Your browser version is outdated. We recommend that you update your browser to the latest version.
Being born in May 1946 and therefore conceived in the last years of the Second World War I can claim to be an archetypal Baby Boomer. My parents were serving in the forces in 1945 and I probably began life during a mutual leave break.
A fellow BB (Peter Singer no less) writing in The Age on New Year’s Day this year produced a couple of columns of experiences, achievements and reflections. Here are some of mine.
We paid a great deal of tax during our working period and can lay claim to much of the country’s infrastructure or at least providing the deposit to borrow the funds to construct it. I had to remind a rather bumptious youngster the other day that he was attending my university: i.e. the one I paid for. We also provided the graduates to get things done and more than returned the largesse conferred on us by our Commonwealth Scholarships- free places really. 
We cost less money in the workforce than today’s equivalent if only by forgoing adequate superannuation and taking chances with occupational health and safety.
We supplemented our incomes, and made retirement more secure, by starting property booms and enthusiastically maintaining them.
We bred well. Today’s Gen x and Gen Y are the best educated socio-economic groups ever to be let loose on the country. To us education was the way out of the malaise of work that was not part of life. We pushed our children off to Uni and we insisted that our workplaces provided fulfilments apart from the pay cheque. 
Gen Y complain that their workplaces are too mechanically connected to the principle of all work, then more work and then and only then escape to a ‘social life’; often well away from work colleagues.
Our work places were more socially connected, we socialised with our workmates and we set standards to which younger workers might now aspire.
We gradually saw the country through the immigration mess left us by the White Australia Policy. Certainly the great bulk of immigrants who helped the country to its post-war status were European and contemporary with our parents but it was us who welcomed the Vietnamese and started to take pride in the multi-culture enjoyed by all today.
The workplace
We reduced the antagonistic gap between workers and white collar employees by eliminating the sham status of the ‘white collar’. Gradually the “Situations Vacant” and “Professional” distinctions disappeared from newspaper pages and employment began to be more value oriented. The lowly worker became better regarded and certainly graduated from the chimney-sweep status of pre-war.
We began the movements which have seen politics take more notice of the environment and social equality. Strenuous pub folk-singing, Woody Allen and Pete Seeger helped push us toward a more thoughtful appreciation of life, freer of the upward and downward pressures and the pre-set values of our parents. Socialist parties began to win elections and stay in power for rather longer than before. Interestingly the Liberal party of Robert Menzies and Malcolm Fraser became much more conservative under John Howard. This corresponded with a dilution of the baby boomer cohort in the voting population. How interesting!
Woman began to emerge as the equal of men with rather more status than mere ancillaries. Interestingly, equal pay is still not universal in Australia. Pretty disgusting.
National Service &Vietnam
Thousands of us were called up for National Service using a ballot system which would certainly not be tolerated today. As a result the population of Australia was more militarised during the seventies and eighties- when our training was still relevant-than ever before out of war time. Impossible to prove but this institution of discipline probably made the society of that time rather more oriented towards ‘getting on’ both financially and socially, which we did.
Vietnam was much more costly than inspection of the casualty lists would reveal. Many veterans have since died of illnesses undoubtedly brought on by the stress of service and exposure to harmful chemicals. In my own case of six friends and I called up locally, the only two still living did not serve in Vietnam. Ironically this considerable indent on our society at the time is now to be removed from school history curricula. “True to form” I can hear Vietnam veterans exclaim. They battled for years to gain proper recognition as governments of both persuasions cynically stalled until there were fewer of them to compensate.
The Environment
Our worst legacy is a damaged environment. We were not good at economising on natural resources. We drove Holdens and Falcons (in Australia anyway- worse in America) with big, unsophisticated motors and dreadful fuel economy. We built houses which are bad exemplars of energy conservation. We allowed our governments to expand cities horizontally, despite our European heritage of multi- story dwelling and consequent smaller area cities. This has cost a fortune in both money and resources and will go on doing so for as long as the cities last. We fuelled the throw-away society and will become known to archaeologists of the future as the ‘Tip’ generation. Plastics were our metier. Most of our used plastic is buried in land fill and so are the energy and the resources used to produce them.
Drugs, Alcohol and Fun
We really let fly during the 60s, or we thought we did. Compared to today’s palette our substances of abuse were pretty tame excluding LSD, and LSD use was very restricted. Flower-power lurched the western world into having more fun and taking itself less seriously. 
Things were never to be the same after the 60s and we were there.
JRT Jan 2011