Joan Coxsedge was a significant member of the Melbourne Save Our Sons, and was one of the Fairlea Five who were jailed for trespass. She got involved with SOS through her local branch of the Labor party. Here she discusses what it was like to attend army induction mornings at the Richmond barracks, and protesting at a Billy Graham event.
Joan: And one of the things I disliked more than anything was induction period, at the Swan Street barracks. We used to go get up at the crack of dawn and go there with our placards. And the families were celebrating with champagne for their sons to go off to fight in Vietnam. And quite honestly, the atmosphere was just so bad. And we’d be rolling up and singing a different song. And we were not popular. We were not popular. I hated those – hated those mornings.
Alex: What made you keep doing them? If you hated them?
Joan: God knows; you felt you should, you know, but I can’t say I enjoyed them. I didn’t. Because you know, you had to get up at the crack of dawn. That’s bad enough, but then having to drive there and get abused is worse. One of the things that I have never forgotten – you might have heard about this – was a demonstration against Billy Graham. God, well, it was only a handful of us that turned up, most of them wouldn’t have a bar – there was a hard core of us if you like – we were, I think that you have to admit there was a hardcore, and I was in that, of course. And he had a crusade held at the Myer Music Bowl. And we thought well, he was very close to Richard Nixon, very pro war. Fair target. We’ll have a go. And then of course to do that we met in St Kilda Road. I remember that, feeling fairly apprehensive. And we had our placards, and we marched – and they’re all praying or doing something, I can’t remember really, but I think they were all praying. He was up there on the stage going for his life, as Billy Graham does, because I can’t stand the man but anyway, that’s beside the point. We walked up behind him and held up our placards. Nobody said a word. Not a sound was said. He ignored us completely, you could have heard a pin drop. And we were just holding up these things behind him. He didn’t move a muscle, not a muscle. And so we just stood there for a while. And then we quietly filed out again, and stood there at the back and waited till they all came out. And then some of them were saying, you know, what was all that about, sort of thing, you’re thinking – dull cretins, can’t you read? We’ve made it very clear, it was anti war, stuff like that. But he was the master of the group. Formidable, very formidable. But that was one I won’t forget in a hurry. Because I can remember the silence, I can remember the absolute silence. And we didn’t say anything. We weren’t chanting or doing anything, we just held up our signs, we decided in advance that we wouldn’t try and disrupt it, that we’d just make our peaceful protest. And that was it.
If you know of a Melbourne woman involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!