University of Melbourne Archives

‘I saw it on the television’: An early call for diversity in the media

Victoria Perin

‘Capital A Art as it is conventionally understood is at best only a minor contributor to the development of cultural values, about as important as fashion and interior design, in other words not very important at all. The real generator of cultural values in Australia has been the trade union movement and, since the Second World War, increasingly the media…

‘I have always felt that if you were going to get into a dogfight it may as well be with the pit bulls of the union movement rather than the poodles and chihuahuas of the art world.’ Ian Millis, co-founder of the Art and Working Life Program [1]

Looking at a pile of Australian political posters from this Victorian Trades Hall collection, one poster stands out for its freshness, its immediacy, and its obvious sophistication. Tugging it out of the heap, I look at the corner to see the text I am already half-expecting: ‘…ART AND WORKING LIFE PROGRAM’. Continue reading “‘I saw it on the television’: An early call for diversity in the media”

‘White Australia has a Black History’ NAIDOC week poster, 1987

Eliza O’Donnell

‘White Australia has a Black History, 1987;, National NAIDOC Poster, 2006-0038-00031
‘White Australia has a Black History, 1987;, National NAIDOC Poster, Trades Hall Council Collection, 2006-0038-00031. Published under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. Available online:

Mandandanji descendant and Queensland based multidisciplinary artist, Laurie Nilsen (1953) designed the poster ‘White Australia has a Black History’ for the National Aboriginal and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week poster competition in 1987. The coloured ink and paper based two-dimensional object (44.5 cm x 63cm) functions as the primary tool for promoting NAIDOC Week activities around Australia in 1987. The design features a rolled paper scroll against a black background, with a large snake forming a silhouette of Australia and an assemblage of indigenous people and motifs spread throughout the composition, with red and blue printed text below. Nilsen has used a palette of warm and natural earthy tones of ochre, red and black to represent Indigenous figures and iconography including a stockman riding a horse in front of Uluru; a man wearing a dhari (traditional dancer’s headdress); rock paintings; a mother and son watching a tall ship; a soldier in a trench and a portrait of rugby player Mark Ella, recipient of Young Australian of the Year in 1982. The text ‘White Australia has a Black History’ is a slogan that alludes to Australia’s long-standing reluctance to meaningfully acknowledge Aboriginal people and perspective in the telling of a national history and was the theme when Perth hosted NAIDOC week in 1987 (Pearson 2016). Continue reading “‘White Australia has a Black History’ NAIDOC week poster, 1987”

‘Koorie Boogaja’ 1971

Beth Marsden

‘This is our land and we are proud of it. After all, you white fellows weren’t the first to discover Australia—we were here first.’ Charlie Carter[1]

This poster shows a map of Australia produced by the Aborigines Advancement League in 1971. Entitled ‘Koorie Boogaja’, this eloquent graphic illustration shows Aboriginal tribal boundaries traced across the Australian continent, with a key provided to locate each tribe. Measuring 60 x 70 cm, the sub-heading ‘School Project’ shows the aim of this poster was to encourage students to develop and build an awareness of the history and complexity of Aboriginal Australia and the creator of the map—the Aborigines Advancement League— is written at the base. Continue reading “‘Koorie Boogaja’ 1971”

The Trades Hall Poster collection

Initially compiled by George Seelaf, the inaugural Arts Officer of Victorian Trades Hall Council, this collection of political posters was donated to the University of Melbourne Archives by Trades Hall secretary Brian Boyd in 2006 (2006.0038). In addition to the union campaign posters and various papers, photographs and audio recordings, the collection comprises political and activist art produced by broader organisations sympathetic to the labour movement. Five posters in particular address the theme of Aboriginal self-determination and identity, and were produced by the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League, Melbourne; National Aboriginal and Islanders Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC), Canberra; Community Media Association (later CoMedia), Adelaide; the Australian Film Institute, Melbourne; and Winja Ulupna: Aboriginal Women’s Alcohol Recovery House, Melbourne. Created and  distributed for a range of audiences, each item responds to a different aspect of the Indigenous activist movement in Australia. Spanning a period of 20 years from the early 1970s, they capture the growing intersection of Aboriginal Australian political activism and resistance with the labour movement by the early 1990s. The digitisation of these posters will increase accessibility to the collection while also developing new links between the visual culture of paper-based political posters and contemporary online political activism in the labour and Indigenous rights movements. Continue reading “The Trades Hall Poster collection”

Aunt Mavis’ Basket Maker: Germaine Greer’s CUNT index cards

Carly Pettiona

The Germaine Greer Archive offers insight into the thoughts, correspondences, writing and planning processes of one of the most controversial and well-known feminists of the 20th century. This archive includes a collection of index cards she made while writing and editing The Female Eunuch. Nestled in the collection, between index cards that contain notes about references and commentary on history, there are two cards simply labelled CUNT (Items: 2014.0039.0351 and 2014.0039.0358). Both are dated 1968 and have been digitised as part of the curation of the Germaine Greer archive undertaken by the University, and you can learn more about the index cards from Rachel Buchanan’s University of Melbourne Archives blog post.

Still from YouTube video: Germaine Greer on the Etymology of "the C word".. BabyradfemTV, 2016
Still from YouTube video:, Germaine Greer on the Etymology of “the C word”.. BabyradfemTV, 2016:

Continue reading “Aunt Mavis’ Basket Maker: Germaine Greer’s CUNT index cards”

First industry steps for those who feed us

Argyris Karavis

The formation of the Master Caterers Association (MCA) is connected to two major shifts in Australian social life at the turn of twentieth century Australia. The first is a boom in public venues for the consumption of food – restaurants, refreshment rooms, cafes and oyster saloons – in Melbourne and Sydney between 1890 and 1910[1]. The second is the emergence of organised national industrial relations[2].  The minutes from the first two years of the Master Caterers Association reveal how the owners of those businesses who feed us had to grapple with setting up an employer body to represent this newly emerging industry and the issues to be addressed for participation in the newly established industrial relations system. Continue reading “First industry steps for those who feed us”

“Fraser meets digger”

Pauline Georgelin

"Fraser meets digger", unknown paper, 1966
“Fraser meets digger”, unknown paper, 1966. Una Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2008.0058 unit 2

This photo “Fraser meets digger” differs from most of the scrapbook clippings in that it has no date, nor is it pasted into the scrapbook. Dating from a later period, it is simply “popped in” as though Una was going through a busy time. Perhaps she thought she would return to it later. Continue reading ““Fraser meets digger””

“Bread & Butter issues” in the 1955 Wannon election: Malcolm Fraser and the Labor split

Timo Eckhardt

Two articles relating to the 1955 election
Two articles relating to the 1955 election. Una Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2008.0058 unit 2

The Australian federal elections held on the December 10 1955 marked an important change in Australian politics that would endure for the next 23 years. The Labor party split into the Herbert Evatt Labor Party and the Robert Joshua Labor Party (Anti-Communist, and later called the Democratic Labor Party) This split dramatically divided votes for Labor politics and therefore rewarded a surging Liberal Party. Additionally this election marks the entry of John Malcolm Fraser into federal parliament and the start of a political trajectory that leads him to become one of the most iconic figures in Australian politics. Continue reading ““Bread & Butter issues” in the 1955 Wannon election: Malcolm Fraser and the Labor split”

Fraser’s Political Football

Adam Eldridge-Imamura 

Letter from Malcolm Fraser to the Editor of The Sun newspaper, 6 June 1954
Letter from Malcolm Fraser to the Editor of The Sun newspaper, 6 June 1954. Una Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2008.0058 unit 2

In a draft letter dated 6 June 1954 to the Melbourne newspaper The Sun News Pictorial, Fraser disputes an article that was published on its front page on 3 June 1954 that he did not play local football for “political reasons”. Continue reading “Fraser’s Political Football”

‘Dear Householder’

Anton Donohoe-Marques

Electorate letter from Malcolm Fraser, 14 April, 1954
Electorate letter from Malcolm Fraser, 14 April, 1954. Una Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2008.0058 unit 2

‘Dear Householder,’ begins this intriguing letter from former Liberal Party Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser’s first political campaign for the electorate of Wannon, in 1954. The signature, indelibly marked in blue pen at bottom of the letter, evokes an image of a young and passionate Fraser sitting at his desk, hand aching, signing letters repeatedly to be delivered around the electorate of Wannon. This personalised style of political engagement is a far cry from present-day political leaflet drops, printed by the thousands and deposited in letterboxes by crews of political canvassers. The bespoke nature of the letter is also emphasised by the typed text, sometimes wonky and yet carefully formatted, which hints at the typist, perhaps Fraser himself or a friend or a relative, working tirelessly over a typewriter to produce copy after copy for the campaign.

The document itself comes from one of Una’s carefully compiled scrapbooks. In the latter years of her life Una attended lectures at Melbourne University, taking a strong interest in history and art history. Given her love of the historical landscape then, it is unsurprising that she understood the value of archived documents for future generations of historians and history students (as well as any other potentially interested parties). In this context, the letter, along with the other ephemera contained within these scrapbooks, are imbued with a duality that straddles the line between private and public. They illustrate a mother’s pride and care for her son’s achievements, as well as an understanding of the historical value of archival artefacts.

Historically, I was intrigued by this particular letter which embodies the idealism that drove Fraser in his early political life. Notorious for his role as caretaker prime minister following the Whitlam dismissal, at this period Fraser was an unknown quantity in the Australian political sphere. This letter to the ‘Householder’ begins however to demonstrate Fraser’s passion for the political philosophy of liberalism, fostered during his time at Oxford University, from where he had graduated two years earlier.1

The issues Fraser identifies bear a distinctly individualist and egalitarian tone. He implores his readers that “a country should be described as great if the individual happiness of every citizen is the first thought of its leaders.”2 He further advises the importance of this notion for the future of the country in his statement that Australians love their nation “not only a place where we are free and can work happily for our own prosperity but also as a place that holds a wonderful future for our children.”3 Fraser’s emphasis on egalitarianism and self-determination is consistent both with his own rural upbringing and with the ‘bushman ethos’ identified by Russell Ward as a foundational part of the Australian national character. This ‘bushman ethos’ describes a distinctly Australian national character marked by irreverence, egalitarianism and a rugged style of masculine individualism.4 In the context of Fraser’s eventual rise to the highest office in Australian politics, this early example of engagement with his voting bloc is a modest illustration of the values and rhetoric that would come to define his political career.

Anton’s thesis examines the changing shape of remembrance practices that centre upon the Second World War in Australia. It examines how these practices have shifted in response to political and cultural changes in Australian society over a number of contexts.

1 Philip Ayres, Malcolm Fraser: a biography (William Heinemann Australia, 1987), 53.

2 Malcolm Fraser, “Letter to Wannon Constituents,” Letter, April 14, 1954, Una Fraser collection, University of Melbourne Archives, 2008.0058 unit 2.

3 Ibid.

4 Russel Ward, The Australian Legend (Oxford University Press, 1965), 2.

Number of posts found: 115