Jill Reichstein attended Monash University and was involved in numerous demonstrations against the Vietnam War. This is a short excerpt from our interview, where she talks about her motivation for being involved.
Jill: My journey started when I was doing my matriculation year at a private girls’ school in Melbourne. And both my parents were fairly conservative. And I had a history teacher who – or politics, political science teacher – who was wonderful. And she discussed the Vietnam War. So we’re talking 1967. And I was outraged. And I really started to get involved and have a look at it. I mean, I knew we were involved in it, but I didn’t sort of take a lot of interest
I didn’t think we should be sending our soldiers to fight in a war that had nothing really to do with us. And I think I was slightly anti American. And I didn’t like the idea of following what Americans did. And I just didn’t understand the rationale behind it. I mean, it was a war in a country between the North and the South. Obviously, America was spooked. But I didn’t understand the rationale behind it. So I started writing essays at school against the war. And then the following year, I went and lived in the UK for 12 months. You know, my parents wouldn’t let me travel. But they let me go to a liberal arts college, which sort of – wasn’t a finishing school, because we actually, we actually did politics and history. And there were an amazing range of women – there was 100 women living out in the country near Oxford – so I ended up spending a lot of time with people in Oxford, who were also very politically opposed to the war. And so I’d go down to the demonstrations in London, that’s when I first started to participate in the anti-war demos, concerts, etc. And then when I came back to Melbourne and went to Monash University – hotbed of, you know, political unrest – a lot of my friends, and in fact, my future boyfriend, he was a draft dodger. So there were all all of those issues for me that I faced. So I ended up going to quite a lot of the demonstrations here in Melbourne – quite memorable to think that our streets were just 1000s and 1000s and 1000s of people who were opposed to it; providing safe havens for people who were avoiding it. And so that election night when Labor won was just such a celebration.
Alex: Were you were opposed to conscription early on, or did that develop later?
Jill: No I felt it was challenging somebody’s liberty to tell them they had to go and fight somebody else’s war. And I probably didn’t really understand the political agenda behind it, other than mimicking what America was doing, which I really disliked, and I thought to force someone to fight in something they didn’t believe in was inappropriate.
If you know a woman who lived in Melbourne at the time and was involved, please leave a comment!