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71.2.1 History of the Reserves


Part-time voluntary defence units played an important part in Australia's defence from early colonial days up to World War 2. Since WW2, part-time forces in all three Services have played a secondary role of providing support to more operationally ready and better resourced permanent forces.

Before World War 2, Australia's military forces were essentially part-time militias with a core of permanent personnel. After WW2, in 1948, a voluntary Citizen Military Force (CMF) was re-established with the traditional part-time training obligations of evening parades, weekend bivouacs and an annual training camp. Under the pressure of the Korean War, the CMF was expanded through a compulsory national service scheme which continued until 1959. However, by the end of 1960, CMF strength had fallen to 20,000.

The CMF expanded in numbers between 1965 and 1972 as it provided an alternative to call-up under the selective national service scheme introduced for the Vietnam War. However the abolition of national service in 1972 left the CMF as a rapidly reducing force. The 1974 Millar Report and the 1976 White Paper on Australian Defence both affirmed a role for a volunteer part-time force. This recommendation was accepted by the Australian Government through a commitment to the Army Reserve, which is structured to have a complementary role (as reinforcement and a base for force expansion) to the Regular Army.

The Naval and Air Force Reserves have a more limited role, existing primarily to support the peacetime activities of the much larger Permanent Forces and to fill a number of non-military, professional requirements.