In 1970 mini-skirts made way for kaftans, an average worker earned $40 a week, Simon and Garfunkel sang "Bridge over troubled water" and Vietnam had become the name for an epoch of change. America was in turmoil and youth seemed in revolt. Large anti-war demonstrations were held in cities and campuses and the killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University sparked riots across the country. Australia too witnessed violence. Police clashed with demonstrators at bloody protests outside the US Embassy in Melbourne and families, workplaces and churches had split apart on the issue of Vietnam. Young men were being jailed for refusing to fight; women, students and minority groups were finding a voice; and 23 years of conservative rule would soon end with the election of the Whitlam Labour Government. On 8 May 1970 more than 125,000 people throughout Australia took to the streets to stop the increasingly sordid war and the draft which sent young men to kill and be killed in the jungles and swamps of Southeast Asia.
The Moratoriums were among the largest peace demonstrations in the world, and the culmination of years of struggle and opposition to Australia's involvement in the war. Using the stories of students, housewives, farmers, priests, soldiers and others, this work explores the course of the anti-war movement and its effects, and presents the challenges to a government which abused its authority. This study of a time when ordinary Australians risked ostracism and arrest to protest their country's policies examines one of the most turbulent decades of modern history. Their compassion, idealism and commitment helped change the direction of international events and created one of the most successful anti-war movements in history, transforming Australian society forever.