Jean McLean

Jean was instrumental in setting up the safe house network and in ensuring that the Draft resisters were found safe accommodation. The Draft resisters were usually moved early in the morning and there was a rule that we didn’t lose anyone when we agreed to find somewhere for them to stay.

Jean’s story

I had a large safe house set up in Victoria and in other states and New Zealand. Draft Resisters were mover regularly usually on a two to three week roster so as not to create a burden for the hosts.

There were some who stayed in our family home but usually not for very long, no longer than a few days. Bob Scates was one who stayed, but we moved him on fairly quickly because he kept going out in a car that everyone recognised. We used to move them around in the early morning.

A man, of German background, living two doors up from me spoke to me at the beach saying that he had a house nearby and that they could stay there. He gave me a key. So we housed one of the Draft Resisters there and he would come and eat with us.

Tony Dalton and others stayed with Ian Turner who would send them to factories in Eden. Connie and Keith Benn provided a house on several occasions, I would go out there in a taxi and people in pyjamas would appear.

We did have a rule that we didn’t lose anyone when we agreed to find somewhere for them to stay.

Most people that I asked to provide a safe house I would have known, having asked them to sign a petition or go to a demonstration. There were though some people who we asked to house the Draft Resisters and they said no. It was too risky for them because then it was an illegal act and the Police could have caught them out.

On one occasion ‘Putty Nose’ Nicholls was involved with assisting them, and us, and I attended a meeting with him at 6am in his office complete with a man at the door holding a gun.

Some of the Draft Resisters were whisked away interstate on boats. We asked for false passports to get them overseas but it seemed that was not as easy as we thought.

Tony Dalton was staying at a house in South Melbourne, where many of them stayed for short periods of time. He lost his camera when he went out, they could do that as long as they were careful. But this time realising that the camera was lost he rang the Police, realised what he had done and quickly moved on.

Sometimes the moves were done quickly. I remember that we had to move someone from Jim Cairns home to the house in South Melbourne, The Draft Resisters  name was not  given, they were told to go near St Kilda and then to the house. It was all plotted on a Saturday and I remember that the footy was on the radio at the time.

There were some moments though. I was asked to move the car of a Draft Resister because it had been parked in a particular street for some time and could have been identified. My task was to drive up park my car and then move the car belonging to him, it was a Holden station wagon, which I did. Then the phone call came, “why haven’t you picked up the car”. Turned out I had taken the wrong car. So then I had to take the first one back but when I went back there was no parking spot so I had to drive around and wait before putting it back in the original space.

We knew who most of the Draft Resisters were and what stage of the process they were at.

Our phones were tapped and I used to get death threats. I once had a call and a man’s voice said I know where you were today. The Police and Post Office officials said there is nothing that we can do. One night I had the kids in the bath and realised that someone was outside lighting matches, I told the kids to stay quiet and yelled out to the next door neighbours. Another time a bloke knocked on the door and said I am a Census collector.

On the night of the 1972 election all DRs that were out said that if the ALP lost then they would turn themselves in together. Not one at a time, but together, that had been decided. It was an unbelievable feeling on that night, we were ecstatic.