Vale David Franken

School photo of David

I went to school with David when he lived with his mother in one of the steepest hills in Brisbane: Miskin Street, Toowong. He was in my class at St Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace where he became a prefect in Senior year. He was President of the chess club, an under-officer in the airforce cadets receiving an award on speech night and was a member of the school debating team. He took out the prize for Geology in our senior year, 1967. In short, David was driven to do well.

In 1969, at the University of Queensland David Franken took a principled stand against the Vietnam war and refused to register for national service. Like many others, David was pursued by government authorities. I would see him on campus hiding out from police. The UQ union complex offered that kind of safety in those days. He was sent to Boggo Road gaol for refusing to register for conscription and therefore refusing to fight in Vietnam. It was the Whitlam government’s amnesty that saved David and other resisters from further persecution.

Demonstrators during Vietnam Moratorium, Brisbane, 1970. Marching down Ann Street 1970. Photo: Grahame Garner (click to enlarge).

David even tried to recruit me to Revitalization of Christianity (ROC), a lefty group of Christians. But I was too far gone into atheism to join ROC! By 1969 I had graduated to the Pete & Dud school of Christianity. David was in the QUEENSLAND ANTI-APARTHEID MOVEMENT (1971), also known as the Anti-Apartheid Steering Committee which developed out of a strike at University of Queensland in July 1971. He was a publicist for that committee along with people like George Georges, Barry Cotterill, Ken
Howard, Gerry Jones, John Maguire, and Terry Millar.

David was heavily involved in the Qld Anti-Conscription movement (1970-1972). Its objectives were to urge and promote repeal of the National Service Act and to encourage and support opposition to and defiance of conscription . Its main publicists were David Franken , Fred Harris , Brian Tovey

We all marched in the Moratorium campaign: a crazy collection of workers, students, feminists, socialists and Christians. Sadly after the troops were pulled out by the Whitlam government, the anti-war movement collapsed; even though the US military were not forced out of Vietnam until 1975. When celebrations were called, hardly anyone turned up because conscription was cancelled for the next generation. And to think they used to call us communists!

A few years ago (2010), David and a group of people from the moratorium days met up at a commemoration (put on by young revolutionaries) of our struggle against that evil imperialist war which had such a bad effect on the lives of millions of Vietnamese people and of many Australians. The young socialists organised a poster exhibition in the Electrical Trade Union (ETU) rooms and the forum was titled “A Victory for all Humanity – Vietnam 1965-1975“. Some of us had marched under the National Liberation Front flag banner chanting ‘Ho Ho Ho, Ho Chi Minh‘ in the early moratorium marches before Jim Cairns led the movement saying ‘It’s Time‘!

Dick Shearman speaks at Vietnam War Moratorium forum at University of Qld UQ 1970

After 40 years I was finally re-united with my old school mate and fellow traveller in the anti-war movement. David had found success, becoming a producer at Channel 7. He had come a long way from sleeping in stair wells and share houses facing two years jail for refusing to be conscripted. I suppose like many others he learnt about the media and how ‘Truth is the first casualty in war.’ Something that is constantly brought to our attention during the ‘hot war cold war’ rhetoric about Ukraine.

In 1974 David was the editor of Semper Floreat. The counter-culture was in full swing; there had been a CIA led coup in Chile and Australia suffered from The Dismissal of the Whitlam government by Sir John Kerr; the 1974 Floods in Brisbane reeked havoc; the UQ Student Union had its first black President, Jim Varghese; people were successfully opposing the North-East freeway in Bowen Hills and the Cold War was still being fought in the jungles of Vietnam; the Watergate scandal (from 1972 to 1974) led to U.S. President Nixon’s resignation, a boon to investigative journalism everywhere.

David Franken, editor of Semper Floreat, 1974

During floods and war is where David made an impression (on me, at least) and now he is gone that is what we are still experiencing again. It makes you wonder where humanity is at.

Class of ’67 St Joseph’e Gregory Terrace – anti-war marchers (from left & front row Matt Foley and Ian Curr, Second row Mick Treloar, third row David Franken)-apologies for any omissions.

Condolences to David’s family, friends and comrades.

Vale David.

Ian Curr
1 April 2022

David’s funeral has been arranged for 2pm, Friday, 8 April at White Lady Funerals, 270 Kelvin Grove Rd, Kelvin Grove QLD 4059 … there will be a notice in the courier mail this Saturday 2 April 2022.

7 thoughts on “Vale David Franken

  1. Many of you will have fond memories of Dave Franken, who was a prominent activist in the radical student movement at the University of Queensland in the late sixties, and later the editor of Semper Floreat. Passing on these emails from Bill Holdsworth giving the sad news of Dave’s death last Sunday, and later giving details of the funeral arrangements:

    Just thought I’d let you know that David Franken, who you may remember was a founder of Revitalisation Of Christianity at U Of Q in 1969 and who was sent to Boggo Rd Gaol for refusing to register for the draft (and was later the editor of Semper in 1974), died yesterday, aged 71. He had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July 2020 and managed to last this long. He had been in St Vincent’s Private Hospital for the past eleven days or so.

    Just letting you know, in case there’s anybody who is interested in going, that David’s funeral has been arranged for 2pm, Friday, 8 April at White Lady Funerals, 270 Kelvin Grove Rd, Kelvin Grove QLD 4059. The funeral notice will appear in Saturday’s Courier Mail – as the ad says, no flowers, please.

    Dan O’Neill
    30 March 2022

  2. William Holdsworth says:

    Thank you for your kind, thoughtful words about David. I’ve been close to him for 52 years, beginning with ROC. We became staunch travel comrades for some 13 years, starting in Cambodia in 1990 and taking in Vietnam (several times), Cuba, North Korea, Iraq, Libya, Eritrea and more. I visited him in his last week in hospital, which was difficult for all concerned.

    1. Sorry for you loss, William

  3. I never knew David, but I once had an strange encounter with three young men who did…

    It was the late 60’s and it was an early evening.

    I was walking across the grassed area near Mayne Hall on the way to an Anti Vietnam War meeting or similar. In the darkness three young rugby looking men came at me at speed. “Hey Franken we want to talk to you” said the leader to me. “Who?” Says I…

    “Oh you’re not David Franken” says rugby thug number one. “Good thing you aren’t him” said rugby thug two. “We were going to punch the shit out of you”. From that moment I had an empathy with a person I had no knowledge of and I wished him well and safety.

    David Franken was a good man who did good things.

    1. Thanks for this memory, Gordon.

      Not only was UQ a radical place but it was also a very conservative place. The run in you had with the three ‘wise’ men often brought on violence … for example during the Quang incident on 4th September 1970 where anti-Vietnam war activists were jostled by University security officers (plainclothes). Later Police Commissioner Whitrod deployed 200 police on campus to deter any further protests against the war.

      Another memory I have of David is that he had to move from place to place in order to prevent being picked up by the authorities. I am not sure but i think he told me that he had even slept under the stairs in the J D Storey Administration building.
      Also I think he may have been lent a room in one of the colleges.
      We forget the pressures placed on people who engage in civil disobedience especially in this case when Whitlam withdrew both conscription and the troops.

      None of this repression compares to the suffering of the Vietnamese people who withstood the most powerful country on earth and prevailed.

      Ian Curr
      3 April 2022

      1. William Holdsworth says:

        David had refused to register for conscription, and so was moving around to avoid being arrested. He stayed with us in Sylvan Rd Toowong. He eventually decided to make his arrest a political gesture, handing himself in, in King George Square. He served two weeks in Boggo Rd Gaol while we held vigils outside.

  4. Wonderful to have this written history of David Franken available. In recent years he maintained an email service to thousands in the broadcast and production industry that kept us informed of the daily news and usually with some well informed comments on the events from David himself. So a life served that questioned authority and sought to inform and assist others. I am disappointed i missed his funeral. Vale David Franken.

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