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.
Suggestion by Minister for Health for a badge to recognise their contribution, some died.
Report on the influenza epidemic in New South Wales 1919
Judith Campbell, MAAS volunteer, under the supervision of Margaret Simpson, Curator,