Women’s History Month: Diana Crunden

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Diana Crunden was at Melbourne University when she started to protest against the Vietnam War and the National Service Act. The Harry she mentions below is Harry van Moorst, a leading figure in Melbourne’s protest scene, who recently passed away. She was part of Students for a Democratic Society (note the misspelling of Crunden’s name on that page), amongst other things. This is a short excerpt from our interview, where she talks about some of her motivations for protesting.

Diana Crunden interview


Diana: But I always had a fairly sort of social justice type of thing. Like, I thought the White Australia Policy was terrible, et cetera. And my parents were pretty appalled at my political activity, really, but didn’t try and restrain me at all. That was good. My political education, I guess, started when I went to uni. And I happened to meet Harry [van Moorst], because we were all in the same year. …

I was at home, up where I was born, and I came back to Melbourne to find out that a smallish group of people both at Monash and Melbourne had raised funds for the National Liberation Front. And I thought, wow. You’re prepared to go to jail for this? And it was all pretty amazing. 

And then, of course, the anti-war movement started to develop. And I was pretty involved in that, but I wasn’t a leader, I wouldn’t say. I mean, I was relatively well-known, but I think it was more because I was Harry’s partner than anything else. 

Alex: In terms of the war itself like, what were your objections? 

Diana: It wasn’t something that America should be involved in, and Australia shouldn’t be involved in. And it was typical of Australia that it went in league with the States. It was just appalling. And, you know, all the things about, if the referendum had been – not the referendum, the – you know, the United Nations had said, “This – the demilitarised zone, and when that’s – we’ll have elections, and then that will be the solution to it.” And, of course, America decided they didn’t want to do that, so they intervened. So those were all appalling. I mean, I must have developed this perspective quite quickly, but I did have it. 

Alex: And conscription? 

Diana: Yes, yeah. Because so many of my friends were involved. 

Alex: Would you have described yourself as a pacifist? Or was it more about the forcing people who didn’t want to do it? 

Diana: No, not really. Because that just seemed to be – it was an unjust war. And that should be sufficient grounds to allow people to get conscientious objection. But, of course, it wasn’t. You had to be a pacifist. But no, I wasn’t a pacifist. 

f you know a woman who lived in Melbourne at the time and was involved, please leave a comment!

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