Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts (Research)

Schools and Centres

Arts & Sciences

First Supervisor

Dr Christine de Matos

Second Supervisor

Associate Professor Susanna Rizzo


While the years immediately following Australia’s participation in World War I have received much academic attention, the churches in the post-war era have been largely overlooked. Responding to Michael McKernan’s claim that Australian churches became less relevant to Australian society after the war, this thesis examines the response of the Catholic Church in Sydney to life after the war. Utilising a dual methodology of religious history and social history, this thesis analyses the role of the Church at this time by examining its works and activities, drawing on primary sources in Archdiocesan archives and the archives of specific Catholic lay groups. It focuses in particular on two rarely studied organisations, the Catholic Returned Soldiers and Sailors Association and the Knights of the Southern Cross. In the final analysis, this thesis finds that the Church in post-World War I Australia played a significant role in the lives of its own members, that Catholic organisations responded to particular social challenges of the period, and that there was a move towards both a more nationalist definition of and an international perspective in Australian Catholicism, culminating in the 29th International Eucharistic Congress of 1928. In studying the Catholic Church in Sydney in the decade following World War I, this thesis contributes towards a more nuanced understanding of the history of Australia in the 1920s and, more specifically, to the history of the Catholic Church in Australia, while challenging the claim that Australian churches became less relevant after the war.