
(Mrs. Roosevelt is on this trip travelling as a representative of the American Red Cross. All of her receipts from her column will be divided between the American Red Cross and the American Friends Service Committee.)]
SOMEWHERE IN AUSTRALIA, Sept. 15—One of the beauties of Australia at this time of the year is the wattle, a graceful yellow flower which grows on a bush or small tree and makes the countryside very colorful. Violets are everywhere, too, for this is spring, though in the United States you may not realize it.
The native tree here is the gum tree. There are many varieties, I was told, and it is a good hard wood. Some varieties of pine are also in evidence, and one old very fine one could be seen from my window at Government House in Canberra. There are other species of trees, largely imported. This is the largest island in the world and has much undeveloped land. I gather that they are desirous of increasing their population after the war, if they can choose desirable immigrants.
At present 86 percent of the people living in the Commonwealth are Australian born, and 97 percent of the total population of over 6,750,000 are of British stock. Our boys seem to have made a good impression for I have been asked twice whether I thought that after the war many would come back to settle here.
This may, of course, be due to the fact that a number of Australian girls have married our soldiers, and Australia may want to keep its girls at home. I was reading a book last night about "Certain Worthy Women," by Marie Irvine. It tells the story of some pioneer women, who, in every country, play a great role. It amused me to find that the first is a Mrs. McArthur, who later changed the spelling of her name to MacArthur.
Now, that name is again intimately connected with Australian history, so it should never be forgotten. Lady Gowrie also gave me a very delightful book, written for children, "The Way of The Whirlwind," by Mary and Elizabeth Durack. The illustrations are in color and the drawings are beautifully done. The stories are interesting to grownups as well as to children.
I found, in New Zealand, that laws have already been passed covering certain plans for returning soldiers. For instance, they are to be paid by the Government while they finish their education along lines started before the war, or they may obtain other training at government expense, if they so desire. They may obtain loans at a low interest rate to start a business of their own, or to build a home, or to buy and stock a farm.
In Australia I was told that the laws passed after the last war would take care of most of the points covered in New Zealand's plans, though certain amendments and expansions of the former plans might be necessary. On the whole, it seems to me they are further along in concrete planning than we are, probably because, in the last war, more of their men were affected in proportion to the total population, than was the case with us.
We have flown over snow capped mountains with green valleys below us and I have seen one big dam, forests, streams and cultivated fields. However, this is still a country of wide open spaces. There is plenty of room for the cattle and sheep which are raised here in such great quantities.
Rationing of certain commodities is in force, some price ceilings have been set, but their greatest hardship must be the restrictions on the use of gas. The average person gets four gallons per month, and, in view of the scattered population, that must mean a real hardship in many cases. There are also restrictions on household service, no one may employ more than one person in the capacity of a house worker.