Graeme is on mission for peace
AT 67, Graeme Dunstan is a grey nomad on a mission.
Not for him the lazy, meandering lifestyle. He travels the country tirelessly campaigning for an end to conflict, a cessation of Australian aggression in distant lands.
His home for the past 13 years has been a battered camper van, or Peacebus, and it now sits in the backyard of a house in Park Ave from where the former officer in training will co-ordinate the protests against July's Talisman-Sabre war games at Shoalwater Bay. Graeme has been preaching his mantra of non-violent direct action against war for more than 45 years, and judging by his youthful enthusiasm for the task, will continue to do so for years to come.
He joined the military straight from school and in his first year at the Royal Military College in Duntroon in 1961 was Australia's top cadet.
In his third year he dropped out, disillusioned and questioning the preparation for involvement in Vietnam.
“There were a lot of things about the army I loved – the physicality, the camaraderie, the weapons.
“But the more questions I asked the more sidelined I became,” he said.
Switching to civilian university, studying engineering, he became radicalised by the counter-culture backlash against the war in Vietnam and conscription.
The passion he felt then, he still feels, convinced that Australia's unstinting loyalty to America and willingness to toss away Australian lives thousands of kilometres away, is wrong.
Unlike some who will join the protest in Rockhampton, Yeppoon and Shoalwater Bay this winter, Graeme is not anti-army.
“I would like Australia to have an independent defence force dedicated to our protection. But Talisman Sabre is not about defending Australia, it's about blind allegiance to the USA.
“America sees the ADF as its puppet and this exercise as training for aggressive invasion, not defence.
“I'm opposed to our troops working for the US empire,” he said.
He will be fighting back by organising “beautiful and joyous” events which will include a peace parade in Yeppoon coinciding with the start of the joint military exercise.
“Who knows what the consequences of my campaigning will be. If I can make one person question what's happening then the effort will be worthwhile,” he said.
And to those who believe that anti-war protests are disrespectful to the Anzac tradition and those who have fought in Australian uniform, he argues the opposite is true.
“My mother's father was killed in France in World War One, leaving his wife to raise four children in poverty.
“When the forces returned there was a massive peace movement, driven by those who had served. They said it must never happen again. It was supposed to have been the war to end all wars.”