School of Arts

Nicholas Butler

CRCAH doctoral candidate

Challenges by youthful, anti-imperialist radicals to the conventional peace movement in Melbourne during the Vietnam years (working title)


Political discourse of the 1960s, dominated by the Vietnam War, had not yet assimilated the newer post-war demographics, technologies and social expectations. A patriotic social memory of WWII conditioned an ideology that permeated both pro and anti war organisation. However the old peace movement, largely pacifist, religious, bureaucratic and reformist, did not seem to fit the new realities.

Baby boomers, by then in their late teens, began to reject that dominant paradigm, especially regarding conscription. A reassessment of the "Peace" discourse was independently kick started by radical actions such as providing money for the NLF; for the "enemy." Independently, radical youth organisations sprang into life and their successful agitation made it increasingly an expression of normality to be sympathetic to the objectors, demonstrators and rebels. The older, "official" movement was revitalised and the result was massive support for the Moratorium Movement and for the political forces that ended Australian involvement in the early 1970s. This was a process in which Nicholas is happy to have played some part.

In studying the history of this decade (1965-75) Nicholas investigates the dialectical relationship between the political and social discourses in society. This offers a perspective that can be used to clarify some questions of motivation and causation in instances of historical change. Theorists of discourse such as Michel Foucault, Miguel Prerera, Stuart Hall and Antonio Gramsci will be used.

Nicholas holds a Master of Education Studies (FedUni), Bachelor of Arts (Victoria Uni), Diploma of Education (Hawthorn) and Diploma of Applied Physics (RMIT). He has spent many years teaching Physics, Mathematics, Linguistics (English Language) and History in secondary colleges. Nicholas' teaching has included the VCE Histories of Revolutions (Russia and China), 20th Century History, and the first year uni courses, WWII History and Australian History for Monash University.