Women’s History Month: Ceci Cairns (again)

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I’m doubling up here, but the first story here in particular, from Ceci Cairns (member of Save Our Sons), is just too good not to include. In this excerpt, Ceci remembers some of the things she did while campaigning against the Vietnam War.

Ceci Cairns interview


Ceci: I went to meetings, I did everything. And eventually we were harbouring draft resisters, driving them around, having adventures. You know, it was pretty adventurous and funny. Sort of very funny things happened. Like the day I stole a car. Very funny things. I lived in South Melbourne at the time, and when we drove draft resisters around, we tried to get different cars. Because we knew we were being watched and followed, and everything. And how much we knew, I’m not sure, but we just were very careful. So I used to sometimes borrow my grandmother’s Mercedes Benz, or I’d borrow someone else’s car. 

Anyway, one day, we ran out of cars, and Jeanie said, “Well, look, you’ll find–” gave me a set of keys to a blue Holden, and said, “Look, the car will be parked halfway along your street.” So I walked out of my house, walked halfway along the street, and there was a blue Holden. And it was open. And I thought, oh, that’s a bit peculiar. Anyway, I hopped in, and on the front seat was a packet with fresh, hot chips on it. And I thought, that’s funny. So I ate a chip, and put the key in, drove off. Get to the meeting place, I’ve taken the wrong car. I mean, I’ve stolen a car. So the absolute nightmare was, what if I get caught in a stolen car? [laughing]

Alex: With a draft resister. 

Ceci: Yes! So I thought, I’ve just got to get back to that car park, get rid of this car – so I just drove back. By this time, it was about three quarters of an hour later, because by the time we realised what had happened – and where I was living was opposite the South Melbourne football ground. And it was a football day, so there were no car parks anywhere near where I took the car from. I had to park it again about a mile away. And so that was one of the sort of mad sort of adventures that happened. [laughing] Yeah, it’s very funny. But it’s a sort of – breaking the law on all fronts, it was getting a bit too much. 

Alex: Were you involved in the more mundane things, like handing out pamphlets and those sorts of things?

Ceci: Oh God, yeah, all the time. Yeah. Absolutely. In fact, that’s what it was. And that’s – I mean, for instance, we used to meet on the library steps, outside the Melbourne Library in Swanston Street. And every – I can’t remember if it was every week or every month. A few of us met there with a sign saying Anti-Vietnam War – Stop The Draft, or whatever it was, Join Us. And we met there week after week after week for I don’t know how long. I mean, it seemed like years. And occasionally someone would come up, you know, we’d meet someone. But most of the time, we just did it. I learnt how long it takes to – you know, that movement was a movement that – my God, it didn’t build up to the moratorium quickly. It was that kind of drudgery that we – we just did. That gradually built up to the huge moratoriums.

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

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