Sat, Jul 2


Five things you may not know about Queensland's history

Freedom Then, Freedom Now has opened at State Library of Queensland, putting Queensland’s recent history in the spotlight. The exhibition was inspired by the 50th anniversary of the 1967 referendum – which saw Aboriginal people included in the census and allowed laws to be made for them – and takes this theme a step further by looking more broadly at personal freedoms. As you explore the exhibition, you will discover a number of interesting facts you may not have known about Queensland.

“Our challenge really was to tell a story about freedom in Queensland using our collection, while including the experiences of the 1967 referendum,” says Gavin Bannerman, Executive Manager of Queensland Memory at State Library of Queensland, on the process of delving into the library’s archives to create Freedom Then, Freedom Now.

“Queensland has been perceived, and perceives itself, as a little bit different,” he continues. “Climate, political power balances, immigration, government policy and economics have all shaped Queensland’s development. There has often been a feeling of opportunity. Things happened in Queensland that, for a range of reasons, probably couldn’t or wouldn’t have happened in other states.”

Based on this history, the exhibition features eight themes: vote and protest; dress; drink, smoke ‘n gamble; I do; too rude for Queensland; a home of your own; on the road, in the air; and vaccinate. Topics within these broad themes range from censorship of books and magazines to changing ideas of appropriate dress.

By comparing freedoms we no longer have with those we often take for granted, the exhibition is designed to make you reflect and then ask yourself what work still needs to be done. It does this by sharing facts you may or may not have known about Queensland’s history, including the following:

  • In the 1930s, men had to wear swimming costumes that covered their torso or face the possibility of being arrested.
  • Queensland was the first state in Australia to establish free hospital care in 1945.
  • Women were not allowed to drink in public bars in Queensland until 1970.
  • Until the early 1980s, some Indigenous Queenslanders had to seek government permission to marry.
  • Between the 1950s and 1980s, Queensland prohibited the sales of books and magazines that could be readily purchased in other Australian states, such as the American edition of Playboy.

Gavin admits that even he has learned a thing or two while piecing together the exhibition. “A small fact about the domestic house market fascinated me: that in the 1950s, around half of all houses in Australia were owner-built,” he says. “Think about the repercussions of that: how many people were spending their weekends, or any spare time they got, not just working on their house, but building it from the ground up?”


5 May to 1 October, 2017
State Library of Queensland
View exhibition showcase

Exhibition image courtesy of State Library of Queensland; photography by Josef Ruckli.