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When ASIO Watched the Housewife
5 October, 2021 at 4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
The 1950s in Melbourne began with the newly-elected Menzies Government’s campaign to ban the Communist Party of Australia, feeding into and sustaining growing anti-communist rhetoric in the post-war nation. Fears of communist infiltration coloured the actions of the Australian peace movement, with public commentators and political figures condemning the movement as a communist fifth column intent on destroying Australian society. To protect the nation from this apparent threat, ASIO began to surveil many peace activists and the organisation built substantial files through extensive monitoring of peace activists’ movements. However, for most peace activists, they were loyal Australians committed to campaigning for peace and ensuring Australian people were protected from the threats of the Cold War world. This presentation will explore why ASIO viewed people who wanted peace as a threat to national security and how peace activists in Melbourne, in turn, responded to ASIO surveillance and navigated public perceptions of themselves as national enemies.
Hannah Viney, is a historian and PhD candidate at Monash University, researching Australian women’s anti-nuclear activism from 1945 to the 1970s. Hannah’s research interests are in women’s political history, and how Australian women engaged in the tumultuous political climate of the Cold War. Hannah is also particularly fascinated by expressions of women’s political interests in the decades before the Second Wave feminist movement publicly challenged gender expectations in the 1970s.