Australia in the 1960s

Anti-conscription movement

In November 1964, the Commonwealth Parliament reintroduced compulsory military service (the National Service Scheme). Upon turning 20, if chosen by a lottery system, men were required to serve two years' military service on a full-time basis in regular army units, and could be sent overseas.

In 1965, the Save Our Sons movement was formed seeking the repeal of the National Service Act 1964 (Cth). Women, including Jean McLean, led it. The Save Our Sons group campaigned against conscription and supported draft resisters, speaking on behalf of conscientious objectors at rallies.

In the same year, Youth Campaign Against Conscription (YCAC) was formed. In 1965, they published an advertisement in The Australian newspaper declaring why they opposed conscription. In 1966, prime minister Harold Holt announced that he was going to send national servicemen (conscripts) to Vietnam.

In 1968, the Draft Resistance Movement was formed. The first man to be sent to a civilian jail for non-compliance was John Zarb. The anti-conscription movement became stronger between 1966 and 1969. In June, Simon Townsend (host of the television program Simon Townsend's Wonderworld) was granted exemption from national service due to his imprisonment for being a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.

A snapshot of 1968

  • January
    • Senator John Gorton becomes prime minister after the disappearance of Harold Holt, presumed drowned off Portsea, Victoria.
    • The Tet Offensive is launched during the Vietnam War. North Vietnamese troops attempt to take significant South Vietnamese strongholds in the one offensive action.

  • February
    • The Draft Resistance Movement is formed. They declare that the group not only opposes conscription, but intends to destroy it.
    • WC Wentworth is appointed the first minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although he has no department under his control.

  • May
    • A mineral investment boom begins on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX).
    • The Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi visits Australia.

  • December
    • The breathalyser test for drink-driving is introduced in NSW.


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