In October 1968, John Zarb, a Pascoe Vale postman, was gaoled (in Pentridge) for two years for ''failing to obey the call-up''. Zarb objected to a particular war (Vietnam). He was the first conscientious objector (under the National Service Act) to be gaoled in a civilian prison.
Over subsequent months Adrian Desailly and Ken Mansell ventured into the darkness to paint the town with ‘Free Zarb’ signs. Their luck eventually ran out and they were caught decorating a railway bridge (Urquhart Street, Northcote, March 1, 1969). Overnight accommodation in a stinking Northcote police cell was complemented by a free trip to the Bluestone Hotel in Coburg for cruel haircuts and a ‘roughing-up’.
The following Saturday morning activists from The Bakery (Greville Street Prahran) and CDA (57 Palmerston Street Carlton) converged on the bridge in Urquhart Street. Adelaide poet Robert Tillett rushed forward and added the three missing letters to the incomplete ‘Free Z....’ Tillett copped a three-month gaol sentence for his trouble (one month for every letter). A mass meeting of Monash students donated $100 to his defence.
Desailly and Mansell were fined $200 each and the Magistrate, A.H. Pfeifer (SM), questioned their sanity. Raiding parties set out from The Bakery in the wee hours to paint the Magistrate’s footpath and fence in Murrumbeena.
Postscript: A special thank you to the ASIO scribe for the word-for-word transcription of Mansell’s cryptic phone conversations with Desailly (between 57 Palmerston Street and the Melbourne suburb of MacLeod).