Sunday, May 24, 2015


This letter to the editor appeared in The West Australian on Tuesday, 7th October, 1952.

To The Editor.

Sir, - At the recent annual State conference of the Women's Service Guilds, the following motion was carried:-

That we urge the Commonwealth Government to review the civilian widow's pension. especially were there are children, as the present pension of £3/12/6 covering any number of children is entirely inadequate.  We also urge that the amount the civilian widow is allowed to earn (30/- a week) be raised, including the pension, to that of the female basic wage.

In Canberra, a few days ago the plight of war widows was seized upon "as the main theme of debate by speakers on both sides of the Chamber," and Mr Haylen feelingly referred "to the terrific blow to the family by the loss of the breadwinner" and the paltry pensions paid to war widows which forced them into a poor group, not within comparable distance of the basic wage.

We do not seek, in any way, to detract from the needs of the war widow, but consider that the loss of the breadwinner is also a disastrous and terrific blow to the civilian widow, particularly the civilian widow with children.

The civilian widow with three children receives a pension of £3/12/6, endowmenr for the first child 5/- and for the other two £1, making £4/17/6 in all, and her weekly earnings must not exceed £1/10/-.  To obtain this full pension her property must not exceed £109.

On the other hand the war widow with three children under 16 receives a pension of £10/17/- weekly (according to the Minister for the Army, Mr Francis), to which would be added child endowment 25/- making a total of £12/3/-.  The war widow is permitted to earn any amount, there is no means test, and school books, medical expenses and hospitalisation are free for the whole family.

In view of the fact that the female basic wage for the metropolitan area is now £7/11/-, we feel that the civilian widow should now be permitted to earn the sum of £3/18/6 which, with the pension of £/12/6 would bring her income up to the basic wage.

This request we consider most modest, and the least the Government should do to alleviate the desperate position of the civilian widow.

Yours etc.,
State President
State Secretary
Womens's Service Guilds of W.A.

For those born in more recent years the Australian pound was equivalent to two dollars in Australian currency and therefore £12/3/- would be the equivalent of $24.30.   Hope that helps.


  1. I've always thought civilian pensions were never enough and things haven't changed much there have they?

  2. Nothing like enough. How I wish we had more dynamos like your mama around. Perhaps things WOULD have changed for the better.

  3. Hari OM
    This debate is ever-present, sadly. Here in UK the 'minimum wage' versus 'living wage' is the current debate which is only one step away from the above issue... as River and EC say, nothing changed, and too few campaigners... YAM xx