Contributed by Glen
July 21 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the radical action taken by students at Monash University, when they voted to collect funds to support the National Liberation Front in Vietnam (NLF).
This was during the Vitnam War, when Australian troops were fighting in there. The Monash University Labor Club was behind the push. This was the first time in Melbourne there’d been open support for the NLF.
The origins of this action can be traced back to May 1965 when the Australian Labor Student Federation voted for conditional support for the NLF. A number of others, including the Sydney University Labor club, did the same.
There was little outcry re this, but the actions of the Monash Labor Club saw a more radical approach. Establishing a ‘Committee to collect Medical and Unspecified Aid, they pushed the opposition to the war to a new level.
This occurred in a context of already widespread opposition. The new shift involved the recognition that involvement was not only wrong, but was a war of foreign occupation that Australia was participating in. If this is the case, the Vietnamese were fighting a were of liberation and therefore had a just cause.
Monash University Administration sought to ban all activities involved with the committee. Though not all students supported the actions of the Labor Club, a meeting of over 2,000 students condemned the actions of the administration.
Opponents of the war were aghast at the Monash Labor Club. The leader of the Australian Labour Party (ALP) ‘left’ Jim Cairns publicly opposed their actions.
The Federal Government passed the Defence Forces Protection Act, designed to ban any support for the NLF. The ALP opposition vote for the legislation, with only one member of the federal parliament, an independent opposing it. For breaches of the Act one could be jailed for 2 years.