A network of people nominated themselves to become a ‘safe house’ for the Draft Resisters. They provided shelter, food and company. The addresses of the houses and the names of the owners were kept secret known only to a trusted few. Mostly the Draft Resisters stayed inside during the day, some walking at night and with an escape route clearly laid out. There were exceptions with one Draft Resister remembering being taken to a VFL game. They were not arrested inside a house.
Safe houses provided personal sanctuary for draft resisters but our house was seldom used as we were well known for political activity and therefore, it was not all that “safe”.
Bob Scates stayed for a few days I remember, just having meals with us, reading, watching TV. If the police had called I would have sent him upstairs and hoped for the best. There was no plan B.
He next went to Val Diamond’s house. To get there, he had to walk past the Clifton Hill Police Station, something we had completely forgotten about. Val was one of my very helpful fellow teachers and friends at Fitzroy High.
I also knew Brian Ross through another teacher friend at Fitzroy High. I remember visiting him and being driven around the beautiful Gippsland countryside where he lived. The next time I saw him, I visited him in the Sale gaol. Brian was not seeking sanctuary…..he was, I think, expecting to be caught eventually. He was resolutely against the war but was also a conscientious objector, I think.
My main role was to find safe houses, find people who were prepared to risk something.
I recruited friends at school, chatting first in the staffroom, then going into the quadrangle to see if they would be involved and to arrange something.
When a house was needed, I had a list of people who had offered. My neighbours too, were terrific. I seem to remember June Bradbury’s house being used a lot.
I remember that Sandra Zurbo, Sam Goldbloom’s daughter, worked to get a network of Draft Counsellors….people who would tell young men their rights and offer assistance if it was needed.
I was one of those.
All our phone numbers and names were displayed publicly. Who came to talk? Not many young men, most had their support groups at university, but maybe a few from quite conservative families.
I don’t idea what the Education Dept. would have done if they’d known about our little hive of activity/activism at school. We did not think about getting caught or sacked. The emphasis was on the young men we were trying to help, who were so brave.
I never thought about ASIO or the phones either.
I did think about the consequences for our children if I was arrested, so we always made sure that Robert and I acted separately.
We also knew, I think, that the consequences for us would not be so very great, we loathed the Government, but they were not Nazis and we wouldn’t be sentenced to death.
Roger Napthine and I were friends. I was working at Winchelsea State School when his mother introduced us, she thought that I could be a good influence on Roger. That didn’t work.
Roger stayed with me sometimes whilst he was underground, so I guess my house became a safe house. At that time I lived at Drysdale on a ¾ of an acre block.
Sometimes Roger would turn up in the early hours of the morning on his way back from Melbourne and he would ask to stay the night and then sleep on the floor.
One day after he had left my partner, heavily pregnant at the time, noticed a bloke with binoculars sitting in a car on the road outside our place. She phoned me and putting two and two together guessed that it was either ASIO or Commonwealth Police camped there. I told her to take him out a cup of tea which she did. The bloke was very embarrassed, may have drunk the tea I can’t remember, but then immediately left. We didn’t know how long he had been there for.
I didn’t feel scared at the time, I was young and this was fun. I was also keen to be seen doing something for the cause.
Roger stayed with us on several occasions. He worked at a restaurant in Moorabool street Geelong and may or may not have been underground at the time.
I remember that then Labor Federal Opposition moved from saying support people who resist to saying support people to resist thereby giving Draft Resisters respectability that they didn’t have.
My son supported what we, me and his mother Julie, were doing. He did a ‘show and tell’ at school telling the class that “Laurie Carmichael is staying at our house and doesn’t want to go to war”.
Alan Ritter arranged safe houses and Laurie came to us. He had to get out of another house where they were running drugs, so we pitched him up. Laurie called to say come and get me and I arranged to meet him at a supermarket, I was followed for a part of the journey.
The Police chased him for two weeks. At one time Donny Gunn became a decoy, he dressed up like Laurie, got into a car which the Police then chased for some 40ks and caught up to him. Donny had his wife and baby in the car.
The Draft Resisters would stay in a house, might go fishing, or go to meetings at night, sometimes go to ALP meetings. We took Bob Muntz to a Williamstown Rotary meeting standing guard at the door so that none of the Rotarians could leave the meeting to alert the Police.
The Draft Resisters would only stay a short time before moving on to the next house. Helen Tregear and Betty Hall were two of our contacts, we would tell them that we needed a safe house for someone and they would know where to find it. The Draft Resisters did not generally stay with them though because they were too well known.
I can’t remember other names of those who stayed with us, but there were not many because the cops knew our house. We did hold meetings there though. There were many people who just did what needed to be done and we never heard about it.
I remember receiving a call from an unknown person saying that a Draft Resister was arriving. They would be dropped off. I would give them a cup of tea- can’t remember their names – and then someone else arrived to take them to the Quaker safe house in Ashwood. They would only be with us for a couple of hours.
Our, mine and Cyrils, children were young and we didn’t have the space in the house for them to stay overnight.
I wasn’t scared and wanted to do more. It used to happen frequently, every month or so. This would have been in the late 60’s. I gave them money, we didn’t have much.
My brother in law who was conservative knocked on the door when one of the Draft Resisters was there. I thought that if he knew he would dob us in but Cyril was able to fob him off.
I had two Draft Resisters stay with me, I had been approached by my brother to assist them. One of them stayed for two days, he was only supposed to be there for a day but stayed longer. I think that they had a bit of a problem moving him to the next house.
It was a difficult time as my daughter as very young and she didn’t know who it was. A Policeman lived over the road whose son went to kindergarten with my daughter. He was very observant.
He came over the day after the Draft Resister had gone and said to me to be careful as he was concerned about the number of my daughters ‘uncles’.
That made me feel nervous and I didn’t take any more Draft Resisters. One of them gave me a gift, it was hashish.
Mary and Peter Nicholson
We had a draft resister, Bob Muntz, staying with us for about a month in 1970. It wasn’t scary, but then it was hard to know for sure how hard the cops were trying to find him.
We were living at 10 Alfred Place Nth Melbourne and somehow it was found out that we would provide a house, which could have been through contact with Harry Van Moorst. Those days we didn’t worry about things and could have instead contacted someone to say we were available to provide a place for a Draft Resister to stay.
Can’t remember how Bob arrived. It wasn’t arranged over the phone more likely it was a quick call to say be home on a certain date and time.
Our neighbours were suspicious and on one occasion our next door neighbour broke into our house and robbed us but don’t think that it was to do with the safe house, although we may well have had a sign in the window about Vietnam.
We were pretty middle class, well connected, so wouldn’t have thought that cops would come in or take our kids, we didn’t have any then anyway. The cops probably would not have knocked on the door and asked if there was a draft resister, they were more likely to pick them up when they were out walking to the shops. Would say that they pretty much left them alone, to pick them up would have led to demonstrations and too much publicity.
We didn’t have that much to do with Bob, he came and went and perhaps had dinner with us a couple of times. He kept pretty much to himself and didn’t have any visitors.
We don’t know whether any of our friends knew that we had a Draft Resister staying with us. It did have to be kept secret so if anyone was told it would be only close friends. If friends did visit Bob would just slip out of the house.
Don’t recall ever seeing Bob again after that time.
Mavis Du Vergier
Mavis and Ted Du Vergier had a Draft resister stay with them in Yarambat Av Balwyn. Mavis cannot tremember his name but he helped Ted dig a tree out of their back garden. Surrounded by a conservative neighbourhood Mavis and Ted kept their heads down and if asked would have said that the Draft Resister was a relative.
I was a teacher at the time and taught at Framlingham and Purnim in the early 70’s perhaps 1970. I moved to Winchelsea in 1973 and met Rogers mum, I think that she thought I would be a god influence on him. Not sure that I was.
My father Jack O’Mara, and his partner Elma, lived at Torquay at the time and I turned up at their house one time and there was Roger. Living under another name. I knew that he was a Draft resister but Dad said ‘we are looking after him’.
I am sure that ASIO knew where Roger was but because his father was a liberal and President of Winchelsea Shire they left him alone. If they had arrested him sure there would have been a ruckus.
I kept quiet, there was no point in telling anyone. In fact I didn’t even think about it.
I don’t think that my father would have thought about his own security. The house was out of Torquay with a high fence and people wouldn’t have come in. My young brother was living in another house on the property.
Roger was the only Draft Resister that I knew. I wasn’t asked to provide a safe house, perhaps because I was living in education department houses at the time.
Val was briefly involved in the Fitzroy high school group organised by Don McLeod to arrange safe houses.
The Draft Resisters
I stayed at several houses during his time underground, in fact quite a lot. There were several in South Melbourne, Betty and David Jones in Northcote and the ‘Sgro’ house in Coburg.
There was a nice two story Victorian house in Clifton Hill owned by a teacher, who was a friend of Caroline Hogg, and I remember helping her out on house renovations by scraping calcimine off the walls.
An Easter was spent at Kevin Healy’s parents in Highett.
For several weeks I was at the home of Anne and Giovanni Sgro under strict instructions not to answer the phone or the door. There wasn’t much of an escape route so vigilance was required.
It was about March 1972 and I assisted with the annual making of tomato sauce in the backyard.
On another occasion I stayed at a residence over a shop in Chapel Street Prahran. The shop was called DMZ and had been established in May 1971 as a co-operative selling books and political literature. It had been set up by the mothers of Michael Hamel Green and Fran Newell.
At one stage in in 1972 a device believed to be a listening bug was found by a Youth Worker at the shop. The Draft Resisters Union assumed that it had been planted by Federal police.
On top of the shop was a flat which became the residence of several Draft Resisters including me. Security was good with, on one occasion, even my father was turned away. Mind you he hadn’t identified himself but was left wondering at the address he had been given when the women in the shop steadfastly stated that “no Bob Scates does not live here”.
It was only later that day when he phoned and I answered, probably against instructions, and said “oh yes Dad you did have the correct address” that his identity was revealed.
The known and nominated Drivers would receive a call, be asked to collect a person from a specific address and take them to another given address. Information was sparse, becuase the phones may have been tapped, the Drivers sometimes didn’t know who they were picking up.
I became involved in helping Draft Resisters when a teacher friend of Caroline’s asked us to assist Brian Ross. Brian unlike most resisters was isolated from the mainstream activities, he lived in a small community hundreds of miles from Melbourne. He evaded the federal police for some time. He then decided to hand himself in hoping to be a catalyst for a change of policy on conscription. He was sentenced to two years gaol at Sale. We kept in touch with Brian, when possible visiting him in the Sale Prison. As the anti-war/ anti-conscription campaign ramped up more and more young men resisted the draft. SOS (Save our Sons) was in the forefront of looking after the Draft Resisters who went underground.
A network of safe houses was developed. The safe house providers varied from blue collar unionists to often middle class people who were against conscription firstly and then against the war. It was normal people who helped them, fed and clothed them. For many, political activism was a new experience.
My job, with many others, was in helping SOS, in particular, to transport the kids to safe houses. We mostly drove them to the safe houses. As a ‘driver’, you’d sometimes have to tell whoever was in the car to lie down in the back so they wouldn’t be seen. The safe houses were arranged through a chain of people, individuals who volunteered or contacts through our political activity or workplaces, it was an extensive network. I did not have them stay at my place as that was too obvious, and we tended not to ring as the phones could have been tapped. I remember meeting with Percy Johnson outside the metals union office, in the middle of the road near the trams so no-one could hear, so we could discuss strategy.
One funny occasion, SOS contacted me asking for help. Two of the Draft Resisters, Michael Hamel-Green and Tony Dalton, had become housebound and wanted to see a movie so they needed a disguise. I had a hairdresser mate in Flinders Lane and he loaned them a series of wigs and fitted them out. Michael was told to shave of his beard but he wouldn’t.
They had a night out and got home safely.
I think in hindsight their disguises more than likely drew notice rather than have them blend into the crowd.
Any one involved in assisting the Draft Resisters took the risk that they could have been prosecuted for aiding and abetting by providing a safe house for fugitives from an unjust discredited law.
My involvement in the anti war/anti conscription movement included being the Secretary /Treasurer of the Moratorium Movement.
I was at the age to be called up but in the end I wasn’t. I had told my mother that I would burn my card if it happened.
I drove several Draft Resisters sometimes from house to house or sometimes to the point of collection or the point of delivery. Sometimes Bert Nolan from the Seamans Union or Ted Bull from the Waterside Workers Union would call because they needed someone to drive the Draft Resisters to the wharfs where they would be smuggled on to a ship and taken to WA, Tasmania or Qld.
At the time I didn’t want to know names because then I couldn’t tell if I was arrested. So I would just pick them up from wherever I was asked to and then drop them off. I didn’t feel scared nor think about the consequences of being caught. I did it a number of times, perhaps six or seven in total.
I remember that the Anglican Church in Kensington had a sign on its wall which said:
‘This is a Draft Resisters Hideaway-all welcome’.
The Ministers name was Peter and he provided a safe house for Michael Hamel-Green. I remember meeting Michael there.
Penelope who was a Nun, was pasting up Ant-Vietnam posters in the street and walked back into a waiting cop who was waiting to arrest her. She ended up sitting on his knee but not being charged.
I drove Bob Bisset to a few places after dark. Once to a priest in Kew who seemed very conservative but opposed the war with a vengeance. Bob played chess with him a lot and he explained Bob as the son of a friend from the country to anybody who called at his house.
He also stayed with Tony and Margaret Van Vliet in Noble Park, Tony was later the MLA for Noble Park. My late father, Kevin King who became the MLA for Springvale, drove Bob to a few places outside Melbourne but I don’t know where.
We didn’t have any draft resistors stay at our house.
I worked with a few people who just didn’t register and nothing happened. Before computers it would have needed an army of clerks to check birth dates and addresses if a number came out.
One guy went down to the CES in Fitzroy and took to the toes when the clerk he saw there disappeared down the back and started looking at a fiche reader and at my mate alternately.
It was only the people, like Bob, who stood up publicly who were prosecuted. He was in gaol when Whitlam won and didn’t get out for a few days but when he did he and I and I think Bob Scates sank many ales.