Recollections of student activists donated to La Trobe University archives

La Trobe University has been gifted an intriguing piece of student history – in a collection of audio recordings – to preserve for future generations.

Ten former La Trobe students have shared their recollections of marches protesting the American war in Vietnam with oral historian and alumnus Dr Barry York OAM.

Barry donated the collection of audio interviews to the University’s Archives. The self-funded project documents the experiences of student protesters, and marked the 50th anniversary of the marches last year.

The Waterdale Road marches in September 1970 became infamous due to police violence against students who claimed a 'victory for free speech'.

Interviewees include Denis O'Donnell, who was jailed as a draft resister, and also Peter Cochrane, a La Trobe history alumnus who went on to co-win the Prime Minister's Award for History in 2007.

"The marches are historically significant – the first and only time that police drew guns on protesters during the Vietnam solidarity period. The brutality was shocking but the students refused to be cowed. There’s a lesson there about standing up for democratic rights," Barry says.

“The interviews provided an opportunity for recollection and subjective reflection while allowing each of the interviewees to explain how and why they joined the militant campus left."

Barry York is an experienced oral history interviewer who was awarded the Order of Australia for his work in 2005.

If you would like to discuss making a donation to La Trobe University’s Archives, please get in touch with the Archives team on