The following material was researched by Dr Nicole Moore on decisions made by the Commonwealth Literature Censorship Board from 1933 to 1967.
The Australian government by 2004 has tried to make monkeys of us all. See no evil, speak no evil, hear no evil, particularly if it is sex-related! Never mind the ultimate pornography of war and violence - after all men love both, don't they? (and sex of course, but don't let our religious institutions find out!)
Censorship in Australia has become a very big issue and one which most people may not actually be aware of because it doesn't seem to impinge on their daily lives.
It is only when one is directly affected that one becomes aware of how bad the situation is, and how much needs to be done to counter its effects.
Try writing letters to mainstream media. If you are lucky enough to get your letter published, check what you sent in and what actually gets printed.
Editors do actually protect the interests of their proprietors and the shareholders of the companies for which they work.
Of course censorship of one sort or another has been going on in Australia all the time. It is just that in 2004 it is going from bad to worse.
However, here is a newspaper article in its entirety from 1997, one year into the Howard government's "reign":
This article appeared in The Age, Melbourne, on 8 February 1997.
He picked up a boy who was shouting
and throttled him then and there
then garroted the girl behind him
(the one with the grotty hair)
Then, sword in hand, he hacked his way
between the chattering rows
"First come, first severed" he declared
"fingers, feet, or toes."
These verses are from a banned poem, The Lesson,by Roger McGough. Late last year, (1996) it was removed from the curriculum of Langwarrin Secondary College, in southeast Melbourne, after a student's parents complained about a character in the work, a teacher who strangles, shoots and hacks at pupils to make his class behave. The Victorian director of schools, Peter Allen, said he believed the poem was inappropriate for inclusion in a school curriculum.
So where were the protests? There were one or two. The celebrated Australian author David Malouf told a teachers' conference that writers and teachers should stop trying to be "social engineers or architects of the soul." The broadcaster Terry Lane, president of Victoria's Free Speech Committee, wrote to The Age saying the ban was the act of an illiterate numbskull. . . . Only a person who has had a triple whimsy bypass could take offence at this funny little poem."
What amazes Lane now is that there was "not a peep" of reaction to the ban from those who might be expected to show concern, including McGough's publisher, Penguin; teachers' unions; or writers' organisations. Did no one understand irony? Did no one care about this affront to free speech?
The lack of response is not unusual. What is unusual about the ban on The Lesson is that it has become public knowledge. The occasional restrictions that receive media coverage and involve Department of Education spokesmen are merely the tip of a secret iceberg in a very silent sea. Censorship of books for children and young adults goes on quietly all the time. Most of us don't get to hear about it.
GILLIAN RUBINSTEIN recently had a new book of short stories published. She is one of Australia's most popular and admired authors for children, and schools could be expected to snap up the publication for their libraries. But Rubinstein has heard that some schools are refusing to touch it.
The problem is the title: Witch Music. "This has been going on rather a lot", Rubinstein says. "There's a fundamentalist element that says anything with witches, demons, wizards - even bats, owls, frogs or toads - is somehow dangerous to children because it's connected to witchcraft. It's a strange trend and rather worrying."
Everybody involved in children's literature, it seems, has a similar story. Libby Gleeson says a fellow author visitng a school for a talk was greeted by a worried teacher who said: "Of course, you're not going to talk about witches."
In Queensland, where the fundamentalist influence is particularly strong, the Department of Education warns teachers that halloween and witches are unsuitable topics for theme work in primary schools "for religious and psychological reasons."
The "big three" reasons for challenging the availability of books to children used to be morality, profanity and obscenity (as defined by the challengers.) "Now the reason that is catching up ground big-time is the occult," says Ken Dillon, a lecturer in teacher librarianship at Charles Sturt University in New South Wales, who has researched censorship in Australian schools.
Fundamentalists are now challenging any book with a fantasy theme such as time travel (the Devil's method of getting around). By that definition, any fantasy or science-fiction book is satanist. "It sounds trivial, almost pathetic, but people who make these sorts of challenges are totally serious," Dillon says.
In some US states, where fundamentalist churches wield significant power, the crackdowns almost defy belief. Alvin Schrader, of the School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta, in Canada, claims that parents in Grand Saline, Texas, recently pressured a school into removing a picture of Santa Claus because the letters in Santa can also spell Satan.
Nobody knows the extent of censorship in Australian schools. "It's much more prevalent than most of us realise, and it's getting worse," says Dr June Factor, the Melbourne author of All Right Vegemite! and other books of children's rhymes.
Dr Factor is the second most frequently challenged author in Australian school libraries (top of the list is the American author Judy Blume), because she records the verses children chant in the playground, such as:
When Susie was a teenager
A teenager Susie was
She went, "Ooh, ah, lost my bra.
Found my knickers in my boyfriend's car."
HOW DO schools decide what their students should read? The Victorian Department of Education says principlas are being reminded to "completely review" their texts for 1997. Students "are not to be exposed to offensive or obscene material."
In practice, it is usually individual school principals and staff who decide what is "offensive" or "obscene." Parents, however, can wield influence through the school councils (elected community bodies with parents in the majority), which make decisions on school policy and are expected to take into account "local sensitivities."
It sounds democratic enough, But often only one complaint from one parent is sufficient for a book to be removed from a school curriculum or library. Staff are afraid of causing offence or trouble for the school and the community.
Until three years ago, most evidence for these practices was anecdotal. Then Ken Dillon and Claire Williams published Brought To Book, the first major survey of censorship involving teacher-librarians in Australia. More than half the teacher-librarians surveyed (56.5 per cent) reported attempts to censor materials in their school libraries in the previous five years. Most of the challenged materials (66.7 per cent) were removed, restricted or physically altered.
Fictional works were the main targets. The most common reasons given for offence were morality, obscenity and profanity (a total of 66.7 per cent), followed by witchcraft and occultism (15 per cent).
These are not the politically correct complaints the media is fond of sending up - the earnest lefties who want to ban Thomas the Tank Engine for being sexist, or Enid Blyton's golliwogs for being racist. Dillon believes politically correct complaints are rare and that the material people want removed from schools is generally inoffensive.
Most complaints in the survey (49.5 per cent) were from parents. But Dillon and Williams were disturbed to find that 43.8 per cent of challenges came from within the school - from principals, staff or teacher-librarians.
Dillon says that many teacher-librarians feel a responsibility to be moral guardians of the young, so censorship can take place when books are first chosen forthe library. Most of the time, authors don't even know when their books are censored in this way. Or they only get to hear about it by chance, long afterwards.
Libby Gleeson's first novel, the award-winning Eleanor, Elizabeth, was taken off the shelves at several Catholic schools because it contained the word "shit". "I felt very distressed about it," Gleeson says. "It makes you feel vulnerable because it undermines the whole purpose of what you do: to reach out to kids."
Nadia Wheatley says that after her controversial novel The Blooding came out, she was often approached at gatherings by teachers of English who said they loved the book, but wouldn't offer it to students because parents, or the principal, wouldn't approve. The Blooding, a novel dealing with forest consevation in which the 17-year-old narrator uses the F-word, is now on the VCE year 12 list. But, according to Brought To Book, it has been removed from some school libraries.
Authors agree that the most insidious danger of this censoriousness is that writers will begin to censor themselves subconsciously. "At times it's difficult to know whether you're taking material out because you're making an artisitc decision, or because you fear it will offend, or affect sales," says Libby Gleeson.
By and large, children don't buy books; sales are decided by parents, teachers and librarians. Ken Dillon says that authors' incomes depend on the book-club mailing lists that go out to schools. "Book clubs are extremely careful. A single swear word might mean a book doesn't go onto their list. You're putting pressure on the author to edit the word out."
Sometimes pressure means a book won't even be released. June Factor is still searching for a publisher for a proposed dictionary of children's vernacular. She had a contract with the religious publishers Collins Dove and has kept their advance, but the publishers pulled out after veiled threats of an embargo on their books.
Frank Priatel, sales and marketing manager for Collins Dove, says that the Catholic Education office in Queensland expressed disappointment with trial material for the book, and said it might reconsider future purchases of Collins Dove publications. "There were also some mutterings from state schools . . . . . some of the material was pretty raw stuff."
Dr Factor says the threats reveal an anxiety "that somehow the language of childhood shouldn't be made available to children."
Ancient Great-Grandmother, she's a hoot.
She calls me "Old Slipper," I call her "Old Boot."
When she says, "Why aren't you in bed yet?"
I always say, "Why aren't you dead yet?"
THIS VERSE, from Elizabeth Honey's Honey Sandwich, offended more than 100 people, many of whom care for the elderly. They wrote to Little Ark, the Allen & Unwin publishers, to ask that the book be withdrawn. Little Ark publisher, Rosalind Price decided not to withdraw the book or take out any offending poems. "I feel very strongly that Honey Sandwich is a warm-hearted, compassionate book and encourages a close, honest, collusive relationship between old and young people, where you can say the unsayable and it's all right," she says.
Compared with the US, Australia remains fairly liberal. Author Jenny Pausaker, who has pioneered writing about gay and lesbian characters for young readers, says too much discussion about censorship can encourage the practice. "I think this is a fantastic country to write about a whole lot of things - in America my books would be burnt in the streets."
However, she warns that the situation will worsen as teachers' lives become more hectic and they lack time to confront such problems.
A future area of contention could be the burgeoning young-adult market, aimed at the 15-to-20 age group. Nothing here, it seems, is sacred: for years, authors have been writing about incest, child abuse, drugs, suicide, and other grim themes, and winning awards.
But there are signs of a backlash. In a letter to Quadrant last year, Jill Ireland questioned a decision by the Children's Book Council to honor (sic) Sonia Hartnett's Sleeping Dogs, a novel about a family with aviolent father. Ireland claimed that "virtually the only positively presented feature is brother-sister incest," and attacked the "trend towards trendiness" that assumes only controversial books have merit.
Of course, it is one thing to debate the merits of a book and another to insist it be removed from school libraries. But constant criticism could create a climate in which guardians of the shelves feel a compulsion to become, in Malouf's phrase, "architects of the soul."
If enough school librarians avoid selecting a celebrated, but "difficult", book, then censorship will have won an important victory. And, once again, most of us will never know.
A novelist, Richard Flanagan, wrote an article, published in The Age newspaper on 8 September 2003, the title given to the article being "How the media and the powerful collude to silence other voices."
Flanagan details two acts of censorship which affected him recently. The first involved the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the second involved the leader of the Opposition in Federal Parliament, Simon Crean, as well as The Age newspaper.
In a letter of support for Richard Flanagan's report by Dr Prue Torney-Parlicki, honorary fellow, department of history, University of Melbourne, published by The Age on 9 September, she detailed how an article she was commissioned to write for the Federal Office for the Status of Women on the stolen generation was censored for publication because "the paragraph would have introduced a political note into a book that aimed to be non-political. I was also asked to place the words stolen generation in inverted commas."
A perfect example of censorship followed the article and the letter.
On 10 September The Age published a letter headed "Vicious and biased" by Stephen Spencer, media adviser to Simon Crean, Opposition leader in Federal Parliament.
Spencer stated, about Flanagan, "that a vicious and biased article he had written attacking former opposition leader Kim Beazley meant I did not have confidence he would be able to interview Mr Crean in a fair and impartial manner."
Breathtaking in its assertions without putting it to the test - prejudging -known as prejudice! - and censorship!
The following letter appeared in The Age, Melbourne, on 8 January 2004:
Australia is one of the few countries in the Western World that still bans film and literature. It is also ridiculous that many commonplace swear words are still bleeped out of songs on commercial radio.
Why are we denied the right to see art exhibitions, watch films and listen to uncut songs on the radio that hundreds of millions of Europeans and Latin Americans can enjoy? Our censorship laws are not only antiquated, they are insulting, for they assume that the average Australian is not responsible enough to choose his or her own entertainment, rather than have it chosen by some Soviet-style committee.
Ray Manley, Lara
To find out how the media manipulate issues, read the book by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky called MANUFACTURING CONSENT - The Political Economy of the Mass Media. The book was first published in 1988, but is even more relevant in 2003 as we find out how we are manipulated by the media into believing what our governments tell us and how our media support their stories - true or otherwise.
The exhibition covers the history of censorship between 1955 and 1982.
Complementing the exhibition was a series of forums in which various writers and thinkers discussed their take on the "sticky" business of censorship.
The exhibition runs until January 2005, and more information can be found on the exhibition web site:In The Realm Of The Censors
Date sent: Wed, 14 Apr 2004 23:47:06 +1000
Mannie De Saxe PO Box 1675 Preston South Vic 3072 Phone: (03) 9471 4878
Some years ago, while still living in Sydney, I went to a meeting called at the cinema at Paddington Town Hall to discuss censorship.
There had been some incident in which a film or book - I don't remember which - had been banned by the current Federal government.
We were asked to put our names on a list for contact purposes if we were interested in staying involved and taking the matter further.
I didn't hear from the organisation called by David Marr "Watch on Censorship" and at the time assumed that the whole thing had collapsed because of lack of interest.
Now I discover that people actually mention the organisation and assume that it does function in some manner or other.
I have started a web page on censorship and intend to enlarge it as much as possible to draw attention to the appalling deterioration of rights of adults in Australia to see, read and look at (in art galleries and elsewhere) whatever they want to.
Do you have a mailing list onto which I can be put, and is it possible for me to put a link to Watch on Censorship on my web page?
Hope to hear from you soon. Regards,
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
End of forwarded message - End of forwarded message
Kate Gilroy > Secretary > Watch on Censorship > ABN 75 916 290 263 >
Date sent: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 22:52:43 +1000
On Monday night 21 June 2004, David Marr, in his programme Media Watch, criticised those media contacted for a response by Media Watch for not responding.
Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? At a time when censorship in Australia is reaching crisis point because of the Howard government's conservative and narrow-minded perspective on just about everything, I would have thought that Watch on Censorship would welcome contact with people who were prepared to fight about the issues.
For instance, it seems as if the organisation that David Marr works for, the ABC, censored parts of Angels in America because it thought its viewers couldn't handle the sex scenes between two males. Nowhere does this seem to have been reported or commented on.
So, your silence is also censorship?
Mannie De Saxe
Forwarded message follows
firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: membership and
28 June 2004
Subject: membership and information
On 28/6/04 at 11:38 PM, josken_at_zip_com_au wrote:
Have just discovered that Watch on Censorship has an annual fee of $50, about which no one has bothered to inform me in my queries to you.
Well, now I know, and as a pensioner I will not be joining your organisation.
This really furthers the cause of censorship in Australia. Thank goodness there are other organisations on the net which do not charge for membership.
Mannie De Saxe
Forwarded message follows
email@example.com Subject: (Fwd) membership and
11 July 2004
Subject: (Fwd) membership and information
On 11 Jul 2004 at 20:05, Watch on Censorship wrote:
My apologies for not replying to you earlier. I have been overseas for work.
Watch on Censorship uses the annual fee to meet the legal obligations of maintaining its organisational structure including insurance and business registration. At this time Watch on Censorship does not have the infrastructure to enable it to maintain a large membership base.
The Committee is focussed on investing its voluntary efforts into fighting campaigns which might result in less retrictive censorship practices in Australia. In the last two weeks we have won two significant battles to maintain the R rating the OFLC originally granted "Irreversible" and "Anatomy of Hell".
Our website can be found at watchoncensorship.
I'm afraid it could be a lot more dynamic, but again we are hindered by a lack of time. You are welcome to link to it however.
We do not maintain a mailing list ourselves. EFA do, and you can sign up for it at
Electronic Frontiers Australia
regards, Kate Gilroy, Secretary, Watch on Censorship
Thanks for responding to my email - I really began to think that Watch on Censorship did not really exist outside a web site! I do understand why you have to have membership fees - it is just that as a pensioner on a limited income, it becomes a problem.
I am on the EFA mailing list and have been getting some very interesting items from them. Is it in order for me to make a link on my Censorship web page to your web site? Thanks again for giving me some long-awaited feedback.
As a South African who came to Australia in 1978 from one of the last century's more repressive regimes, where censorship was particularly bad, I am particularly sensitive to the issue. John Howard and his government are trying to send us back to the 19th century, and we have to fight them all the way!
Regards and best wishes, Mannie De Saxe
How's this for a good example of censorship? On 18 August 2004, Ken sent the letter below to Bnews and to MCV, both Melbourne based gay papers.
MCV didn't publish the letter at all, and Bnews published such a small portion of it on 26 August as to render it almost without meaning.
This is grossly insulting to the intelligence of its readers and its letter-writers.
Bnews published the first two paragraphs and left out the final three.
Why publish any of it if you don't allow enough to make the points the letter-writer wished to make?
Letters Editor, Bnews,
Level 1, 251 Swan Street, Richmond Vic 3121.
Wednesday, 18 August 2004.
From: Kendall Lovett, 2/12 Murphy Grove, Preston Vic. 3072.
Tel: (03 9471 4878) E-mail: josken_at_zipworld_com_au
Thank you Nicola Roxon and Mark Latham for your weak-kneed support of human rights –rights you and your ALP mates equate exclusively with heterosexuality.
Are you telling me that my same-sex love relationship of eleven years is less than human? You are certainly making sure that I and everybody else understands that my partner and I can never qualify as equal to a man/woman relationship.
You are making a mockery of all the anti-discrimination legislation that has been passed in this ‘clever country’ of Australia. You have put my male siblings who have married female partners in the unenviable position of discriminating against me, their brother.
There’s an odd chance that your favourite son, or later your grandson, may turn out to be gay. What will you say to him? In 2004 you made sure his love didn’t rate as equal to that of his hetero brother or hetero sister?
Maybe it could be your daughter, or later your granddaughter, who turns out to be a lesbian. What will you tell her?
Signed: Kendall Lovett, Preston.
The letter below was sent to Australia Talks Back on 19 August 2004, and read out on the programme on 20 August 2004.
Mannie De Saxe PO Box 1675 Preston South Vic 3072 Phone:(03) 9471 4878 email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au web: http://www.zipworld.com.au/~josken
Should Internet Porn Be Restricted?
Dear Sandy and the ATB team,
Censorship in Australia has reached new levels since 1996, and is increasing daily, with most of the population not being aware of what is happening to them. Should internet porn be restricted? Of course not! try restricting it and, just as with all forms of censorship, people will find ways of circumventing it.
What is porn? Everone has a different definition, but my interpretation is the violence with which we are confronted and bombarded on a daily level by new bulletins, films, videos and video games, and these are what parents should be trying to stop their children from seeing. 16 and 17 year olds being called children? What a joke!
Sex is what it is all about and it is the fundamentalist religious right which is behind it all. Violence doesn't worry them - they instigate it anyway with homophobia, sexism, racism - its all there! ISPs should not be forced to block so-called hard core pornography - it is not their responsibility and it is just another attempt at censorship.
Mannie De Saxe
We found a very interesting article in the Business secion of The Age newspaper in Melbourne on Tuesday 28 September 2004. The source of the article is not stated, so we are unable to quote it, but here is the article in full:
Google accused of bowing to Chinese censors
"NEW YORK. Google, the internet business that made its mantra "do no evil", is accused of pandering to attempts by the Chinese Government to censor certain websites. Many hoped the recent launch of Google's news service in China would aid openness, but online censorship monitor Dynamic Internet Technology found that search requests from computers linked to the internet in China were heavily edited. Dynamic chief executive Bill Xia believes Google has chosen not to take on the Government while it establishes a presence. "Users expect Google to return anything on the internet; that's what a search engine does," he said. "The Chinese people need to know there are alternative opinions from the Chinese Government and there are many things being covered up." Being accused of aiding censorship is a blow to Google's image as a new-style company that hopes to show that businesses not motivated solely by profit can still succeed. While Google admits its Chinese service does omit results from banned sites, it says this is to make its search engine efficient. If it displayed the banned results, users would click on a link that does not work."
A report in The Age, Melbourne, on 4 November 2004 by the Education Editor, Shane Green, is headlined "Editing smacks of censorship, says children's author"
The report states, "Changes to a children's classic about a hippopotamus that eats cake are set to reopen the debate over whether parents should smack their children.
Melbourne author Hazel Edwards yesterday (3 November) said she had been asked by her publisher, Penguin, to change the line 'Daddy gave me a smack' to 'Daddy growled at me' in her book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake.
Edwards wrote to The Age expressing her concern over the suggested change, linking it to the push to have governments ban the smacking of children.
'While I do not support child abuse, I do not want to change the text because many of the million child readers know the book word for word,' she writes.
She added that, despite her view, she would 'probably bow to political pressure.'
Edwards said that Penguin, which is republishing five books in the cake-eating hippo series next year, had been 'quite reasonable about the issue but she believed it needed to be aired. 'I suppose what I'm having a go at is the hypocrisy of saying you can't even mention a smack, which is not necessarily child abuse,' Edwards said, arguing the change was 'going overboard.'
Edwards likened her situation to that of English children's author Enid Blyton, whose golliwogs were deemed racist.
In Edwards' book, the child gets a smack because 'I drew on daddy's best book'
It is not the first time that the issue has been raised with the author. She recalled being asked by a Canadian radio interviewer several years ago whether all Australian authors supported child abuse. Other critics suggested that the hippopotamus should eat something healthier than cake. Edwards described them as 'nutritional Nazis'.
Penguin yesterday defended its position, with children's book publisher Laura Harris arguing that views about discipline had changed.
'It's naive to believe that the ideas of child discipline have not altered in society's view in 25 years,' she said. 'I don't think it's about censorship. I think it's acknowledging that decisions on discipline are up to parents and individual households. Those choices are made according to what's appropriate within these households . . . We didn't believe that keeping that line reflected the idea of choices that parents and guardians of children have to make.'
Ms Harris said she was not suggesting that smacking was 'a terrible thing or child abuse'. But there had been a social change and we 'wanted to allow those differences of discipline to be seen.'
Ms Harris said Penguin made suggestions to authors and thought the matter with Edwards had been resolved. 'This is the first I've heard that she was that concerned about it,' she said."
There the matter has not rested or ended. Hazel Edwards also wrote a letter which apeared in the letters columns of The Age on the same day, and the following day there were responses in the letters columns.
Here is Hazel Edwards's letter to The Age of 4 November 2004, headed "Thou shalt not . . .":
Yesterday morning's ABC radio news (3/11) carried an item about the British Parliament that also has local implications: the child protection lobby in Britain wants smacking of children to be banned by parliamentary law.
As the author of the 25-year-old children's classic picture book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, I've recently been asked to remove "Daddy gave me a smack" in the next Penguin edition and replace it with "Daddy growled at me".
While I do not support child abuse, I do not want to change the text because many of the million child readers know the book word for word - but I will probably bow to political pressure.
What do readers think?
Hazel Edwards, Blackburn South
Once one starts on the slippery slopes of censorship of children's books, there is no knowing where it will all end. In South Africa, during the apartheid years, (1948-1990) the censors, who were ignorant of English literature and children's classics, banned Black Beauty, because, as the title suggested, the book was about a black woman who was beautiful!! After the public outrage and outcry, even in the South African police state, the censors backed down, and, no doubt, were given a copy of the book to read and look at!
But just think about the implications of censoring children's books - Struwwelpeter by Heinrich Hoffman, Alice in Wonderland, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Peter Pan, Treasure Island, books by Charles Dickens and other writers of children's classics of a bygone age, to say nothing of more recent books, and where will it all end up? Maybe, in the latest christian climate in which our government and that of the United States operate, the powers that be will censor the Bible - now there's a thought!!! Imagine removing passages of stoning to death, cutting off hands and other gory and gruesome details to be found in the hallowed pages of that fascinating woman-hating, man-written book! The permutations and combinations will be fascinating! As it is, selctively choosing passages to justify their homophonbia, the rabid religious right delights in misquoting from their Book of Books!
Here is a poem I found at the end of a children's book of delightful stories - I don't know who wrote it:
Grandma tumbled down the drain,
couldn't scramble out again.
Now she's floating down the sewer,
and there's one grandma the fewer!
Now THAT would put a few ideas into children's heads, wouldn't it?
The day after the article and letter about and by Hazel Edwards concerning the proposed censorship of her book There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake by the publishers, Penguin, four letters were published in The Age newspaper in Melbourne on 5 November 2004. Those letters are reprinted here in full because of their relevance:
LETTER 1: Don't mess with hippopotamuses
While Hazel Edwards has been asked to make a seemingly minor change in her book, There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake (The Age, 4/11), she highlights a worrying trend in censorship of children's books.
"Daddy gave me a smack" in this context (a fanciful story) is unlikely to be taken to heart by a child, but if that child is in an abusive situation, he or she just might be able to name their problem because they have been given the language to express it.
Our society is reeling from the effects of older generations who are just now disclosing the sexual abuse suffered during childhood precisely because it was a problem that wasn't talked about in nice company.
A number of authours for older readers, such as John Marsden, have encountered censorship when their themes run to mental illness, suicide and other taboos. Their readers devour their books, hungry for subject matter that engages them.
We can't protect our children from everything, but let's at least allow them the tools to express themselves. Censorship is not the answer.
Linda O'Connor, Northcote
LETTER2: Stand your ground
The issue of smacking is central to Hazel Edwards' story. It is the poignancy of the event, and the little girl's response to it, that makes the story what it is. Someone who crawls into their shell or suffers the pain of loneliness and rejection because their father "growls at them" would not be a worthy heroine.
As someone who experienced considerable violence as a child, I object to the issue being hidden away. Issues such as these make far too few appearances in the mainstream. The publisher has got this one wrong, and Hazel Edwards should think hard before caving in.
Ben Wheaton, Hampton
LETTER 3: How bizarre!
Oh Hazel, how bizarre! Don't change a word of this beautiful book! My five-year-old daughter loves There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake, the passage mentioned causes her no concern, and having had the experience of two smacks in her time, knows these in no way diminish the love her parents feel for her.
As a parent of three children I know about love, and I know how difficult asserting discipline in the right mix can be. If a parent cannot understand the difference between creating boundaries and abusing their children, then altering your lovely book will in no way help or change them.
Merrin Healy, Thornbury
LETTER 4: Overreaction
Smacking a child for drawing on a book is certainly an over-reaction, but why can't we explain this to our children as we read it - "Gosh, that's a bit harsh, isn't it?" - and move on? This is what is wonderful about reading to our children; being able to talk over issues along the way.
Books should be fun, entertaining, thought-provoking and allow us room to use our imaginations. Hazel Edwards achieved this 25 years ago; there's no need to change things now.
Suzette Hosken, Canterbury
And a further letter from The Age on 8 November 2004, which HAS to be included!:
Hazel Edwards (4/11) asks what do readers think of a Daddy Hippopotamus being described by his child as having given the child a smack.
Well, everybody who is anybody knows that Daddy Hippos do certainly smack young Hippos that get onto the roof and eat cake. It is Mummy Hippos that growl in such situations.
Any self-respecting Peguin of whatever age shold know that. Perhaps Penguins need to return the children's book publishing to Puffins, who would not tolerate such subtle censorship.
So, Hazel Edwards, don't let yourself be bullied by Politically Correct Penguins.
Robert Gunter, Red Hill
The Sydney artist has now rallied some troops and retaliated with Checkpoint, a huge installation of her stencil graffiti work at Mori Gallery. Her army of soldiers has multiplied to 100, not only filling the large gallery but also sprawling onto the footpath outside.
The installation of these wooden cut-out soldiers forms a kind of labyrinth, forcing viewers to tentatively navigate their way through the dense minefiled of towering work.
Dressed in army gear and gripping rifles, the cut-outs are also tagged with the text "checkpoints for weapons of mass distraction." Begg has traded the standard camouflage greens of the soldier's uniforms for a psychedelic selection of fluorescent spray paint.
Since her run-in with the law, Begg has become something of a poster girl for political art. What started out as a simple work with something to say has ended up triggering a range of more complex dialogues about censorship and the relationship between politics and art.
In addition to her work in Checkpoint, Begg has recruited more than 100 artists and activists in the fight against censorship. An open call invited interested people to contribute their own A3-size political placard to the show. The extensive line-up of participants includes Australian artistic big guns such as Susan Norrie and Tony Schwensen, as well as a diverse sampling of emerging artists and hard-core activists.
The works run uniformly along the walls of the gallery in a single row like a united front of picketers. But their political and aesthetic territory is incredibly varied.
Some placards push no-nonsense messages; many use humour to launch their ideas. One cut-and-paste-style poster has the endearing slogan "Shoot Hoops Not People." Another reveals a black-and-white photo of protesters holding a placard reading "Fight Plaque not Iraq."
Elsewhere there is a delicate drawing of a grinning John Howard wearing an "I Love NY" badge and a Time magazine cover with George Bush painted up like a sad clown. Even Magnum, P.I. star Tom Selleck makes an appearance on a poster with the text "Time for Love.""
CHECKPOINT has been on show in Sydney's Mori Gallery at 168 Day Street from Wednesday to Saturday, 11am to 6pm until 12 Febraury 2005. For more information phone (02)9283 2903
All contributions to the paper require the editors to exercise judgement. The cartoon that ran last Saturday was modified after discussion with the contributing cartoonist. This is not an unusual occurence (sic). Editors edit the paper.
Andrew Jaspan/Robert Whitehead
By now you may be wondering what this is all about, particularly if you don't watch Australian television and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) in particular.
The ABC has a weekly, much needed programme called "Media Watch", and this year, 2005, the presenter is Liz Jackson.
A segment of the first Media Watch programme for 2005 was
Here is what she reported:
A political cartoon Michael Leunig (a long time cartoonist for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald) submitted to The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald, ten days ago elcited a noteworthy response.
Vox pop:"Should politicians be tortured to make them tell the truth"
...it's me again. I forgot to mention the bit about bestial acts. Well... when we've got them on the nude pyramid, we should make them simulate bestial acts too.
Fiona, a psychologist from Carlton, featured as well:
I'm all for it. It wouldn't make them tell the truth, nothing would, but it would be nice to torture them just for the pleasure of it.
Leunig had been inspired by the stories of that week, Mamdouh Habib and political dissembling about interrogation in Iraq.
But Age editor, Andrew Jaspan told Leunig his cartoon wouldn't be run in The Age or Sydney Morning Herald because it was "in bad taste."
The papers were particularly concerned about the word "bestial", but Leunig believes there was more to it than that:
My belief is that the word "bestial' was deemed offensive because it was in the context of the Howard-Downer-Ruddock nude pyramid, which makes it feel like an attempt at political censorship, rather than a simple matter of taste.
There was a flurry of emails and phone calls.
The papers used an old Leunig whimsy to fill the hole, while the cartoonist reworked his torture cartoon. Leunig removed the "bestial acts", but included a pointed rebuke to the media.
When we've got them on the nude human pyramid, we should throw some nude media people on the heap too, and watch what they all get up to0 (sic). It could be fascinating.
Leunig told us he thought it was better that the cartoon ran altered, than not at all, but was disappointed that it ran late.
It belonged to that week, and delaying it made it less potent and less timely... the role of the cartoonist is to say out loud what people everywhere are whispering...
Wendy, designer, Sydney:
I can just see it: Howard, Downer and Ruddock, all naked and stacked on top of each other. How wonderfully revolting. The trouble is they'd probably love it.
Leunig's uncensored cartoon, which was NOT published:
And here is what the Fairfax press published on 5 March 2005:
BROUGHT TO BOOK by Ken Dillon and Claire Williams (Port Melbourne: ALIA Thorpe 93)
Index on Censorship Journal
MANUFACTURING CONSENT - The political economy of the mass media by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky 1988 - Vintage 1994
PUBLISH AND BE DAMNED - by Hugh Cudlipp - Andrew Dakers Ltd 1953
SNATCHED - SEX AND CENSORSHIP IN AUSTRALIA - by Helen Vnuk - Vintage 2003
WHAT THE CENSOR SAW by John Trevelyan - Michael Joseph 1973
LESBIAN & GAY SOLIDARITY PAGE
Mannie De Saxe also has a personal web site, which may be found by clicking on the link: RED JOS: HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISM
MannieBlog (from 1 August 2003 to 31 December 2005)
Activist Kicks Backs - Blognow archive re-housed - 2005-2009
RED JOS BLOGSPOT (from January 2009 onwards)
This page updated 20 OCTOBER 2014 and again on 9 NOVEMBER 2016