The Australian Red Cross (ARC) introduced the Australian Prisoner of War Street Adoption Scheme in Australia during WWII to raise funds to provide the weekly Red Cross parcels to Australian POWs interned in enemy camps. The concept was to form a local group with the object of collecting regular donations on behalf of Australian Prisoners of War.

In Brisbane, a person wanting to be a volunteer collector would get in touch with their local Australian Red Cross Society or the Hon. Secretary, Prisoners of War Adoption Scheme, 258-260 Queen Street, Brisbane and they would be supplied with a collecting book, complete with instructions, the necessary authority, literature, house badges, etc.

The collector would then call on the residents of a particular street or locality and arrange for regular donations to be made. Upon receipt of the first of the donations, the subscriber was presented with a neat metal house badge, inscribed "This house helps to support an Australian Prisoner of War".  See below.


Photo:- via Glen Hall

A metal badge found nailed to the floor under a fridge
in an old house in South Mackay in about August 2018


When the total amount collected from a street or locality averaged one Pound per week or more, a large metal sign was supplied with the inscription, "This street (or locality, etc.) supports an Australian Prisoner of War." See below.


Governor of Queensland, Sir Leslie Wilson,
promoting the POW Street Adoption Scheme


The contribution of one Pound per week was the cost of supplying a Red Cross parcel to one of our soldiers. This was regarded as an "adoption" of a Prisoner of War and when the weekly average increased sufficiently, an honor star was affixed to the sign to denote that an additional Prisoner of War had been adopted.

In May 1942, the Sydney Daily Telegraph reported that Red Cross parcels were being sent by the Canadian Red Cross to Lisbon in Portugal for Australian POWs in prison camps in Germany and Italy. The Australian Red Cross would pay the Canadian Red Cross to provide this service. The parcels would then follow a route through Portugal, Spain, unoccupied France and then to Switzerland before they reached Italy or Germany. The ARC at that time was waiting on a list of Australian POWs held in Malaya by the Japanese and waiting for permission to send them parcels which would be packed in Australia full of the best quality Australian products.



I'd like to thank Glen Hall for his assistance with this web page.



"Suburban Street to Pay for Prisoners' Parcels", The Daily Telegraph (Sydney NSW) 21 May 1942

"Australian Prisoners of War Street "Adoption" Scheme for Country Districts", The Evening Advocate (Innisfail, QLD) 5 May 1943

"Red Cross Cinema Advertisement: The Prisoner of War Street Adoption Scheme", Australian Screen

Red Cross WW2 POW Cards - type POW's name in the search box


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"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 26 August 2018

This page last updated 04 July 2020