Women’s History Month: Sue McCulloch

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Sue McCulloch was heavily involved in the Draft Resisters Union, becoming the secretary and treasurer, as well as the Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament (CICD). Here she talks about the siege of the student union building at Melbourne University.

Sue McCulloch interview


Sue: And I was involved in the siege at Melbourne University. I think it surprised everybody, really, what it turned into. It was – the idea was to – again, to kind of embarrass the law enforcement agencies and the government by bringing attention to the fact that there were people who felt very strongly about conscription and the war. 

And the idea was to hold a kind of public demonstration in which four of the draft resisters would appear, and then be supposedly smuggled out of the building where they were to appear – but, in fact, what happened was that they appeared at the Melbourne University student union, and then it was decided to kind of barricade ourselves in, so that I think they could make media appearances. And there was this huge – it went on for several days, and we basically took over the union. The student union. And by the time the police arrived, in a kind of classic manoeuvre, I suppose, they did a dawn raid. I think, maybe, thinking they could catch people unawares. But by this stage, we’d barricaded ourselves in with chairs that went up and down the – you know, completely blocked the stairway of the several floors, and the draft resisters were not out of the building, they were, in fact, still in the building, hidden behind a very thin partition wall. There was a false wall that was discovered in one of the union rooms upstairs. And they were actually in the building when the police barged in, and eventually got their way up through this maze of chairs and came into the room where they were supposed to be. And there was nobody there. But, in fact, they were only, you know, like, a few centimetres away. And they said, you know, they had to be very careful not to cough, or not to alert anybody to them. And then, eventually, they were sort of smuggled out some time – I think, progressively, sometime after that. 

Alex: You were in the union house for the entire siege?

Sue: Yes, yes. I was. In fact, I was the voice on the radio. There was a radio station called Radio 3DR that was set up, an illegal radio station. Which was itself a rather terrifying thing to do, because that contravened the Broadcasting Act. And that actually had very serious penalties. And just before we were about to go on air, somebody told me what these penalties were, and they were like – I don’t know – ten years’ jail, and a huge fine. And I sort of went on, and I had no idea what to say. So they just went, “Right, you’re live to air now,” and, you know, and I started speaking. And I said something like, “Hello, this is Radio Resistance 3DR, and we’re trying to give power to the people.” And I think I sounded quite terrified, because I was just – I’d just been told of, you know, what we might be facing if we were caught.

If you know of a Melbourne woman involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!

2 responses

  1. […] Sue McCulloch was very involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, including working for the Congress for International Cooperation and Disarmament (CICD) and being the secretary of the Draft Resisters Union. Here she reflects on the position of women overall in the protest movement. […]

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