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Vietnam War

The Vietnam War was the longest military engagement involving Tasmanians, with servicemen in Vietnam from 1962 to 1973. Before conscription began in 1965, the war was beyond the consciousness of most Tasmanians, but opposition grew from 1966, extending from the Hobart university campus into the community. The war increasingly politicised and polarised sections of society, with a local character sharpened by factional conflict in the union movement and the Labor Party by the Harradine affair, and perhaps the Lake Pedder controversy. In 1968 a young veteran physically attacked an anti-war academic during a university lecture, and protest culminated in the 1970 moratorium movement, with marches in Hobart. (See also Cold War period.)

Apart from the suffering inflicted on the families of the seventeen Tasmanians killed (including six conscripts), those most deeply affected were the 1800 Tasmanians (1487 in the army: 783 regulars and 704 conscripted national servicemen) who served in Vietnam. The Tasmanian branch of the Vietnam Veterans' Association sought to address veterans' health and welfare issues, particularly in relation to the Agent Orange controversy (only finally settled in 1994), 'welcome home' (a bush retreat memorial at Port Sorell was opened in 1990, and a welcome home convention was held in Launceston in 1996), and post-traumatic stress (Vietnam Veterans' Counselling Centres were established in the 1980s). The war also redefined the political consciousness of some younger Tasmanians, particularly on the left, with Neil Batt, the first leader of the moratorium campaign, a prominent representative.

Peter Henning