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Moratorium Movement

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 11 months ago










The moratorium movement, especially in 1970 was a large part of Australia's anti-war movement and allowed many Australians (especially women) the chance to express their feelings towards the war, through protests and organisations such as SOS (See 'Save our Sons' below).


In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Vietnam moratorium movement generated mass involvement, most visibly in a series of major demonstrations. The moratorium movement drew considerable strength from involvement of university students and major trade unions. It was strongly supported by large sections of the Labor Party. As part of the anti-war movement it had a major effect and by 1972 the Liberal-Country Party government had withdrawn almost all Australian troops from Vietnam.



What does Moratorium mean?


1. A legally authorised postponement before some obligation must be discharged.

2. Suspension of an ongoing activity


As conflict in Vietnam continued and more troops were sent there, opposition rose and support for the war began to wane. The anti-war movement grew rapidly in size and intensity and the Vietnam War began to divide Australian society. In 1965 an opinion poll showed that 59% of Australians supported the war. Four years late, in 1969, the same poll showed only 39% of Australians supported the war. This led to many protests throughout Australia and the rise of the moratorium movement.


Initial feelings towards the Vietnam war


Initially Australians had very little to no opposition to the war. As more troops were sent, including young men who were conscripted, there were protests, but the majority of people supported the war. In the federal election of 1966, Australia voted for the government in favour of fighting in the Vietnam war and consequently the Labor Party (opposed to sending troops to Vietnam) suffered its worst election since 1931. Most newspapers and opinion polls also showed wide-spread support for the war.


Why was there opposition to the war?


The Vietnam War was the first war that was televised and each night people within Australian homes were able to witness images of the war and the soldiers fighting. This was the first time that Australians truly witnessed the horrific side of the war and saw the struggle that their sons went through. This made them opposed to the war and object to the conscription of their sons.



Opposition to Conscription


When the decision was made to send combat troops to South Vietnam, there was some opposition to this conscription, especially from the Labor Party. Some people believed that the war in Vietnam was a civil war rather than the push of expansive and aggressive communism. They were also unsure whether military action in Vietnam would be successful. The leader of the Labor Party, Arthur Calwell, began to protest that iwas an ‘unwinnable war’ and that the Labor Party promised to withdraw Australian conscripts from Vietnam if it won government. There were many propaganda posters at the time that tried to persuade people to vote for the Labor Party and against conscription.





Save Our Sons


The war continued to go badly for the United States and its allies (including Australia), even though there was a massive involvement of troops, and air and sea bombardment in North Vietnam. In the US the anti-war movewment strengthened as people began to worry about the heavy cost of lives being lost. Within Australia the Labor Party was leading a similar opposition. In May 1965 a group of mothers founded an organisation called Save Our Sons (SOS), which led protest campaigns against conscription and spread around Australia.  Protest activities included letter-writing, picketing government officers and protest rallies. In 1971 five members of SOS went to prison after handing out leaflets to young men at the Department of Labour and National Service in Melbourne.




May 1970


May of 1970 was the high point for Australia’s Moratorium marches. Not only was the number of people impressive but also their nature. They changed from being considered radical students, unionists and communists to being a respectable group of human anti-war people whose stand was respected by the general community.

  • May 8 & 9 – Marches took place in all capital cities as well as in some towns such as Wollongong.
  • May 18 – between 150,000 and 200,000 people were involved in a national 100,000 marched in Melbourne alone.



Conscientious Objectors


A conscientious objector is a person who, for personal or religious reasons, will not take part in military service or fight in a war. During the Vietnam War a person could refuse to register for National Service and on the grounds that he was a conscientious objector. They would then have to prove in court that there were "deep-seated and compelling reasons" why he could not serve in the armed forces. The number of men who claimed to be Conscientious Objectors was relatively small. Out of the 800 000 men registered for national service, only 1242 were granted conscientious objector status by the courts.





HENNESSY T,2007,Celebrations in Australia History: The Vietnam War, Viewed June 1 2007 <http://www.naa.gov.au/education/challenge/2004_winner.html >


MASON K J,1975,Experience of Nationhood,5th edition,Magraw Hill,Australia


SMAAL Y,2006,The Vietnam War, Viewed May 31 2007, <http://www.naa.gov.au/education/challenge/2004_winner.html>


2007, Collection of Australian anti-conscription posters in the Vietnam War, Viewed June 7 2007. < http://nla.gov.au/nla.pic-an7753445>



by Claudia Vickers and Emma Groves

Edited by Kesh and Tom

Comments (4)

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