Project Title: “A whole new world”: Global connections and social movements in Australia’s Sixties

Principal Advisor: Associate Professor Chris Dixon

Project Abstract: This thesis discusses Australian social movements during the ‘long’ sixties through a transnational prism, exploring how the movement of people and ideas across borders was central to their growth and development. Through ‘globalising’ the study of Australia’s experience of that tumultuous decade, the thesis identifies a broadening of the radical imagination within movements as diverse as those for indigenous rights and the lifting of censorship to women’s liberation and ending the Vietnam War. It locates early global influences, like the Chinese revolution and increasing consciousness of struggles in South Africa and the American South, and how ideas from these or other overseas sources became central to the practice of Australian social movements. This was a process aided by the travel of activists, both by Australians overseas and vice versa. Australian activists went to a variety of destinations from China and Vietnam to Czechoslovakia or Algeria for just as many reasons—to protest, to experience or to bring back lessons—and their exploits were subject to a mix of fawning admiration and stern rejection. Those activists who travelled to Australia proved equally divisive, with many barred by a fearful government, and those who crossed the border seeking to mobilise local activists to their own ends. Through navigating these underexplored areas of its recent past, Australia is located as a peripheral yet engaged participant in what historians now call the ‘global sixties’.

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