The Changing Attitudes in Australia Towards the Vietnam War

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The Vietnam War was fought throughout 1962 and 1975 between the communist North Vietnam and its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and nations of the SEATO (South East Asia Treaty Organisation). During the war, it became evident that the attitude towards the Vietnam War began to change as it developed.

In the beginning of the Vietnam War, most Australian citizens and politicians had the unfounded propaganda that Australia would become a victim of the “Domino Effect”; this was the main driving force to Australia’s initial “Pro-war” attitude. The fear of communism was further escalated with the Petrov Affair, where Mrs. Petrov was perceived to be dragged onto a plane by the Soviet officials.

However, as the war progressed through years of conflict, people began to question if the fighting against communism was necessary and “worthwhile’. Unlike WWI and WWII, the Vietnam War was filmed in colour, and broadcasted extensively through the media across the world. This exposed the atrocities and truths of war to the citizens which included the devastating effects of Agent Orange and also the vast amounts of suffering, casualties and wounded. This brought the first change of perspective to society about the war and to the emerging doubt that Australia would be actually threatened by the communist influence.

Moreover, the major uproar began when, in 1964, the Menzies government announced the reintroduction of conscription. The public responded to this issue by organising group and protests; in some cases, people refused their conscription. One of the main influencing groups was the “Save our Sons” movement, which consisted of Sydney ‘mothers’ to voice their opposition to the forced slaughter of their sons in the Vietnam War. In July 1965, a Sydney school teacher, Bill White became the first draftee to refuse his conscription to duty.

In April 1970, the prime movement, which ultimately led to the...
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