By early 1942 Australia's male population was scattered throughout the former British Empire with with forces in Britain, the Middle East and in Malaya. As in previous wars, women became active in contributing to Australia's defence with the Women's Auxiliary Air Force formed in April 1941, and the Women's Royal Australian Naval Service formed the same month.
At the outbreak of World War II, Voluntary Aid Detachments were put under military control and in August 1941 the Military Board gave approval for VAD women to serve in hospitals and overseas with the army.
On 10 December 1941, three days after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor, an evacuation order was issued to Darwin residents. By 18 February 1942, apart from Army nurses, less than 70 women remained in Darwin, including secretaries, nurses, telephonists, court stenographers, maids, the family of the Postmaster, and Hilda Abbott, the wife of the Government Administrator. They included European, Chinese and Aboriginal women and at least seven lost their lives during the air raids of 19 February 1942, six of them at the Darwin Post Office – including the Postmaster’s wife and daughter – and an Aboriginal, Daisy Martin, at Government House.