Australians Volume 3: Flappers to Vietnam 

Reviewed By  Janet Mawdesley       January 22, 2015


Author  Thomas Kenneally

Distributor:       Booktopia/Amazon 
ISBN:                 9781742374536
Publisher:         Allen & Unwin
Release Date:    


Taking on the job of writing the history of Australia is a mammoth task, because although we are a relatively ‘new ‘country as countries go, the past is as vast and vibrant as any which has been many more years in the making.

In Volume 3, from Keneally, he deals with the years from post-World War 1 to Vietnam, the social effects, the morals, the changes of society and the moulding of what has become modern Australia.

As you move across the pages you are easily able to understand the complex yet simplistic attitudes of the people who helped form the country, from Prime Minister William Morris ‘Billy’ Hughes to the turbulent years of Harold Holt and the war that was to divide the country, that of Vietnam.

From our vantage point some 100 years on some of the events which caused so much concern now seem to be slightly comical, such as the fear of the Japanese/Asian invasion of Australia, something which was greatly feared in the 1920’and ‘30’s seems immaterial now, but then was a great worry. The introduction of the War pension was achieved in the days after the First World War and many of the issues dealt with by soldiers returning from modern day warfare were as prevalent then as they are now.

The “Flapper” era issued in a new freedom for women and Aboriginal rights or rather lack of was a hotly debated topic in parliament.

Strict rules applied to the indigenous peoples and if they were broken dire penalties were handed out.  Famous artist Albert Namatjira spent time in gaol for breaking the alcohol ban and in 1938 William Cooper led a deputation to the Prime Minister to raise the issue of legislation relating to uniform Aboriginal rights.

The Advent of the Second World War saw Australia and Australian attitudes changing again as the influx of American Servicemen bought a new and exciting dimension into Australian girl’s lives and the effects of another horrific war was to usher in another era of young people who diligently, or so it seemed, set out to conquer a brave new world, their way, by openly defying the existing rules of society.

And so the years rolled along to the 1950’s an era where change did come to Australia yet again in all aspects.

The streets were becoming filled with Greeks, Italians and Slav’s in the post war migration scheme with the face of ‘white Australia’ being challenged time and time again. It was also the time when many in the country truly believed we would all perish in a nuclear war. Trouble with Russia and communism underlined this theory which moved into the ‘60’s. The testing of nuclear bombs at Maralinga and Bikini Atoll added to this theory.

And then along came Vietnam, the war that was to eventually divide Australia down the middle, bringing change to the country like never before.  The arrival of the Vietnamese boat people commenced the Asian drift and as they say the rest is history.

The history is colourful, robust, challenging and has all the many facets of the people who have written the history by their deeds and act over the decades, all going to make up the fabric that we as a young country, have become famous or some may say infamous for, over the times.

Not a work you can read in a hurry as it takes time to digest the contents as they are as amazing as they are astonishing. For those who have lived some of the many years in this volume it will bring back a time when life, looking back from a distance seemed to be less complex.

But ask yourself, was it really!