Specialising in the human experience of Living with prostate cancer – warts and all

Mothers … beware the calls for conscription

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If you would like to watch your children grow up, fight the call for conscription!

If we get conscription, rejuvenate the “Save our Sons” movement!

A generation ago, we had conscription to National Service. The Menzies government ran a raffle putting young men’s birthdays in a barrell. The winners went to Vietnam to fight someone else’s war.

I was a young man then, just too old, at 22, to be called up. As it didn’t affect me, I watched it happen. But, it did affect me. Some young men I knew got killed. Some got wounded whilst the others came home a shell of their former selves.

It was an unpopular and dishonest war … just like Iraq. There were demonstrations against sending our conscripts. And when they came home, they received no recognition by the government, no recognition by the RSL and they were an embarrassment to the population at large.

And what was it all for? Today, Vietnam is a tourist destination. Their war museum is called “The Remnants of War” museum and they make no bones about their anti-US and China sentiments. Before the tourist boom, it was called “The Museum of American and Chinese War Crimes”.

At the time, I knew a mother of two teenage sons too young to be called up. Joan Coxsedge objected strongly to the concept of conscription and did something about it. Together with four other mothers, she founded ‘Save our Sons’, an anti-conscription movement offering young men who had been called up advice on becoming ‘concientious objectors’. For her efforts, she and her friends were sent to jail in 1971 – but it galvanised public opinion. Australians did not like having political prisoners.

Later that year, the government announced that all Australian troops would be withdrawn from Vietnam by the end of the year. This announcement virtually spelt the end of the anti-war movement. From then on attention shifted to conscription for, on the same day as it announced the withdrawal of troops, the Gorton Government insisted that conscription would remain. The movement against conscription continued until conscription itself ended in December 1972. Only then did Save Our Sons fold up.

Joan Coxsedge later became a left wing Labor member of the Victorian Parliament. She was the first woman Labor MP elected to the Legislative Council. But what of the mothers whos sons were killed, maimed and mentally destroyed.

Allow conscription to come back, and you might find out what those women and their families have had to endure – all because of the policy of our national government. This time around, it is your sons … and my grandchildren.

Do a Google on Joan Coxsedge, Save our Sons, or the anti-Vietnam War movements and learn the lessons of the past.


Written by Greg Naylor

1 February 2006 at 2:11 pm

Posted in PERSONAL

Tagged with ,

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