The Impacts of the Vietnam War on Australian Society
It’s traditionally perceived that Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War was the event/action that caused Australian society to change. The Vietnam War was the major push or an impetus for change in Australia and gave the new counterculture great momentum that eventually helped the counterculture to challenge the government and contribute to change in Australia.
The result was a dramatic change in Australia’s society, irrevocably changing the once conservative culture to today’s modern multi-cultural society.The Vietnam War was the spark that brought large reactions from the people of Australia; who reacted with protests and adopted lifestyles that challenged the dominant society of that era. As a result of the Vietnam War and the counterculture Australia was irrevocably changed from the once conservative society to the new multicultural society. Post World War 2 Australia was a conservative and traditionalist society as it was attempting to survive the rising threat of communism.
Australia was involved in the Vietnam War because of two main factors; one was fear of communism and the other was due to the ANZUS treaty. After the victory of World War 2 communism was fast spreading, and creeped its way into Vietnam. According to many sources, Australia thought that if communism would continue to spread further south, that eventually Australia would succumb to communism; this was also known as the domino effect and is one of the reason Australia attempted to halt the communism advanced in South Vietnam (History, n. . ).The ANZUS treaty was a treaty between Australia, New Zealand and the United states; the treaty stated that if one of these places would be attacked the other would come to its aid; this also meant that they had to aid each in offensive wars as well.
As a result of this treaty when America sent troops into Vietnam Australia also had to do the same, to aid the Americans. (Skwirk) Many historians would argue that the Vietnam War was the cause for Australian society to change but in reality change was already apparent in Australia.Australian culture during the Vietnam War was changing, the new counterculture was rising; the culture evolved from being, as Social Historian Donald Horne states that “the prevailing culture in Australia included racist, anglocentric-imperialist, puritan, sexist, political genteel acquiescent, capitalist, bureaucratic and develpomentalist strains” or in other words a conservative culture changed to this radical new multicultural counter culture; although Horne is biased as he does not state how the people of that era thought of themselves, he is accurate and reliable as many sources corroborate with this.This was the time where people were starting to question the government through music such as Rock and Roll that “…revolutionized musical tastes…,” (Education Department) and even through life styles such as hippie lifestyles; women and Aboriginals were fighting for their rights as well. So when the Vietnam War did occur it was not the cause for change but rather galvanised change that was already apparent in Australian society.
So if the Vietnam War was not the cause for change what role did it play in Australia? The Vietnam War gave the people of Australia something to react to; such reactions like anti-conscription and anti- Vietnam protests and even the Hippie revolution, these all helped the counterculture challenge the government and contribute to change in Australia. Many people reacted to the Vietnam War negatively for many reasons.Some for example protested against conscription and as shown in figure 1 many poster were like this and clearly shows how negatively some Australian’s felt towards conscription. Numerous Australian’s felt the same way towards Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War all together and protested against that; all of the protests ultimately led to the Moratorium movement, which affectively resulted in the government abolishing conscription and removing Australian soldiers from Vietnam.
The Hippie revolution was the younger generation taking up the hippie lifestyle, which was in reality challenging the dominant society. As a result of the anti-conscription, anti-Vietnam protest and the Hippie revolution gave the counter culture momentum and helped them to challenge the government and contribute to the transformation of Australian society. After the Vietnam War Australia had been irrevocably changed from the once conservative society to this new radical multicultural society.Australia had been changed dramatically after the Vietnam War and by the time the war ended Aboriginals and women gained their rights and the White Australian Policy had been abolished; Education historian, Alan Barcan states it was a “cultural revolution. ” As a result of the change of society in Australia, Women and Aboriginals alike gained their own independence and their right to vote.
The White Australia policy had also been abolished toward the end of the Vietnam War due to the large amount of asylum seekers that were arriving in Australia. In conclusion the consequence of the Vietnam War on Australian society was that it helped the rising counter culture change that was already apparent in Australia. The Vietnam was not what caused the change but galvanised it as it gave people a common cause. As a result of the counter culture push Australia was irrevocably changed to a radical new multi-cultural society.