1995, 56 Minutes
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, this documentary explores the role Australia played in establishing the United Nations and reflects on the life and work of “Doc” Evatt, the only Australian to become President of the UN General Assembly.
In April 1945 San Francisco hosted a conference to design the United Nations Charter. For eight intense weeks the hundreds of delegates who attended had the future of the world in their hands...Among them was Herbert Vere Evatt, Australian Minister for External Affairs. Evatt was an idealist, an internationalist, a lawyer and politician. Already he had led Australia to develop a foreign policy independent of that pursued by Britain.
Known as the 'Doc', Herbert Vere Evatt was truly a founding father of the United Nations. His passionate advocacy of the rights and powers of smaller nations greatly influenced the way the UN would operate for decades to come. In 1948 he was made president of the UN General Assembly, becoming the only Australian ever to hold that office. During Evatt's term as President, the General Assembly adopted the Declaration of Human Rights, to which, as he predicted, people from all over the world have since turned for 'hope and guidance and inspiration'. The Declaration embodied many of Evatt's most cherished ideals. But the Presidency was a difficult role for a man who wished to chart an independent course in world affairs, when around him the world was freezing into two opposing blocs.
By the time Evatt's term as President expired, ideological differences were polarising Australian political life, much as they had disrupted the work of the UN. At home Evatt fought an attempt to ban the Communist Party. Against all odds he won, only to find his own party divided on the issue of Communism. He challenged ant-Communist groups in the Australian Labour Party, precipitating a split. The controversy surrounding his role in the bitter Labor politics of the 1950s has overshadowed Evatt's international achievements ever since.
Both loved and reviled, Evatt helped to shape not only Australian political life, but also that of the World's peak body, the United Nations. Fifty years after the UN's birth, 'Doc' is the story of his extraordinary power.
A Film Australia National Interest Program. Produced with the assistance of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Director: Pat Fiske
Writers: David McKnight, Pat Fiske
Running Time: 56 Minutes
Curriculum Links: Australian History - Herbert Evatt is included in the NSW HSC Modern History 'Personalities of the Twentieth Century' list; History of the Australian Labor Party; Politics; International Relations.