Ciaron O’Reilly asked me to go along to the protest at St Stephens Cathedral in Brisbane last Sunday, 26 November 2010.
He asked me to shoot some video and put it up on the BushTelegraph. At Ciaron’s request Tony Robertson (aka ‘culture boy’ on YouTube) also shot some video of the protest outside St Stephens cathedral..
Apologies for the sound in the interviews with Jim Dowling and Sean O’Reilly.
I was last inside St Stephens when the Americans were escalating the war in Vietnam in the mid 1960s. Mass was said in Latin back then.
I was taken there by my Dad. My father was asked after mass by the priest to take a homeless man to find his lost sister. My dad carried out the priest’s request but it took us many hours to find his sister’s address, driving around Sandgate, Redcliffe and Scarborough — a long way from St Stephens, especially in the crappy car that Dad drove. I remember how mad with worry our mum was when we got home after dark. We lived on a farm in Moggill on the outskirts of Brisbane far from both Scarborough and St Stephens.
St Stephens was a very different church back then, less grandiose and more connected to the people. Last Sunday you could not hear let alone understand what the priest was saying.
But the catholic church had similar problems with war mongering back in the 1960s too.
There was open support for the Vietnam war by high profile Catholics like US President Kennedy, General Diem and Marshall Ky of South Vietnam.
I noticed a strong Vietnamese contingent at mass on Sunday.
However, unlike now, the leader of the Labor party at the time, Arthur Caldwell, a devout Catholic, refused to support the war in Vietnam.
Caldwell was opposed on the basis that it was a civil war between North and South Vietnam and had nothing to do with Australia. Arthur Caldwell was famous for his racist gibe ‘Two Wongs don’t make a white’. His opposition to the war was supported by a large section of the union movement that organised protest and industrial action.
Nonetheless that unjust war took the lives of millions of Vietnamese people in the same way that the war in Iraq has. Australia was divided over the war in Vietnam. many supported the US alliance. Things have changed lttle there.
Pictured here are some of the opponents of the war in Brisbane who some readers may recall.
They were meeting across town from St Stephens in Trades Hall organising a protest against the visit to Australia by the President of South Vietnam, Marshall Ky. This photo is taken from the Graham Garner Collection 1966, It was shot by Grahame during the controversial Ky visit to Brisbane and is published here with the permission of the Fryer Library at the University of Queensland.
The tall man in the centre is Alex McDonald the secretary (at that time) of the Queensland Trades and Labour Council. To his left is Hughie Hamilton from Building Workers Industrial Union. The woman on their right is the President of the Brisbane Housewives Association, Gabby Horan. The two younger men I don’t know. Of course the opponents of the war were called a nest of Communists by the Premier of Qld, Frank Nicklin.
Hughie and Alex were members of the Communist Party of Australia which had a principled opposition to the war in Vietnam.
1 December 2010