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Robert Menzies

The Home Front: Australia during the First World War

Robert Menzies, law student and barrister

Robert Menzies, 1916
Robert Menzies, 1916. The Menzies Foundation.

During the First World War, Robert Menzies was studying law at the University of Melbourne. He was president of the Students’ Representative Council, editor of the university magazine and a member of the Melbourne University Rifles militia unit. In May 1918, Menzies began practising as a barrister.

Though supportive of the war effort, Menzies decided not to follow his two older brothers into the army. He said at the time that ‘the path of duty does not always lead to the recruiting depot’. His decision not to enlist dogged his political career, but Menzies became Australia’s longest-serving prime minister.

A black and white photo of the Menzies children.
The Menzies children (from left): Isabel, James Leslie (in uniform), Sydney and Robert, 1915. Missing from this photograph is Frank, who had already left Australia with the Australian Imperial Force. Courtesy: Annabelle Dennehy.
A silver serving dish.
Silver serving dish, 1918. Inscribed ‘Peace / Greenie / from R.M. / 11.11.1918’. This dish, a gift from Menzies to his sister, Isabel, marks the end of the war but may also have been a belated wedding present. Menzies was the only family member who stayed in contact with Isabel after she eloped with a soldier in 1916. On loan from Annabelle Dennehy.