Humanitarianism from the suburbs: Australian refugee relief and activism during the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War

Journal article


Stevens, Rachel. (2019) Humanitarianism from the suburbs: Australian refugee relief and activism during the 1971 Bangladeshi Liberation War. Australian Journal of Politics and History. 65(4), pp. 566 - 583. https://doi.org/10.1111/ajph.12622
AuthorsStevens, Rachel
Abstract

The Bangladesh Liberation War against West Pakistan in 1971 triggered an exodus of ten million refugees, the deaths of approximately 1.5 million people and widespread destruction of villages, crops and infrastructure. Preoccupied with the Cold War and domestic politics, powerful nations such as the US and UK did not intervene directly and reluctantly provided aid. The Australian government, for its part, was particularly slow to offer aid, trailing efforts of New Zealand and most Western European governments. While the McMahon administration remained indifferent, Australians from diverse backgrounds engaged with this conflict by raising public awareness, fundraising and lobbying the Australian government to increase its aid contribution to Bangladeshis displaced by war. At a time when Australian government policies focused on the war in Indo‐China, Cold War politics and development in south‐east Asia and the south Pacific, I consider the ways Australian individuals offered aid to Asian, non‐Christian refugees, some of whom held Maoist views. Using archival materials, historical newspapers and census data, this article argues that, paradoxically, it was individuals with little political capital who spearheaded Australian efforts to aid Bangladeshi refugees. In short, the Bangladesh Liberation War provoked a groundswell of suburban activism that acted independently of government policies.

Year2019
JournalAustralian Journal of Politics and History
Journal citation65 (4), pp. 566 - 583
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
ISSN0004-9522
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1111/ajph.12622
Page range566 - 583
Research GroupInstitute for Humanities and Social Sciences
Publisher's version
File Access Level
Controlled
Place of publicationAustralia
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