Women’s History Month: Tony Dalton

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Dorothy Dalton was a member of Save Our Sons (SOS), and a strong supporter of her son, Tony, being a draft resister. She had been a member of the Communist Party in the early 50s, along with her husband Les; she got involved in many community projects throughout her life. In this excerpt, Dorothy’s son discusses some of her involvement in anti-Vietnam War action.

Tony Dalton interview


Alex: Courtesy of the news articles that you and I think your father collected – there’s a couple that I’ve found looking through them where it’s – because your mom doesn’t seem just to have sort of stayed at home and supported you. There’s stories of her standing up in court, actively supporting you, there’s this great one – “Mothers: we give backing to resistors” was the was the headline. 

Tony: That’s right. 

Alex: Had you expected her to be quite so publicly in support? Or was that because of the newspapers actively asking her?

Tony: No – I mean that was just what she did. Just what she did, she became a member of Save Our Sons. But you see, she doesn’t become a part of the Fairlea Five, which is interesting. I think there was probably a hesitancy there about going and getting arrested. I never asked her. There’s just so much going on at the time. I never said “Why weren’t you there?” I think it would have – there would have been a bit of hesitancy from my mum. I don’t know. That’s my guess, is that she was hesitant about making that sort of civil disobedience step.

Alex: But she’s obviously involved in other sorts of things.

Tony: She’s involved in driving other draft – you see Barry Johnson was a draft resister and he stood for parliament, while being a draft resister.

Alex: Oh yes, I have read that. 

Tony: She was very involved in that – 

Alex: In supporting his campaign. 

Tony: There was a network of them down in Moorabbin.

Alex: Did your couch ever get used for other draft resisters? Or was that too close to home.

Tony: I doubt it. I suspect it was partly – you never knew, in a sense, as to when, what – when the police were looking. So that’s the ’72 election. Barry Johnson’s underground, and they’re providing active support. And my parents are still living in Moorabbin; as I say, later on, they moved to Carlton, but I just – my hunch is that there was just a little bit of hesitancy there.

Alexandra Pierce  

Did she march in the moratorium marches? 

Tony Dalton  

Yeah, yeah, did all that. And then later on the movement against uranium mining. 

Alexandra Pierce  

Okay. So she continued that… 

Tony Dalton  

She was, again, as part of that; again, my father was sort of, you know, became quite prominent in that in the sense that he was organisationally involved. On whatever committee structure was for, for MORM[?]. And then he wrote a – was like a self published booklet for MORM at the time, which is, you know, about the nuclear fuel cycle.

Alex: Do you think your mum would have got involved in SOS and so on, if you, for instance, had been much younger or much older?

Tony:  I can’t say. I mean, certainly, my involvement was, yeah, was a real spurt. And in some ways, my involvement in – because I’m older than my brother to start with, and he actually gets involved in other things; he goes to Adelaide to do his university degree, which is very unusual, and gets involved in what I’d call cultural politics as well as anti-war stuff – but I’m really at the frontline, because – partly because of my age at the time. But I think it’s really my involvement that gets them going again, politically, yes. That’s my sense of it is, that my involvement in the anti war movement, anti conscription movement, stimulates them.

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

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