Title

Mateship and the Australian Vietnam veteran

Date of Award

2010

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Faculty

Faculty of Education and Arts

First Advisor

Chris Griffin

Abstract

There is an increasing body of literature on Australia’ s participation in the Vietnam War. Many of the books are written by veterans themselves, and some include chapters or sections on the special bonds of mateship experienced between Vietnam veterans. Today Australia continues to send military personnel to overseas countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor, Solomon Islands, and more recently Tonga. In particular the conflict and the continued presence of Australian servicemen and women in Iraq brings renewed discussion about the Vietnam War and comparisons with what many see as the Australian Government interfering where it ought not. Vietnam veterans are once again reminded of how they came home to a country that did not approve their role, a government which didn’ t seem to care, and families that could see they had changed, but didn’ t understand or know how to help.

This thesis examines and explores the nature of mateship and, in a wider context, friendship among Australian Vietnam veterans. The subjects are all male Vietnam veterans whose ages range from the early fifties to over seventy; all of whom served at least one tour of duty in the war. They are a small percentage of the almost 50,000 strong force sent to Vietnam. A small but important body of literature such as Minefields and Miniskirts (McHugh, 1993), Tears on my Pillow: Australian Nurses in Vietnam (Biedermann, 2004) and Angels in Vietnam Women Who Served (Homung, 2002) on women’ s roles in (and after) Vietnam and their friendships is excluded from this thesis, though this is certainly a topic all on its own. There is something quintessentially male about mateship, this thesis therefore will be reviewing friendship, mateship, and the Vietnam War from a strictly male perspective.

The research methods used in this study are diverse. The study reviewed the work of philosophers, historians, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists on friendship generally and mateship, more specifically. Formal and informal interviews were then conducted with Vietnam veterans themselves, a small number of whom were invited to complete a questionnaire. In addition I observed and participated directly in veteran celebrations - such as Anzac Day and Vietnam Veteran’ s Day (formerly Long Tan Day). F inally I have sought to view mateship in this case in its proper context, within the history of the Vietnam War itself.

LCSH Subject Headings

Edith Cowan University. Faculty of Education and Arts -- Dissertations

Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Veterans -- Australia

Male friendship -- Australia

Mateship (Australia)

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