The Safe House Project: An Oral History
Conscription, the Vietnam War and Safe Houses in Victoria
For six years from the late 1960s to 1972 the issue of conscription and the Vietnam War played a big part in Australian politics. Demonstrations, arrests and gaolings with ordinary women and men resisting the Menzies then Gorton then Holt then McMahon Government support for the US led war in Vietnam. The conscription of twenty year old men who were not eligible to vote to fight in what has been recognised as a’ dirty’ war consumed the nation.
Many who were called up resisted, some did not registers, together they became the Draft Resisters and disappeared ‘underground’. They were supported through a series of ‘safe houses’, a network of homes across Victoria where they could literally hide from the State and Federal Police.
This oral history captures the stories of some of those safe house providers who did not hesitate to offer, but who also did not know what the consequences would be if a draft resister was arrested in their house. And the stories of some of the draft resisters who with no jobs and no income, cut off from family and constantly aware that at any moment the Police could appear and arrest them relied on the kindness of fellow supporters to provide that sanctuary, the ‘safe house’.
The Victorian Labor History Foundation, initiated to capture and make public the history of the Labor and Trade Union Movement, has completed this project to capture this moment in our political history.