Women’s History Month: Erika Feller
Erika Feller did a combined Law/Arts degree at Melbourne University and was a journalist for the university newspaper during the Vietnam War era. In this excerpt she discusses attending demonstrations in her capacity as a journalist, and the importance of doing so.
Erika: I did a fair bit of journalism at the University – I mean I studied law but I also studied Arts, I did a combined degree. And I was the news editor of the university newspaper, Melbourne University newspaper, Farrago. And it was under, at the time the editor was Henry Rosenbloom, who you may know – he’s quite, he has his own publishing house now. And he’s quite eminent in that area. But Henry was always, you know, encouraging the university newspaper to pick up causes outside – not just what was happening with the SRC, the student representative council, or the Union Building or whatever, but really, so we were encouraged to go out and report these things. And I – a lot of the demonstrations that I attended, I attended actually on behalf of Farrago writing it up. And, you know, you’ll see I mean, if you ever go back into the history of Farrago, and some of the articles – one I used to keep with me for a while, because it was just funny, the headline was “Feller at the demo,” as the principal headline. I can remember some quite violent demonstrations actually, just on the corner of Commercial Road and St Kilda Road where they had police horses breaking them up and tear gas. And so it was quite active. But a lot of my activity came from belief in what I was reporting, but also enthusiastically being the news editor and wanting the Farrago to cover these sorts of stories.
Alex: Why was it important that Farrago cover it – was it simply because there were so many students who were involved in them?
Erika: Well, I mean, the university has traditionally always been – I don’t know if it still is, with everybody working and holding down jobs, and only going to the campus for tutorials and things – but in those days, it was, you know, you were at the university full time. And it was always a place where there were a lot of, you know, demonstrate – a sort of sense of social justice, and an enthusiastic taking up of social justice causes. So for me, it was important that the, that the university newspaper was reflective of this aspect of university life. And if I, I mean I can’t – I can’t remember the conversations, but I’m sure I had many with Henry – and I’m sure that was pretty much his view as well. There were also some quite strongly left wing student movements at Melbourne University at the time. And I can remember being challenged by the head of – just trying to remember the guy who was, you know, he said, Well, what do you know about all of this, you come from one of these red brick university – one of these red brick schools? And I said, Well, you know, I’m happy to challenge you, anytime, any place to a public debate about that; which he never took up. So – but there was, as I said, there was a lot going on. And then there were things happening in the outside world as well. I mean there was Vietnam, but there was also Biafra in in Africa, and I was the treasurer of the African Australian Association. So I also did – I mean, I was always internationally oriented.
If you know a Melbourne woman who was involved in protesting against the Vietnam War, please leave a comment!