The National Emergency Services, New South Wales commenced operation on 1 February 1939. (1) The agency was formed in response to a request from the Prime Minister that the Australian states devise a scheme for the protection of the civilian population against possible attacks from the air in the event of a national attack. (1)
The first task of the Department was to prepare a scheme of organisation for the State. The scheme provided for the formation of a Civil Defence Organisation upon a municipal or shire basis. Each municipality or shire became an "Area". A Chief Warden was appointed, to take charge of each Area. The Chief Warden and all of the area staff served in a voluntary capacity. (2)
The Headquarters’ staff, under a Director, who was responsible to the Minister, were Public Sector Employees. In addition to a Secretary and clerical staff, officers included a Controller of Training, a Supervisor of First Aid Training, Liaison Officers and an Executive Officer of the Technical Committee who was an officer of the professional staff of the Department of Public Works. Arrangements were made for the establishment of a Special Control Staff at Headquarters to assist in the event of an attack. In order that the best technical advice should be available, committees directly responsible to the Director, were appointed. The personnel of these committees were also volunteers. (4)
The National Emergency Act 1941 (Act No.1, 1941) received assent on 20 March 1941 and remained in force for the duration of hostilities with Germany and for a period of six months thereafter. (5) The Act provided for preparing and implementing Raid Precautions Schemes and Regulations. The first Raid Precautions Scheme was gazetted on 6 June 1941, (6) and the first Regulations on 13 June 1941. (7) The National Emergency Act (Amendment), 1941 (Act No.41, 1941) received assent on 8 October 1941. The purpose of the amending act was to bring navigable waters under the scope of the Act.
Mr R.J. Heffron was appointed Minister in Charge of National Emergency Services on 6 May 1941. (8) On 13 June1941 this Minister was allocated the administration of the National Emergency Act, 1941. (9) On 22 August 1941 regulations were gazetted to give legal status to the committees which had existed prior to the Act. (10) The Technical, Air Raid Warning, War Time Light Restriction, Hospitals, Medical Services, Evacuation, and Vehicle Lighting Committees were formally reconstituted thereafter. (11)
The organisation of the National Emergency Services had two principal activities: a) the provision of measures for the protection of the life and property of the people, such as provision of air raid warnings, lighting control, air raid shelters, protection of vital plant and numerous other schemes to meet emergency conditions; and b) operational activities, including the organisation of personnel trained in specialist duties to cope with the immediate effects of enemy attack.
National Emergency Services lapsed six months after the cessation of hostilities but the Chief Secretary’s Department, and subsequently the Premier’s Department, continued to be engaged in the collection and evaluation of information. (12)
1. Concise Guide to the State Archives of NSW. 2nd ed., 1992 Mo-Pl "National Emergency Services" p.9.
2. p. 5 Report Covering Activities of National Emergency Services, New South Wales p. 5 in NSW Parliamentary Papers 1940-41 Vol.3 pp.789-831.
3. Ibid., p.11.
4. Ibid., p.11.
5. National Emergency Act 1941, (Act No.1, 1941) s.13.
6. NSW Government Gazette, 1941, vol. 2, p.2167.
7. NSW Government Gazette, 1941, vol. 2, p.2188.
8. NSW Parliamentary Record, Jan 1996, p.128.
9. NSW Government Gazette, 1941, vol.2, p.2977.
10. NSW Government Gazette, 1941, vol.3, p.2977.
11. NSW Government Gazette, 1941, vol.3, p.2982.
12. Concise Guide to the State Archives of NSW. 2nd ed. 1992, Mo-Pl op. cit., pp.9-10.
Concise Guide 2nd edition 1992