Editor's Note. This is the second post sent in by Rod Bishop which recalls the early days of La Trobe University in Melbourne. The posts are drawn from notes for a speech given by Rod at an event celebrating the University's 50th anniversary. The first post can be found if you click here. Rod became a prominent critic, writer and educator. He was the Director of the Australian Film Television and Radio School from 1996 to 2003. Now read on....
By 1970 there were estimated to be more than 1,500 draft resisters and conscientious objectors. I’ve never seen a figure for the numbers who ended up in jail, but I seem to remember the conscientious objectors were among the first targeted. La Trobe student Scott Murray, with whom I am still good friends, was a conscientious objector and was asked in court: “what would you do if a negro was attacking your mother?”
The government even jailed women from the Save Our Sons organization. Their crime: distributing anti-conscription pamphlets on government property.
From Student Protest, Barry York’s history of La Trobe: “In September 1970, the Department of Labour and National Service began its ‘law and order’ drive by issuing 50 summonses against carefully selected non-compliers. Four La Trobe students – Ian MacDonald, Shane Breen, David Loh and Rod Bishop – were victims, receiving notices to attend medical examinations”.
Two former editors of Rabelais in that group. I can’t remember who provided all the help – the Draft Resisters Union, Youth Campaign Against Conscription or someone else – but their intelligence was exemplary. They were able to accurately inform draft resisters and conscientious objectors of the hours of the day when they were most vulnerable to be picked up. That meant going to a safe house before returning to campus. The information had to be coming from someone inside the Department of Labour and National Service and/or the police.
|Arlo Guthrie (l), Alice's Restaurant|
My medical was held opposite the Hawthorn Football Ground in Glenferrie. Quite odd, as I am a lifelong Hawthorn supporter. Even stranger, my doctor was to be Doc Ferguson, the immediate past-President of the Club. In the waiting room (in our jocks), the bloke sitting opposite me looked exactly like Arlo Guthrie and had a National Liberation Front badge pinned over his crown jewels. The clipboard we were given contained dozens and dozens of medical conditions – TB, polio, VD, asthma, cancer, diabetes – the list went on and on. I ticked them all and watched “Arlo Guthrie” tick all his. He went in before me and didn’t come out for more than an hour and a half.
|Review by Demos Krouskos (click to enlarge)|
Alice’s Restaurant was not universally liked. In fact, the flippant hippie/yippie humour was despised by some. See the review above from La Trobe student radical and one-time Cinema Papers editor Demos Krouskos in the national student newspaper National U.
|Beginnings premiere screening|
(L-R) Gordon Glenn, Rod Bishop, Scott Murray,
Andrew Pecze (front)
We set out to film the aftermath of the first student occupation of La Trobe’s Administration Building, prompted by charges being laid against a handful of students who ran two Defense Department officials off the campus and damaged their Mercedes-Benz. We used Phillip Taylor’s excellent photographs of the occupation and raised the production finance from clubs and societies at La Trobe and NUAUS (the National Union of Australian University Students). Once the charges against the students were dismissed, we decided to follow the principal La Trobe students through the coming July 3 and July 4 demonstrations in Melbourne’s CBD - Fitzroy Gardens, Bourke Street, Flinders Street Station and St Kilda Road. The film was shot in nine days.
|(L-R) Peter Beilby, Keith Robertson, Scott Murray, |
Gordon Glenn, Rod Bishop
Beginnings was an instant success at La Trobe, at universities around the country and at anti-War and peace rallies. It was strident, righteous and in-your-face. The power of the montages of the marches with its combined effect of image, editing and song is remarkable. I’ve not seen anything to equal it since.
We were in a cocoon, however, helped out by everyone from Phillip Adams to the Maoists and the bomb-throwers, but we quickly wised up when the ABC stole the film. Having granted ABC-TV a one-off screening of excerpts for a Cyril Pearl program, we were amazed to see our footage turning up in other ABC programs. Seems Beginnings (or at least our demonstration footage) had been filed with other ABC demonstration footage and nobody in that venerable institution could tell their footage from ours. We quickly learnt about intellectual property and footage sales and the makers of Beginnings have been literally dining out on the proceeds ever since.
Only four months before this, at Kent State University in Ohio, the National Guard fired 67 rounds into an anti-Vietnam demonstration murdering four students and wounding nine, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. How close did we come?
students I had known all year, who had never uttered a political remark, let alone anything controversial, who I'd seen among the 800 that turned out to march in defiance down Waterdale Road on 23 September. These students were now proudly wearing "You Can't Beat La Trobe" badges. In that final march, perhaps deterred by the adverse press publicity, the massive police presence was benign"
This event in La Trobe’s history may have been almost forgotten, but the organizers of the 50th Year Celebrations produced a great memento of The Waterdale Road Massacre – handed out to all those attending the celebrations on 5 March this year.
These events are celebrated in the small printed bookmark published below (back and front).
The editor of this blog summed it all up: "the little suburban campus that turned red"