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Nuclear Weapons in Australia & the Pacific


The development of nuclear weapons during and after WWII dramatically changed both the nature of warfare and public opinion about it.

Australia and the Pacific were some of the main sites used by nuclear powers to test these weapons. Resistance to nuclear testing has been a major feature of peace activism since the second half of the twentieth century.



Harry van Moorst: Opposition to the Vietnam War


The Vietnam War is one of the one of the most well-known conflicts in Australian history. Participation in or protest against the Vietnam War was a defining act for many Australians of the generation, and these have shaped many understandings of war, peace and protest for the generations since.

This exhibition gives a personal reflection by Harry van Moorst, as a student activist, on the struggles for peace during the Vietnam War in the form of the Moratorium and the draft resistance movements.



The World War I Anti-conscription movement


The First World War has been the focus of much discussion in  Australia's history. Many people have written that the war produced a national identity. World War 1 also saw the greatest public victory against militarism in the case of the 1916-17 Conscription Referenda.



The New Zealand Wars


The New Zealand Wars were a series of conflicts between Maori and the British colonial forces. The first armed battles occurred in the 1840s while the largest were a series of wars in the 1860s. The last major battles in the New Zealand wars were fought in the 1870s although active resistance by Maori to British rule and armed suppression of that resistance continued into the 20th century. Over the course of the wars around 3000 people died, more than 2000 of the Maori.

The underlying cause of most of the conflicts was the attempts of the British to acquire land from Maori either by purchase or confiscation. A common name for the wars for Maori is "Ngā Pākanga Whenua O Mua", or "the wars fought over the land many years ago". In some  instances hostilities were exacerbated by pre-existing tensions between rival Maori groups.

Although some ex-convicts and free settlers had been recruited into British armed forces previously, the New Zealand wars marked the first official involvement of the Australian colonies in armed warfare outside Australia.

  • Four mortars were designed and built in Sydney for use against Maori; these were soon followed by larger guns.
  • In 1860 the British 40th Regiment, garrisoned in Victoria was sent to New Zealand; local volunteer militia replaced them.
  • In 1863–64 around 2400 colonists volunteered for military service in New Zealand on the promise of land grants from the conquered territory.

Colonial Australians generally supported the New Zealand wars, mostly on a racial basis. Some people felt that the wars were being fought “the noble cause of European civilization”, others argued that regardless of the rights or wrongs of the conflict there was a duty to support “our fellow countrymen”. Opposition to send volunteers to fight was generally on the basis of the undesirability of losing valuable colonists from Australia, or the difficulty that military settlers would face in keeping and farming their promised land. A small number of people did voice public opposition to the war, and to the rights of Maori to control their own lands, including the “poet of Geelong” William Stitt Jenkins.