Australia in the 1970s

The Vietnam War

In May 1970, more than 150,000 people participated in a moratorium march organised by Dr Jim Cairns (1914–2003) to protest against Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War (1962–72). These were the largest street demonstrations in Australia's history. Popular opinion had turned against the war, and nightly television reports showed graphic footage of the realities of the conflict.

In August 1971, Liberal prime minister William McMahon (1908–88) announced that the majority of the Australian troops serving in Vietnam would be returned home by Christmas. In February 1972, the last RAAF plane on service in Vietnam returned to Australia. After the Australian Labor Party's 1972 election victory, military conscription was immediately abolished and all involvement in the Vietnam conflict was terminated.

The legacy of the Vietnam War provided significant issues for many decades after the war had finished. Many of the veterans returned home with psychological and physical problems. Although some were not obviously physically affected by the war, they were in fact deeply traumatised.

A snapshot of 1978

  • January
    • The Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Act 1978 (Cth) was proclaimed in federal parliament.
    • The Special Broadcasting Service, also known as SBS, was established.

  • April
    • The Migrant Services and Programs Report, also known as 'The Galbally Report', was presented to the prime minister.

  • August
    • The Malcolm Fraser conservative government announced the end of maternity allowances.

  • November
    • The West Gate Bridge over the Yarra River and Port Melbourne was opened. It is the second-largest single span bridge in Australia.
    • The Ranger Uranium Agreement was signed by the Northern Land Council and ratified by the traditional owners, allowing uranium mining in Arnhem Land.


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