In various ways, all of the articles in this issue relate to political and/or industrial activism.
The first two items are told in the first person. Meredith Burgmann’s piece on 1968 is a reflection on her transition from “a prim(ish) Anglican bishop’s granddaughter” from the northern suburbs of Sydney to active involvement in the anti-Vietnam War movement. Meredith considers that 1968 changed her life, as it did for many of that generation, and set her on the path to a career in academia and politics. That year also, as she says, “shook the foundations of the respectable middle class”.
Fran Hayes’s article on the struggle of a small, new union to obtain a first federal industrial award leads to a foundation-shaking conclusion of a different sort. Fran relates how a group of inexperienced activists in a cash-strapped union took on the combined forces of employers and the Fraser federal government in pursuit of an industrial award, and in so doing, unexpectedly found themselves in the High Court, and even more unexpectedly, gained a victory that significantly changed the way in which Australian industrial relations was conducted for many white-collar workers.
Focusing on an earlier time period, Danny Cusack provides insight to the conscription struggles during the First World War through the life of Irish-Catholic NSW MLA Patrick McGarry. It was surprising to see that McGarry does not have an ADB entry, and we are pleased to be able to bring the story of this neglected and very interesting figure to readers. Of particular interest is the different paths taken by Irish-born Catholic members of the Labor Party at this time, both in NSW and other states, and the tensions they experienced.
Returning to the Vietnam War era, Rowan Cahill has written an insightful article on the significance of the anti-war moratoriums in Australia, in which he played a prominent role. Readers old enough to have been involved in protests at the time will no doubt recall their own participation. I certainly recall marching in the October 1969 moratorium in Washington, DC, where Noel Stookey – Paul in the folk group Peter, Paul & Mary – led all 750,000 of us in a rousing chorus of boos aimed at Richard Nixon in the White House in the near distance. Rowan’s article does an excellent job of tracing the shift from support for the war to widespread opposition.
The next contribution is a tribute by Rod Noble to the late Peter Barrack, long-serving Secretary of the Newcastle Trades Hall Council, who made a significant contribution to labour movement and community activism in the Hunter region.
The issue finishes with the lyrics to a song from Tasmanian composers, with an introduction by Danny Blackman, followed by the Bulletin Board compiled by Danny and an advertisement for a new Hummer editor, as I will be retiring after the next issue.
I would like to thank Danny Blackman and Margaret Walters for their considerable assistance in producing this issue of The Hummer.
Editor, The Hummer