An Australian Song Cycle

Scored for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano

Words and Music: Lorraine Milne
Copyright © 1997

The lyrics

1. Young woman born in time of peace
And into the Love Generation.
It was a time to raise your voice
And shout for all liberation.
This Paradise,
Land of the Free,
Floating south of the South China sea.

2. Australian boy went off to fight
Somebody else's war.
With aching heart she asked herself,
"What are we fighting for?"
Birthday ballot,
Numbers on a ball,
Women left to cope with the madness of it all.

3. Caught in between him over there
And here - the protest outspoken.
They sent him home without his legs,
A body so young and so broken.
Marbles in a barrel,
Lottery of lives,
Feel the pain of women - mothers, lovers, wives.

4. In time she left that broken boy
Whose life was changed in Vietnam.
She found it hard to reconcile
The reason for his going.
Time heals they say,
It's a diff'rent day,
But she knows her life will never be as carefree again.

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The story

Birthday Ballot looks at conscription and the Vietnam war from the point of view of a young woman.

“…the National Service Scheme was introduced by the Menzies Government in November 1964. Popular belief holds that the scheme was conceived specifically for Vietnam. Although untrue, the close timing of its introduction and Australia’s growing commitment to the war made it seem so to many people.

Under the National Service Scheme, twenty-year-old men were required to register with the Department of Labour and National Service (DLNS), they were then subject to a ballot which, if their birth date was drawn, meant the possibility of two years of continuous full-time service in the regular army, followed by three years part-time service in the Army Reserve. As part of their duty, national servicemen on full-time duty were liable for ‘special overseas service’ including combat duties in Vietnam…

The ballot resembled a lottery draw, even to the extent, in the case of the final five ballots, of being fully televised. Numbered marbles representing birthdates were chosen randomly from a barrel…”

Extract used by kind permission of the Department of Veteran Affairs