Queensland State Library’s freedom exhibit


The exhibit captures Queensland’s history of restrictions on freedom. Photo: Angus Kennedy

A new State Library of Queensland exhibition is looking at the history of Queensland censorship where civil liberties have been infringed by government.

The ‘Freedom Then, Freedom Now’ exhibition opened in May this year, and aims to capture the social and political history of freedom in Queensland.

Queensland State Library spokesperson Chrissi Theodosiou said  the exhibit aims to capture how the freedom of Queenslanders has been historically restricted.

“One of the defining things about Queensland’s social history is personal freedom and how it has been restricted in the past,” Mrs Theodosiou said.

A lot of the exhibit focusses on  Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s 19-year government, and the impacts that authoritarian policies had on the state’s development at the time.

In 1977, protests and freedom of assembly was outlawed. Photo: Angus Kennedy

The exhibit also covers the histories of measuring women’s beachwear, inter-racial marriage and bans on alcohol.

“XXXX is so iconic to Queensland, and this particular exhibit is about the importance of that when people were restricted,” Mrs Theodosiou said.

“There was a beer strike in the 1974 floods and people just went nuts. The whole of Brisbane was underwater and the main concern was “Where are we going to get beer?”

Other items in the exhibition include a banned copy of The Catcher in the Rye (censored in 1956), donated campaign material from the 1967 Referendum campaign, and the pink prison uniforms proposed by the Newman Government under the Vicious Lawless Association Disestablishment (VLAD) legislation.

“It was just such an embodiment of some of the craziness of Queensland politics and the way that we kind of decide what’s acceptable and what’s not acceptable,” Mrs Theodosiou said.

“And to have prisoners, and people who are actually in prison because of those VLAD laws wandering around in these bright pink uniforms – it sort of speaks to the nuttiness of all of it.

“It’s just sort of completely awful on one hand, but sort of weird and funny on the other all at the same time.”

‘Freedom Then, Freedom Now’ will remain open until the 1st of October, and is free to the public.

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