Social Movements In Australia

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A social movement can be loosely defined as a group in society united by a common belief or goal, and lacking distinct organisational structure . The broad nature of this definition aligns with the nature of social movements themselves, as a social movement can lend itself to a wide array of issues. Some of these gather momentum and manage to influence the political sphere of the time, and others seemingly do not get off the ground. Australia has indeed seen its fair share of social movements. In this essay, I will be discussing and comparing three social movements; environmentalism, anti war/peace movement and Indigenous rights, and measuring their success, commenting on their relevance to present day society.

One of the most successful social movements Australia has seen in its young history is the environmental movement, which also termed ‘environmentalism’. Despite having a presence as early as the 1800s , environmentalism, along with a host of other post materialist issues, gained significant momentum in the late 60s and early 70s . Since then, environmental activists have fought on a number of fronts, and in this essay I will focus on the ‘green bans’ of the 1970s.

The ‘green bans’ is a name given to the period (1971 – 1975) where workers from the New South Wales Builders Labourers’ Federation removed themselves from environmentally unsound projects . The context of this activism is perhaps what makes it such an important stage in the course of environmentalism in Australia. At the time, Sydney, as well as the other major Australian cities, was going through an era of rapid industrialisation and this posed significant threat to environmental landmarks and the habitat surrounding them. This caused concern amongst resident...

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...g, London, England, 2001, p. 215

J Healey, p. 10

Ibid, p. 15

P Findlay, ‘The Communist Role in The Anti-Vietnam and Anti-Conscription Movement’, Protest Politics and Psychological Warfare, Hawthorn Press, Melbourne, Australia, 1968

‘Moratoriums and Opposition’, Department of Veteran Affairs, Australian Government, 2014, viewed 11 May 2014

’80 Days that changed our lives: Thousands in moratorium campaign to oppose the Vietnam war’, ABC, 2014, viewed 11 May 2014

Department of Veteran Affairs, 2014


P Boyle, ‘Why huge protests failed to stop the Iraq war’, Green Left Weekly, 2013, Viewed 14 May 2014

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