book cover Red Haze
by Leon Davidson

Picture book | 154 pp | Years 5-8

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[ Developing values | Overview | Author profile | Useful websites | Focus questions]

Developing values

  • Each of us is part of a country that has a past, present and future.
  • Our present is built on the events of the past.
  • Our lives are influenced by the times and places we live in.
  • Our personal experiences can become central to our sense of identity.
  • Human behaviour changes in times of danger and stress.
  • Each of us has the right to our own opinion and to be able to express it.
  • Freedom of speech is one of the foundations of democracy.
  • Change can be slow and is often based on compromise.
  • Recall of events is dependent on our place within them and connection to them.
  • Not everything we read or view is the complete truth and we need to evaluate sources for accuracy, bias, currency and completeness.


Forty years ago, for the first time in history, ordinary families were directly confronted with the horrors of war even though they might not have had any relatives involved. As the new technology of television became common in family homes, the events of the Vietnam War could be seen daily as part of the evening news bulletin - suddenly the war was in everyone's lounge room.

In previous conflicts in which Australians were involved, the news came through newspaper articles, photographs and movie newsreels and it was often weeks old. Because of Australia's isolation, people viewed these news items in a detached way and, by and large, went about their daily lives, perhaps inconvenienced but not confronted.

Many of those who returned from the war, did not talk about what they had seen and done - to do so would recall horrors best forgotten.

But now, with the flick of a switch, they could see the conflict and carnage, the destruction and death and the war became real again. In this context, war was no longer perceived as an exciting adventure where young men could prove their manhood, and throughout the USA, Australia and New Zealand there was a huge groundswell of protest that divided families, communities and nations.

In Red Haze, author Leon Davidson examines the causes and the combatants of the war and the key events of 1959-1975 which tore nations apart, both on the battlefield and at home.

Author profile

Leon Davidson was born and raised in Christchurch, New Zealand.

He moved to Australia for six years, living and working in Melbourne before returning to his native country. Leon has worked as a dishwasher, a house painter, in a call centre, and in a chicken factory.

Red Haze is Leon Davidson's second book. His first, Scarecrow Army, was published in 2006.

Although Leon has always had an interest in war, it was not until he was exposed to Australia's interest in Gallipoli that he started to investigate New Zealand's part in that conflict. His childhood dreams of becoming a soldier have now changed and he is actively opposed to armed conflict.

Useful websites

Researching Australian Military Service: Vietnam War

Vietnam War 1962-1973

Vietnam 30 Years On

Roll of Honour

Australian War Memorial Kids HQ

Department of Veterans' Affairs

ANZAC Day Commemorative Committee of Queensland

Australians at War

Digger History

Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia

Vietnam War Songs

Focus questions

Before reading the book

  • What is the meaning and significance of the title?
  • The subtitle is 'Australians and New Zealanders in Vietnam'. Why were they there?
  • How does the picture on the cover indicate what the book might be about?
  • Who was involved in the war?
  • Where is Vietnam?
  • How was Vietnam politically different forty years ago?
  • What is the significance of the 17th Parallel?
  • Why do we go to war?
  • Should the decision be left entirely to the government of the day, regardless of public opinion?
  • Why might the USA have become involved in a conflict so far from their shores?
  • Why did New Zealand and Australia get involved in a conflict in a country that most people had, in those times, never even heard of?
  • Who should be sent to fight in wars?
  • What responsibilities do we have towards those who fight for our country?

During and after reading the book

  • What were the key issues which faced the ANZAC troops in Vietnam?
  • What did Harold Holt mean when he said, 'All the way with LBJ'?
  • What were the key issues that spawned the peace movement of the 60s and early 70s?
  • What is the meaning of this statement in the blurb?:
  • To find the Vietcong, a country was torn apart. In questioning why they were there, Australia and New Zealand almost tore themselves apart.
  • How were the Vietnam veterans treated when they returned to Australia?
  • Was this fair? Why?
  • How do governments influence our attitudes?
  • How do people influence government attitudes?
  • How has war, and the Vietnam War particularly, shaped our national identity?

© Curriculum Corporation 2006