Anti-Conscription Commemoration

A number of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the defeat of the World War 1 Conscription Referendum held on October 28, 1916 took place in Sydney on 24, 26 and 28 October. The main venue for the anniversary was the Addison Road Community Centre in Marrickville which was a former military depot and site of anti-conscription and anti-war protests.

The program comprised the following events:

  • Mon 24 Oct – Poster Exhibition – Foyer, Gumbramorra Hall – 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • Wed 26 Oct – Anti-War Film Festival – Surry Hills – 4.00pm to 9.00pm
  • Fri 28 Oct – Forum – Gumbramorra Hall – 12.00pm to 5.00pm
  • Fri 28 Oct – Honour Roll Ceremony – Front Gates – 6.00pm
  • Fri 28 Oct – Agent Orange Benefit Concert – Gumbramorra Hall – 7.30pm to 10.00pm

Topics discussed at the forum included the two conscription referenda, the anti-conscription movement, the Vietnam moratorium and the history of Vietnam War veterans.

Speakers included Dr Drew Cottle, Dr Mark Gregory, Colleen Burke, Dr Rowan Cahill, Hall Greenland, Meredith Burgmann, Graeme Dunstan, Michael Matteson, Peter Galvin and Mike Scrase.

The text of the informative talk by Hall Greenland who focused on the reasons behind the defeat of the first conscription referendum on October 28, 1916, can be read here.

Following the forum, a dedication to the people included on the Honour Roll for Peace located at the entrance to the Addison Road Community Centre was given by Dr Helen Caldicott. This Honour Roll recognises 63 individuals, one band and one peace group “from Sydney and beyond who have resisted war or sought the just and peaceful resolution of conflicts at home and overseas”. Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Refer also to a series of photos of the protest by the women’s anti-conscription group, Save Our Sons (SOS), outside the Addison Road Army Depot in Marrickville when the first National Service recruits arrived to begin their two-year service in the Vietnam War on 30 June 1965.

SOS was co-founded as a non-political and non-religious movement in May 1965 by Joyce Golgerth and Noreen Hewett of Sydney. Other groups formed under the SOS banner soon afterwards across the country. The SOS women in Sydney were at the Addison Road Army Depot gates to protest every new intake of conscripts. Their periodic vigils were sustained for seven long years until conscription ended in 1972. The third photo above shows signage dedicated to SOS also at the entrance to the Addison Road Community Centre.

More information on Save Our Sons and its co-founders can be found here and here.

The commemoration’s full program can be accessed here.

For additional information on the debates surrounding the 28 October 1916 and 20 December 1917 referenda, refer to Joan Beaumont’s entry in International Encyclopedia of the First World War.

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