Almanac Literary – ‘Moratorium’ Scene 3: Extract and conscription deferral.




Following the interest shown firstly with Glen’s article on the fiftieth anniversary of the moratorium and also the extract of the play I had written about the march and conscription, I decided to submit part of the final scene. It gives an indication of lives changed forty years after conscription and the Vietnam. I have also written about  my own relief at not being drafted into the Army.


In my previous article I mentioned I had worked in the Army Department at Albert Park Barracks from 1966-1969. I wasn’t called up for National Service but I worked alongside people who were, and of course I had a lot of mates my age who did have their birthday marble drawn out of the barrel.


1966 was the year of the Saints. The people I worked with were mainly locals and mad Saints’ supporters so the celebrations rolled on that year and into the next year. I had my own celebration after missing out on being drafted.


If someone had tapped me on the shoulder then and told me that my Bulldogs were due to win their second premiership, but it might take fifty years, I wouldn’t know whether to laugh or cry.


The conscription deferral notice that arrived in the mail for me as a nineteen year-old could have been renamed the Freedom Notice. It was better than finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket.


Instead of saying you are not required to report for National Service training it could have been worded quite differently. To use a military expression, it was a case of ‘ as you were soldier’.


  • You will continue to live in your share-house with your disreputable mates.
  • Parties will be held throughout the week and your weekend festivities will commence as usual on Thursdays.
  • Any friend who has been called up in the Army and is on leave will be welcomed any time day or night at the share-house along with his Army buddies.
  • There will be no need to study and improve your qualifications because there is plenty of unskilled clerical jobs for you in the Public Service.


Please note that these freedom -ticket requirements will expire on 2nd December 1972. A new Labor Government will be installed after 23 years in the wilderness.  The enlightened Prime Minister will provide the financial means for you to attend university if you so desire. You are expected to be married with one child by then, as well as attending night-school preparing for tertiary education.


This freedom-ticket is valid in all States. It will be useful when you have a brain-fade in three years time and leave your secure employment to travel around Australia.


I recently googled the Melbourne moratorium march of 1970 to get the exact date. It was May 7th. I clicked on an ABC report from someone who was right in the middle of the crowd of marchers. I can recommend it to anyone who is interested to see who were actually marching at that time or even just to see the 1970 Melbourne streetscape. There were brief interviews with students, workers and middle-aged mums and dads. There was a sense of wanting to be involved to stop the war with their ‘ NIXON IS A KILLER’ signs, but also a feeling ‘of what do we do next’. It was a diverse crowd which seemed excited, but a bit bewildered being part of this historical event in Melbourne.


Back to my one-act play called Moratorium. For those who came in late, Scene 1 introduced the three characters who met on the eve of the first moratorium march. Margo, the Monash University Arts student, was trying to convince her two 19 year old friends to attend the march. Colin, who was studying environmental- science at Melbourne University, was not going to march and was prepared to be enlisted in the Army if he was conscripted.


Garry eventually agreed to march with Margo  ‘just to go to the booze-up afterwards’ . The laid-back musician and barman had made up his mind to go on the run if he was called up.


He became politically aware while in hiding and became an activist in the anti-war movement.


Scene 2  one year later involved Colin in uniform back at Margo’s place ready to fly out to Vietnam the following day. Margo was still deciding if she would be part of the second moratorium march. Garry had fled to one of the mining towns in Western Australia after he was called up for National Service.


Scene 3 is set forty years later at a funeral-service in Melbourne for Garry.







  1. Forty years after the first moratorium, a funeral service for GARRY is being held at a Salvation Army hall in Melbourne. The first person to approach the lectern is GARRY’S nephew TRAVIS BAKER.



TRAVIS:  I’d like to welcome everyone here to celebrate the life of my uncle. They say I am very

much like my uncle when he was my age. I don’t think I possessed half the qualities he

had, so perhaps I just looked like him. Forty years ago he was part of the conscription

process during the Vietnam War. I had to google conscription to find out all about it.

Aunty Margo was a student at the time so she filled in the gaps about my uncle and his

mates registering for National Service. It sounds like something that would happen

under a dictatorship, or a third-world country. But it was government policy in

Australia during the 1960s and ’70s to conscript 20-year-olds.

You have to remember that the voting age was 21 back then so people like my uncle

could not vote out a government that wanted to send them to war. Aunty Margo was

part of the first moratorium march to protest against the war and conscription.

Moratorium. I’m not sure what it means either, but I do know marches around the

capital cities in Australia made people stop and think about the atrocity of that war and

hopefully helped to bring a quicker end to it.



So Uncle Garry and his friends had their lives disrupted just as they were starting

their careers, or for some of the lucky ones, enrolling at university. All the more

amazing that Garry was able to return to study when it was all over and gain

qualifications in medicine that took him all around the world.



Well that’s probably enough from me just at the moment. I would like to ask Garry’s old

school-friend who was also called up for National Service in 1970 to tell us a bit more

about Garry’s career. A career that didn’t look very likely when they were teenagers.

If you think you recognise Colin’s face, you may have seen him on TV arguing with

Tony Abbott about climate-change. Professor Colin Taylor is famous as one of the men

who proved the existence of the hole in the ozone layer.  His team at Melbourne

University published their findings in 1985 proving we were indeed destroying the

earth’s atmosphere by burning coal and sending other pollutants into the air.

So Professor, or as I like to call him, Uncle Colin, would you like to say a few words

about your friend Garry (round of applause)



COLIN: (at the lectern) Than you Travis. We were all shocked to hear Garry had passed away.

I used to think he was bullet-proof when we were younger. But when you think about the

type of work he did for the last twenty years, it’s a miracle he lasted this long. Most of

that time he worked along side his beloved Sandra in the makeshift hospital tents in

places like Syria, tending to the thousands of displaced persons. Like me, Garry was

called up for National Service.


As a conscientious-objector, he avoided being drafted into the Army.

Margo helped him to hide out in her parent’s holiday home when he

returned from Western Australia. It was probably Margo’s influence that made Garry

more politically aware including attending the first moratorium march, but he was a

changed man from that time and became a prominent anti-war campaigner.

Garry wanted to do something firstly for those civilians in Vietnam and Cambodia who were

the real victims of that senseless war. He was the brave one because he took a stand

against conscription and the war. Someone who swam against the tide of conservative

opinion compared to someone like me. I meekly signed on because that is what was

expected of me by my family. I also naively believed it was my duty to do so.



History has shown us that the most courageous men question bad laws and do

something about it. Jim Cairns who led the moratorium was one such man. Garry

knew he couldn’t change those laws so he dedicated most of his working life to

helping the families who were victims of those bad laws. He joined Doctors Without

Borders. He then succumbed to one of those diseases that he was there to treat. As you

know he is buried at a town on the Syrian border along side Sandra. I expected Garry to

return to Australia after Sandra was killed, but I’m sure he felt there was a lot of

unfinished business over there. Knowing Garry, I suppose it was most unlikely he was

ever going to return to suburban life in Melbourne again. I’m told his name will be

added to the memorial for Doctor Sandra McMillan erected by the Doctors Without

Borders team.



At the time of the time of the first moratorium, Garry, Margo and myself met at Margo’s

parents place uncertain about our future. But Margo at least needn’t have worried. She has

been a high-school principal for many years and has been recognised for her work in

some of the most disadvantaged schools in Melbourne. I became a weather-man as Garry

called me. And Garry, well he just thrived after the conscription debacle. He worked

firstly with Ambulance Victoria studying part-time, then with Sandra’s support he went on

to complete a medical degree.





Scene 3 ends with Colin and Margo talking about old times including the many ‘ sliding doors’ moments that occurred along the way. Margo and Colin were never married to each other but their families remained close over the years. Margo’s sister married Garry’s brother and their son was Travis who was the first speaker at Garry’s funeral service.




 Neil Anderson’s conscription deferral.



Read an extract from Scene 1 of the Moratorium HERE


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About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.


  1. Colin Ritchie says

    Certainly were interesting times Neil. Good luck with the play, do you plan to stage it?

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Colin. I have entered the play in a competition but because it wasn’t in the top three selected, it was not performed. The feedback from the judges was positive and it must have only just missed out. It was a Queensland competition so it may have been seen as a bit too Melbourne-centric. I had a play performed 8 years ago following an entry that I thought wasn’t nearly as good. It was set in Brisbane about the Queensland floods of 2011 so that might have been why.
    I recently joined a local theatre-group in Terang and they might be interested in performing Moratorium. It is a one-act play of about 40 minutes so it is suitable for community theatre.

  3. Sounds good Neil.

    I notice Terang trots were on TV, Sunday night.

    Would there be a dining room or something on track where the play could be performed? I don’t know if i’d make it to Terang but it would be good watching it on Youtube, or something simila,r to give it a good airing.

    All the best,


  4. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks Glen. Funny you should mention Terang. The theatre-group I belong to is based at the Commercial Hotel in Terang. The pub was taken over a couple of years ago by a bloke interested in the ‘yarts’. He has made the place into a hub (another one) which features a lot of local artists and more recently to put on plays using local actors. I got the call up from the group to use one of my plays. We were 3 weeks into rehearsals and they had to pull the plug because of Covid.
    I will approach the pub’s owner to put on Moratorium. I think he might be interested because he is on the right side of politics…which is left.

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