Contributed by Glen Davis
Due to accident, this short article turned up a little late. It recalls an event that occurred during Easter, nearly 50 years ago. The Vietnam War was still going on and the massive movement to put an end to it was reaching its peak. This is an important part of our history, worth recalling and learning from its lessons.
As we move on from another Easter let’s cast our minds back to this time in 1971, when five members of Save Our Sons, were jailed for 14 days during the Easter.
Their heinous offence was sitting in the offices of the then Federal Department of Labour and National Service, handing out leaflets opposing conscription for the unjust,
undeclared war in Vietnam.
Just to recall who they were; Save Our Sons was formed back in 1965 to oppose the conscription of young men to fight and die in war. Throughout the next few years they were active and prominent in the anti-conscription and anti-war campaigns.
When arrested they were charged under the Summary Offences Act; legislation put in place by the Bolte state Government (Victoria). Their court case was finally heard late in the afternoon of Holy Thursday.
The presiding magistrate jailed them for 14 days, with no option of paying a fine. Thus Jean McLean, Joan Coxsedge, Irene Miller, Chris Cathie and Jo Maclaine-Cross, were locked away.
As we know, the Easter long week end is a quiet time, people go away, services close down, it can be very isolating. Nonetheless, support for them was quick and strong.
They became known as the Fairlea Five. Large demonstrations were arranged outside the Women’s prison, and around 800 people attended the ongoing vigil outside.
Maritime workers stopped work in support of the Fairlea Five. After 11 days of organised support for them, they were released, to reacquaint with their families.
Their fight was part of the broader peoples struggle against the unjust, undeclared war in Vietnam.
Glad to see use of the term “Federal Department of Labour and National Service”. I was one of those who didn’t register with the Dept of Labour and so officially was unable to get a job. In practice it meant people with university degrees could get labouring jobs but not jobs in an office. Also we couldn’t get unemployment help. No one mentions this when they talk about the National Service aspect of registration.
I was only twelve at the time but it is an Easter I will never forget. As Irene Miller’s eighth child it cemented by Anti War beliefs. WHY does this country celebrate invasions and war?