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93/380/1 Badge, 'Influenza Emergency Worker', metal, made by Angus & Coote Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1919. Click to enlarge.

Influenza Emergency Worker's badge, c.1919

Made
In 1918-19 towards the end of World War I the worst influenza pandemic ever recorded occurred in Europe, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific. Between 15 percent and 50 percent of the population in countries in these areas were affected, with up to 1 percent mortality. In Sydney, 36 percent of the population contracted the disease, similar to the rate across NSW except for sparsely populated areas. Special measures were taken such as the compulsory wearing of masks in public places, establishing treatment centres and free inoculation stations and restricting the number of people attending gatherings. The Influenza Emergency Committee administered the many emergency depots set up across Sydney, managed by qualified medical and nursing staff assisted by a large number of volunteers who attended and supported the sick at home. A Country Influenza Administrative Board oversaw arrangements carried out by local committees.

It is likely that this Influenza Emergency Worker badge was issued by the Influenza Emergency Committee to volunteers helping in the emergency, rather than professionals. Such badges are extremely rare as it is believed that volunteers were reluctant to be identified as having been in contact with infectious people. On the other hand, their work during the epidemic was invaluable, both in assisting families at home during illness and in the emergency depots. Some volunteers even assisted local undertakers.

Further information
https://www.rahs.org.au/an-intimate-pandemic-the-community-impact-of-influenza-in-1919/
https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Research-guide-final-version.pdf (p.8)
Suggestion by Minister for Health for a badge to recognise their contribution, some died.
https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/influenza-pandemic
https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/01/21/centenary-of--spanish-flu--pandemic-in-australia.html
Report on the influenza epidemic in New South Wales 1919
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/83132/20080410-1521/influenza_report_full_6-35.pdf

Judith Campbell, MAAS volunteer, under the supervision of Margaret Simpson, Curator,
April 2019

Summary

Object No.

93/380/1

Object Statement

Badge, 'Influenza Emergency Worker', metal, made by Angus & Coote Ltd, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, c. 1919

Physical Description

Badge, 'Influenza emergency worker', metal, made by Angus & Coote Ltd, Sydney, Australia, c. 1919

A cast white metal badge, oval shaped with a horizontal format. The front has the words "Influenza Emergency Worker" and a geometric design featuring lines radiating out from the centre, cast in raised relief. The back of the badge has the maker's name, "Angus & Coote Ltd, Sydney" in raised relief in the centre, and a hinged brooch pin and hook.

Marks

Raised relief on front; "INFLUENZA EMERGENCY WORKER".
Raised relief on back; "ANGUS & COOTE Ltd/SYDNEY".

Dimensions

Height

26 mm

Width

40 mm

Depth

8 mm

Production

Notes

"ANGUS & COOTE Ltd/SYDNEY" is engraved on the back of the badge. Mr M. Pollett, Retail Administration Mangager of Angus & Coote Pty Ltd, said that the badge appears to have been manufactured by a casting method in which a design was engraved in raised relief, into a cuttlefish bone, clay mouldings taken of the cutting, and the melted metal poured into these casts. Finally the badge would have been plated and a brooch pin attached. Cuttlefish bone was used extensively at the time to quickly create new designs.

History

Notes

The influenza pandemic was a highly contagious disease spread rapidly around the world by soldiers returning from the First World War. Because of its remoteness, authorities in Australia had some months to prepare and Commonwealth Quarantine monitored arrivals by ship from 17 October 1918, discovering the first infected ship the next day in Darwin. A national planning conference was held in Melbourne in November including state health ministers, the British Medical Association and government officials to plan a co-ordinated response. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories established during the war produced 3 million free doses of an experimental vaccine.

Despite these precautions, the first case appeared in Melbourne on 9 or 10 January 1919 and reached Sydney about two weeks later, being reported on 24 January and officially diagnosed on 27 January. More arrivals from Victoria soon after became ill. Free vaccination depots had been established and emergency hospital accommodation arranged. Special measures were taken such as establishing treatment centres and free inoculation stations as well as providing additional emergency hospital accommodation. Cases had to be notified, travel between Victoria and NSW was restricted, and nursing and medical assistance was provided to the homes of people afflicted. At the height of the epidemic, public gatherings were restricted and schools, churches, libraries, cinemas and theatres were closed. Masks had to be worn in public places, shops, offices and on public transport.

An Influenza Administrative Committee (later called the Influenza Emergency Committee) was established by Cabinet to manage relief in the metropolitan area, assisted by the Red Cross Society and the ambulance services. The Committee administered the many depots set up across Sydney, managed by qualified medical and nursing staff assisted by a large number of volunteers who attended and supported the sick at home if they did not need transfer to hospital. Final year medical students were also called upon and teachers volunteered while their schools were closed. A Country Influenza Administrative Board oversaw arrangements carried out by local committees.

There were two waves of the epidemic, each of about 10 weeks duration. The peak of the first wave occurred in April 1919 with numbers falling steadily thereafter until a second wave began which peaked towards the end of June. The exact number of cases is not known. However, the official government report estimates 36 percent of the Sydney population was affected (around 290,000 people) and that the mortality rate among those infected was 1.3 percent. The highest death rates across the state were in areas where the population was the most congested. Mortality rates were higher among males, especially those of working age, than females at least initially, with children the least affected.

[The badge was lent to the National Museum of Australia for display in their 'Eternity' Gallery from April 2010 to October 2015]

https://www.rahs.org.au/an-intimate-pandemic-the-community-impact-of-influenza-in-1919/
https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Research-guide-final-version.pdf (p.8)

https://www.rahs.org.au/an-intimate-pandemic-the-community-impact-of-influenza-in-1919/
https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Research-guide-final-version.pdf (p.8)
Report on the influenza epidemic in New South Wales 1919
http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/83132/20080410-1521/influenza_report_full_6-35.pdf
https://www.rahs.org.au/an-intimate-pandemic-the-community-impact-of-influenza-in-1919/
https://www.rahs.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Research-guide-final-version.pdf (p.8)

Source

Credit Line

Purchased 1993

Acquisition Date

18 October 1993

Cite this Object

Harvard

Influenza Emergency Worker's badge, c.1919 2021, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 21 April 2021, <https://ma.as/135446>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/135446 |title=Influenza Emergency Worker's badge, c.1919 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=21 April 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}