Ann and Giovanni lived with their children in Coburg. Giovanni was working as a house painter and Ann was at home with the children. They did not hesitate to take in a Draft Resister although Ann cannot remember who asked them but being active in the anti-conscription and the anti-vietnam campaigns they would have been known and been known to be sympathetic.
Ann and Giovanni Sgro’s stories
Anne remembers that it was late February or March 1972 that Bob Scates stayed with them. He was there for about two weeks at the time of annual tomato sauce making and it was for that purpose only that he was allowed out of the house and even then only into the back yard.
Other than that he stayed indoors with instructions to be quiet and if there were meetings held at the house he had to be extra quiet. If there was a knock on the door and we thought that it was the Police he was instructed to go out the back door over the fence into the lane behind.
He didn’t stay with us for very long as it could have been dangerous if the neighbours saw someone, we didn’t even tell Giovanni’s brothers who lived just doors away from us. They worked with Giovanni but didn’t know that we had a Draft Resister staying with us. It wasn’t hard, but this was serious business and there was a real chance that the cops would turn up. We knew about ASIO so we were quite careful. The kids were too young to be at kinder so that was one less place that I had to go to.
I don’t know how Bob got to our place, someone brought him and then collected him after a few weeks. He was picked up a few times to go to meetings but I don’t know by whom.
We didn’t think about our safety but after Bob was picked up by Police I was told that if the Police had come to your house and found him they could take your kids away. That gave me a bit of a fright.
Anne can’t remember how they were contacted. Giovanni came home and said we have been asked to provide a safe house. It could have been the Coburg/Brunswick Peace Committee or the Vietnam Moratorium Committee or Sam Goldbloom from CICD who asked us.
Giovanni says that it was his job to provide the safe house and that more were needed. We were happy to do it. It was a way of helping the war and the anti-conscription cause
I do remember that we couldn’t use the phone as we believed that it was most likely tapped. And years later our daughter met a lawyer who said that her father worked for ASIO. Our daughter said “oh he probably tapped my father phones” and she said “well yes there were a lot of communists about”.
So yes it was scary but we were glad to be helping the anti-war campaign. It was almost your duty to do that.
Bob was easy to have in our house but I do remember one morning he came to the kitchen and made toast and then swept the crumbs onto the floor. He saw the look on my face and said “that’s not where they go is it”
We were active in the anti-conscription movement and the anti-vietnam moratorium and went to rallies, I remember the one for John Zarb. The moratorium asked me to go the Railways to speak to the workers in Italian. I explained to them about the war.
We didn’t have much to do with Bob afterwards it wasn’t a friendship. He was young, a student and we had small kids so different. We did see him at political rallies a couple of times
At the time we didn’t think about going to gaol, the Draft Resisters and the movement needed people.