When John Curtin became Prime Minister his belief in the importance of education was translated into policies and decisions that promoted education and the advancement of knowledge.
Measures taken by the Curtin and succeeding Chifley Governments included the establishment of the Commonwealth Office of Education and the Universities Commission to deal with Commonwealth initiatives in:
- Funding of the tertiary education of ex servicemen through the Commonwealth Reconstruction Training Scheme.
- Founding the Australian National University as a university with a focus on post-graduate research.
- Introducing Commonwealth scholarships to provide financial assistance to gifted students who would not otherwise be able to attend university.
- Cooperating with the States to maintain contact with overseas developments and to carry out active research work in Australia.
The war provided the impetus for research and technological advances to meet the often competing demands of industry and the military. There was a need for more of everything - weapons, ammunition, communications equipment, ships, aircraft, machinery, food, clothing - and a need for Australia to manufacture its own. The Government directed resources towards the war effort while also planning for post war reconstruction. Technical achievements in production were numerous and total production was impressive.
For example, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR, later CSIRO) expanded its research into pests and diseases and the preservation of foodstuffs. This was immediately useful to the Australian Defence Forces with the development of a repellent to protect soldiers from mosquitoes carrying malaria and the development of innovative canned and dehydrated food items.
Knowledge is social in its origin, social in its nature, and social in its results. It expresses itself in achievement, and if the achievement is not advantageous to the community, to civilisation in fact, it becomes really an increased armament against society. 3