South Vietnam was at war with its northern neighbours, and Australia had become enmeshed in an unjust, unwinnable debacle. Conscription had been been enforced, and young men were being sent to fight. A powerful anti-war movement sprang up, and revolution was in the air. Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, had sided with Australia’s U.S. allies in the conflict, but had retired in January 1966 after 15 years in power. His ill-fated successor, Harold Holt, was left to carry the baton.
In the picture above, university student Paul Gibson was heading home at the conclusion of a protest rally which had marched from the Brisbane C.B.D. to New Farm.
On Thursday, 24 March 1966, a very large protest was staged, during peak hour, at the intersection of Queen and Albert Streets in the heart of Brisbane. The Queensland police force was deployed in large numbers, and many arrests were made. I shot the picture, above, just before I attempted to photograph a young woman who had been trapped in the melee. She was not part of the protest, but merely trying to push through the crowd to catch her tram home. A Brisbane cop had pushed her backwards, and another had kneed her in the back. She fell to to the pavement in agony.
A strong hand grabbed my arm as I was framing the shot, and I was warned “Take any more pictures, and I’ll smash your camera”. All I could say to this plain-clothes detective was “You smash my camera, and I’ll make sure you buy me a new one”. I was with my friend, Mike Tate, and we were both told to leave the rally. Two detectives followed us as we made our way down Queen Street, so we decided to play their game. We made a beeline for our favourite coffee lounge, the Primitif, and the detectives followed us right to the door.
One of my old school friends, a most conservative lad, was waiting outside Brisbane City Hall as the night set in. He was to meet his girlfriend, as he had tickets to that evening's Shirley Bassey concert, when police advised him to move along. He argued with them that he had nothing to do with the protest which was raging all around, but they would not listen. He was arrested and thrown into the City Watch-house, where his distraught girlfriend collected him a couple of hours later.
Centennial Park was a public meeting place, where speakers on all manner of subjects would mount their soap-boxes every Sunday afternoon. All major cities had such a place. During the Vietnam conflict, these became the scene of many heated confrontations. In the picture above, talented Brisbane blues singer Terry Hannagan was vehemently making a point, to the bemusement of onlookers including university student Raymond Evans; who is seen holding a placard.
Terry went on to work in the advertising industry, and I can guarantee that almost everyone in Australia will have heard his powerful voice in many a television commercial voice-over. Raymond is now Professor Raymond Evans, noted historian, and writer of many superb books and articles dealing with Brisbane, Queensland and Australian history.
Humphrey McQueen is a Queensland-born historian who was influential in the anti-conscription movement of the day. He is seen (pic below) in action at Centennial Place at the conclusion of a protest march which was held on Sunday 27 March 1966. Humphrey subsequently moved to Canberra, to teach at Australian National University. He has produced a large body of writings on a diverse range of subjects.