The beginnings of the moratorium movement

Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo

Sandra Goldbloom Zurbo was born in 1943, and had been involved in peace activities since she was a very small child, thanks to her father Sam Goldbloom, a key figure in the peace movement in Melbourne after World War 2. She was deeply opposed to Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War from the beginning.



CICD had been long since established – '59 I think that was. The idea came up to call a general meeting of students and trade unions and clergy and, you know, everybody, anybody who wanted to come; peace groups... there were quite a lot - the Victorian Peace Council had quite a lot of local groups, some were sort of moribund, or most, and some were a bit more active than others. Often that depended on probably the charisma of you know, the person who held it together. So if, you know, somebody who was a boring old fart, then they probably started to fall apart. Anyway, there was there was maybe half a dozen was still active enough. Anyway, so a meeting was called. Think it was the Richmond Town Hall. That's where most of the big meetings were held. Lots of people showed up - lots and lots of people. And the idea for a moratorium took off from there.


So is that like the late '60s - '68, '69? Something like that?


Probably around '69? Maybe even '70? Because I think the first one was '71. 


May '70. 


May '70. OK so then it was '69. There was an enormous amount of excitement. There was an enormous amount of factional infighting. So the Comms were fighting the Trotskyists, the Trotskyists were fighting the Victorian Peace Council - I think the Victorian Peace Council by then had sort of dwindled away really, but what was left of the small suburban branches and a few country branches, they kind of affiliated with CICD. So you know, there was this... A lot of the tussle was between Rod Quinn, who was one of the Trotskyist groups, I can't remember which, Albert Langer and my dad. And they were the main, you know, arguments about you know, which way to proceed, who to support blah, blah, blah. So out of that, I became the person who coordinated and helped to generate new local groups. And we ended up with 20 of them –


Local moratorium committees. 


Yeah, yeah, they were moratorium committees, they weren't CICD groups, and they weren't Peace Council groups. Like I lived in Kew at the time, I had a brief period living in the suburbs. In the Kew group, there were women who I knew voted Liberal and stuff like that. I can't remember if each time there was a big meeting, people sent delegates ... they might have; I can't remember that. But that was pretty big deal. And mostly what people in the in the suburban groups did was they'd go to the shopping centres, invariably on a Saturday and sometimes you know, if there were enough people around or it was a busy day, they might go during the week, but definitely on Saturday. They'd hand out leaflets, they'd talk to people, they'd set up a little stall, they'd talk to people, they'd hand out leaflets, they'd invite people to come to meetings or, you know, whatever - things like that; they'd get speakers to come to local halls or to someone's house to talk about what was going on, what was being planned, you know, why it was important to do it. And so on.


CICD was the Council for International Cooperation and Disarmament. It was founded in 1959.

Rod Quinn was a member of the Vietnam Coordinating Committee.

Albert Langer was a student at Monash University, active in the Monash Labor Club and self-described as a “Maoist”


Jean McLean 



I guess, if anybody knows anything about the anti-conscription movement, they tend to know about the moratorium marches. Do you think they were effective?


Oh, incredibly so. Because – and the Victorian one was the most successful, in part because of Jim Cairns. Who was the deputy prime minister – he’s been written out of history. 




He’s been written out of history, you know? You never hear anyone talk about Jim Cairns. And yet, it was Jim who, in ’62, he spoke out against the war. The secret war in Laos. And, anyway, he was the chair of the moratorium. And so, you know, we had to do the work, because he was in Parliament. You know, but he’d come to address meetings. But he was a very important figurehead, because he spoke very, very well against war. 

So anyway, the moratorium movement in Melbourne – we started with a meeting of all the different groups. Save Our Sons, the Youth Campaign Against Conscription, all the different groups. We met in Richmond Town Hall. And we worked out programs, including – like, we used to go and – I was – Jim was the chair, I was deputy chair, Bernie Taft was another deputy chair. And Harry Van Moorst was – for one of them was the deputy chair. 

Anyway, we’d have meetings, and – we’d go and address people at – through working with the trade union movement – at all the factory doors. Sometimes we were allowed in the dining room, depending on the make-up of the factories. Others, we had to speak at the gates. But we did that. We went, you know, just hundreds of meetings. We went and distributed leaflets. We raised funds. 

So that by the time May the 8th turned up, there were just hundreds and hundreds of people. The police had been told – and I had a police spy, a brother of a friend who was in the police, and he said – like, he just told us that they’d been given instructions in the morning, that they’d have all the horses at the top of town, and they’d have all these police – so they’d break up the demonstration, they wouldn’t allow it to happen. 

And so we had a meeting at the Assembly Hall the morning of the demo, where we were going to get everybody to be marshals. They’d have a band. So everybody had to try and make sure there was no – nobody’d get out and start hitting. You know, bash them. 

Anyway, so then we came out of that meeting, and my friend said, “All the rules have been changed. We’ve now been told to make sure that the demonstration isn’t – you know, facilitate. Facilitate the demonstration.” Make sure that – no cars in the way when we march, you know, so the route from the gardens down, to march. 

Because what had happened was, everywhere you looked that morning, when we were going to the meeting, everywhere you looked, there were people with rolled up banners, there were people with T-shirts, there were – you could see that everyone was going to the demo. This is going to be huge. Couldn’t believe it. Schools! High schools! And they let the kids go, the – you know, the senior kids. All that sort of thing. And, yeah, it was just amazing. And that’s why it was so successful. Was not tweets, but physical meeting and talking. And I still believe that that’s the only real way to do things.