Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       September 17, 2021


Author  Mirranda Burton

Distributor:      Allen & Unwin Children's
ISBN:                 9781760631475
Publisher:         A&U Children's
Release Date:   August 2021  

Website:    https://www.allenandunwin.com 

Marsupial Outlaws and Other Rebels of Australia’s War in Vietnam

Graphic novels are a fascinating way of getting a story across to a wide range of readers, as the ‘comic book’ style stretches across generations, the skill of the author paramount in both word and picture. Underground from Mirranda Burton has taken a slice of Australian history, seldom discussed or even remembered, but a slice of history that like so much of the social movement in the 1960’s and ‘70’s in Australia, had a long and lasting effect on the future of women and activism today.

Jean McLean, Save Our Sons convener and much more, artists Clifton and Marlene Pugh, Viet Vet turned conscious objector Bill Cantwell, Mai Ho, the first woman major of Maribyrnong, stories all come together to reflect back on a time in Australia when life was very different, when young men were conscripted to serve in a War that Australia had not need to become involved with, that of Vietnam.

But how does a wombat called Hooper Algernon Pugh, who became a conscious objector, get drafted to go to war, requested to turn up for his medical, is a story that highlights the strange times so many lived through, as young men’s lives were disrupted in a cause not of their own, to serve in a country far from home, in a war that was as senseless as it eventually proved to be, when the Americans eventually packed their Armies up, leaving Vietnam for good their legacy a country devastated by war, a people in poverty and the root cause, still remaining unsolved today.

Released in time to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the Moratorium Marches, Mirranda Burton has captured in her carefully constructed and telling style, presented in black and white, the story behind the protests that formed the later years of Australia’s involvement in Vietnam.

That these very diverse people, from vastly differing walks of life have stories that come together many years later is more than co-incidence, it is the final word needed to tell a story which, a bit like Hopper the wombat, who discovered digging tunnels was his true a calling in life and that to be underground was the place he was destined to be, has been buried deep.

Hooper’s enrollment in the Vietnam War in 1972 and his failure to turn up when called piqued Burtons curiosity. She started an investigation into Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War which has led to her creating this telling slice of Australian history for a new generation of people, all of whom need to remember and understand the history of Australia in the years when social justice was but a fledgling thing.