The Sydney Vietnam Moratorium Marches
A digital history project from Addi Road’s Living Museum
Fifty years ago, change was bubbling in the streets of Australia’s cities. Hundreds of thousands went outside, into the streets and squares and parks of their cities, to express their dissent. They wanted to stop the war in Vietnam, a war that Australia had committed to fighting, alongside the United States, in 1965. At first, in tiny numbers, they stepped out against the conscription of young Australian men to fight overseas, but by 1970 the anti-war movement had exploded and crowds of up to 200,000 people filled the streets of state capitals. The huge protest marches of 1970 called for the end of Australian involvement – a halt, or ‘moratorium’ – to the Vietnam War.
To commemorate 50 years of the Vietnam War Moratorium, Addi Road Living Museum presents an online exhibition showcasing the stories of some of those who were part of the Moratoriums, the anti-war and anti-conscription movements and in particular, stories and people that have connections with Addison Road. Several of the stories featured are from people whose names are engraved on the Honour Roll for Peace that stands at Addison Road Community Centre today.
We share images from our Living Museum collection and special objects ‘on loan’ from other cultural institutions, including anti-war badges and images of Addison Road Community Centre during the Vietnam War – when Addi Road was an army base and both soldiers and protestors gathered around its gates.
We also hear from an historian and activists about how the techniques and spirit of the anti-war movement is echoed in more recent Australian social campaigns. While it’s now 50 years since the Vietnam Moratorium movement passed, many of the changes it reflected and helped to create are still rippling through our nation.
The Early Anti-War Movement
When the Defence Act was amended in 1965 to allow draftees to serve overseas, most Australians were supportive of the decision, but small portions of the public were already voicing their opposition to the draft and to Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War, mostly pacifists and mothers of drafted young men. The early days of protest were a time of engaging others in moral and political debate and recruiting sympathisers. At universities, progressive academics were inviting students to ‘teach-ins’, informal lecture and discussion groups, and new organisations were founded. However, it was not easy to bring many around to the idea of protesting government policies. In this section, you can hear short stories from Helen Jarvis and Rowan Cahill about their experiences in the early days of the Anti-War Movement.
Dr Helen Jarvis is honoured for her Asia-Pacific solidarity work on the Honour Roll for Peace at Addison Road and Dr Rowan Cahill is a renowned draft resister and author of the book Radical Sydney.
Helen Jarvis - Initial Protests
In The Thick of It
As the Anti-War movement gained momentum, more people joined the marches on the streets of Australian cities. As the number of people involved increased, activists worked around the clock to organise rallies and, among other things, raise funds for logistics and legal aid for people arrested at protests or disobeying orders to register for national service (the ‘draft’). Other than public protest, direct action was taken in many, often creative ways, such as creating fake data to slow down the bureaucracy of conscription. As with any anti-government movement, conflict with the authorities was unavoidable. Tactics to evade or minimise damage during conflicts were developed. In this section, you can hear stories about how people organised and the diversity of voices within the Anti-War movement.