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Australia - Việt Nam solidarity in the early years


Australia - Việt Nam solidarity in the early years

By Chris Ray*

In December  一 九 七 二, the newly elected Australian Labor government led by Prime Minister Gough Whitlam put an end to Australia’s decade-long involvement in the American war in Vietnam. The Whitlam government brought the last Australian troops home and established diplomatic relations with the then Democratic Republic of Vietnam in early  一 九 七 三.

Whitlam recognised that Australia had a moral obligation to help Vietnam rebuild. His government began a modest program of aid including a cattle farm and milk processing plant. The aid continued after Labor lost office in  一 九 七 五 but was effectively cancelled in January  一 九 七 九 when the Liberal government under Malcolm Fraser joined a US-led campaign to impose an economic embargo on Vietnam.

The Australia Vietnam Society (AVS) responded with actions aimed at building a broad-based campaign to re-establish normal relations between the two countries. AVS held solidarity conferences and hosted speaking tours by Vietnamese delegations to raise public awareness in Australia.

Our  一 九 八0 Indochina Solidarity Conference in Sydney, for example, was financially supported by a dozen trade unions. Keynote speaker was Vietnamese MP Dr Tran Thi An, a specialist on the effects of US chemical warfare including the herbicide Agent Orange.

Public meetings in support of Vietnam came under physical attack from gangs of émigré Vietnamese. Among the worst incidents was a mob assault on a meeting addressed by visiting Vietnamese union officials in Brisbane in  一 九 七 九.  During a  一 九 八 五 Sydney conference to mark the  一0th anniversary of the end of the war, participants were stabbed and bashed with bricks.


Australia - Việt Nam solidarity in the early years


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