The Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, and the Liberalisation of Film Censorship in Australia

The Federal Minister for Customs and Excise, Don Chipp, introduced the ‘R’ certificate for films in Australia in 1971. As is well known, Chipp’s decision was a key landmark in Australia’s shift from the paternalism and secrecy that had characterised censorship in the post-war period, to a more open and liberal regime.[1] This paper is an examination, based on archival material and interviews with key figures, of the crucial role played by the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals in this development.

As cultural organizations largely dependent upon the importation of films, the Melbourne and Sydney Film Festivals had long recognized that their relationship with the Australian censors was of fundamental importance. In their early days, this relationship consisted of an informal agreement with the censors, giving the Festivals exemption from the usual delays, in order to allow them to quickly import and screen films. This understanding was partly justified on the basis that the Festivals were aimed at a small and specialized audience of educated and thus ‘sophisticated’ film enthusiasts.[2]

However, despite this streamlining of the administrative procedures, there was no sense in which festival films were exempt from the censorship requirements then in place in Australia. Not only were films subject to strict censorship regulations, but the deliberations and decisions of the Censorship board were largely kept from the public view  - and the fact that a film had been censored was almost never advertised. This secrecy meant that the Australian public at this time were, on the whole, very poorly informed about the degree of censorship that existed, and how the system functioned.[3]

In this period, the Australian film censorship system was made into a public issue by the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals. In a campaign spearheaded by David Stratton – who had become its Director at the end of 1965 – it was the Sydney Film Festival that first drew the attention of the broader Australian public to this issue.[4] Prior to Stratton’s presence, the issue of censorship was widely seen within the Sydney Festival’s administration as a necessary inconvenience rather than a challenge to civil liberties or artistic integrity.[5] However, Stratton held a strong personal view that films shown by film societies should be exempt from censorship policies – and that films should always be shown in the form intended by their creator.[6]

The trigger for Stratton’s concern with film censorship in Australia was the censoring of erotic scenes from the Japanese film (and winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes in 1964) Woman of the Dunes (1964), at the 1965 Sydney Film Festival. Following this, Stratton persuaded the organising committee to establish a Censorship Sub-committee. This committee had a dual role: to deal with administrative and legal matters connected to censorship (such as liaising with the government Censorship Board), and, more significantly, to begin a public campaign aimed at persuading the government to change the laws.[7]

This public campaign began with a letter sent to The Bulletin (published on 21 August 1965), which complained about the censorship of Woman of the Dunes.[8] In response to this letter, the Commonwealth Chief Censor held a press screening, at which footage censored from recent festival films was shown. The Sydney Festival then wrote a further letter, which was published by The Australian on 25 August 1965. This letter stated that:

We deplore the attitude of the Commonwealth Film Censor when he recently screened to journalists a compilation of selected sequences cut from films – sequences which, taken out of their context, undoubtedly seemed very wicked.[9]

The rest of this letter laid out the Sydney Festival’s main arguments against censorship, and concluded by remarking that:

It is to be hoped that Australian film censorship authorities may soon realize that there is a specialized audience for the art of cinema, and may view films for that audience accordingly. Until then we shall continue voicing our protests over the Government’s policy towards the films imported for festival screenings.

A few months after the publication of this letter, in November 1965, the Sydney Festival Sub-Committee reported its recommendations to the organizing committee. In an audacious move, it was proposed that the Sydney Film Festival pursue a campaign to change the attitudes of both the Australian government and public towards the censorship of film. More specifically, the Festival decided:

(1) to obtain the freedom from censorship of all films screened to Festival and film society audiences;

(2) to prepare for the wide acceptance of film as an art form by pressing for the teaching of film appreciation in schools;

(3) to facilitate the speedy acceptance of a more enlightened censorship for adult audiences by pressing for State Govt. legislation to prohibit children from attending films classified AO or X as in the UK;

(4) to create an awareness of a subject which is neglected by the press to disseminate information on film censorship.[10]

As is clear from this list, the initial concerns over the censorship of Woman of the Dunes had now expanded into a much broader campaign.

This campaign opened with letters written by the Sydney Festival to a wide variety of organizations requesting written support for the four recommendations listed above. These organizations included various film societies and film organizations, cultural organizations, the Australian Journalists Association, government departments, and the Arts Council of Australia.[11] This barrage of letters met with little success:  in the end, only 31 of 146 organisations contacted bothered to reply.[12] In particular, the Festival met with a rebuff from the Prime Minister’s Department, which replied that the festival audience was too broad to warrant special exemption.[13] Chief Censor Prowse agreed – and added that, in general, neither he nor the general public would support a policy of giving censorship exemptions to certain select groups, for “we can’t make a double rule, you see?”[14]

Significantly, neither the AFI nor the Melbourne Film Festival offered written support for Sydney’s demand for exemption. This was largely due to the opposition of Erwin Rado, who was Director of both organizations. In a letter written to Ian Klava in August 1965, Rado stated that such letters of support for Sydney’s stand on censorship would be pointless: “there is such general hostility to the festivals in Canberra that I cannot see even behind-the-scenes manoeuvres getting far; certainly not public statements”.[15] To this he added:

Don’t get me wrong, I am as incensed against Festival films being censored as your people are.…the trouble is that all the well-meaning enthusiasts, the self-righteous crusaders will achieve will be difficulties for us professionals, whose responsibility it will be to face the music from the Censor’s office…. and when we can’t get the films through in time, it will be our fault. Right?[16]

In other words, Rado felt that the only possible result of Sydney’s stand on censorship would be further friction with government bodies. The risks here were very real. Customs had the power to ban film imports altogether, which would of course have destroyed all the Australian international film festivals.[17]

Rado was so concerned about Sydney’s attempt to challenge the censorship laws, that in early 1966 he flew to Sydney to talk to Stratton in person. This was the first time the two directors had met face-to-face. According to Stratton’s recollections, Rado began their discussion in a very uncompromising fashion, saying: “Listen. Forget it. We’re not going to oppose censorship, and so you aren’t. Do you think you are going to bring films in apart from us? Of course you aren’t”.[18] In reply, Stratton brought up every supporting argument he could think of and, in his own words, tried “to charm the pants off Erwin”.[19] According to Stratton, in the end he was successful – and certainly Rado supported Stratton’s stand on censorship from this day forth.

Despite Rado’s change of heart, the Melbourne Festival’s support for the attack on censorship regulations remained relatively muted. In an attempt to alert their audiences, both Melbourne and Sydney resolved to include in their programs for the 1966 Festival, any details of cuts made to festival films.[20] While this policy may sound relatively insignificant, it did in fact represent a major breach with the prior secrecy that had surrounded film censorship. Furthermore, at the opening of the 1966 Melbourne Festival both Rado and President Robin Boyd openly criticized the government for denying the Festival’s special exemption. However, still concerned about the possible ramifications of his stand, Rado’s speech, although critical, was seen as cautious by those supporting more radical change.[21] As another example of Rado’s caution in this matter, when approached by the media in 1967 to comment on the banning of the film Ulysses, he refused on the grounds that he wished to stay “in the background as much as possible”.[22]

In contrast to Melbourne, Stratton and the Sydney Censorship Sub-Committee continued to campaign actively on the issue, and succeeded in bringing film censorship to broader public attention. Indeed, parts of the Australian press now began to pursue the issue independently.  For example, the Sydney Morning Herald interviewed Chief Censor Prowse on 19 August 1966.[23] As Bertrand remarks, Sydney’s efforts “kept the issue constantly before the public, and the Commonwealth Censorship constantly on the defensive, in a way that Australia had never before seen”.[24]

Despite agitation from the two Festivals, the Australian government continued to censor festival films. For the 1967 Festivals, the films Climax, Love and Two People were censored, and The Amourist was banned.[25] Stratton, also wary of the possible repercussions of too vocal a protest on this issue, wrote to Rado that “Unless we hear strongly from you to the contrary, issue a carefully worded press release at the most appropriate time – viz., after all our films have gone through!!”[26]

After their 1967 Festivals, Sydney and Melbourne prepared a joint submission on censorship exemption for the Minister of Customs. The energy for this came largely from Stratton; Rado himself still being somewhat cynical about the issue, as the following passage from one of his letters shows:

You know me by now – I am a pessimist at heart, and I will be very surprised if the censorship developments will be as interesting as you expect or hope. The pressure from the wowser groups are much more potent in this country than you imagine: there is also a rampant feeling of anti-intellectualism which works against special privileges for long-haired groups, and actually exists in most Government departments, especially Customs.[27]

Unsurprisingly, in the negotiations over the joint submission, Rado argued for a less extreme position than Stratton – namely, that the Festivals should pursue a compromise position by applying for ‘conditional certificates’ (i.e., weaker censorship guidelines), rather than complete exemption from all censorship.[28] If Stratton disagreed with this compromise, Rado suggested the possibility of separate submissions. However, Stratton was vehement that the Festivals make a joint submission, and argued that the ‘conditional certificate’ option should be a fall-back position if total exemption was rejected by the government.[29] In the end, Rado agreed with Stratton’s position.

The Festival’s joint submission made its way onto the desk of the new Minister for Customs, Senator Scott. He had some sympathy for the Film Festivals’ arguments – and was quite possibly anxious to avoid further negative press – but was not prepared to modify the censorship legislation for them. Instead, the Minister consulted with Chief Censor Prowse, and the following procedure was agreed upon. The Festivals would submit an application for each film, including a synopsis, and a statement that the film was not currently under commercial negotiation. If any of the films were such as would normally be censored, then the Minister would intervene directly to allow the film to bypass normal Custom requirements. “Thus,” as Stratton wrote to Rado, “we get freedom from censorship within the regulations”.[30]

Scott proposed that this arrangement would apply to the Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide Film Festivals – but his continued cooperation was subject to certain conditions. In particular, they had to “guarantee that the fact not be publicized by the festival”.[31] Not wanting to endanger their new-found freedom from the standard censorship regulations, the Festivals not only kept this arrangement confidential, but, in addition, they also (temporarily at least) reduced their public anti-censorship campaign. For example, Melbourne abandoned their sponsorship of an anti-censorship booklet jointly written by the FVFS and the Victorian Civil Rights group – the minutes stating that this was done “in view of the latest developments”.[32]

While the 1968 Festivals, in accordance with the agreement reached with Scott, were not subject to any censorship, their 1969 programmes were to demonstrate how tenuous this agreement really was. The Festivals were both well aware that their freedom from censorship was a purely ad hoc arrangement, which depended upon the continuing cooperation of the Minister for Customs. Unsurprisingly, the Festivals thus continued to discuss the issue of censorship, and considered contingency plans in the event of the informal arrangement breaking down. In particular, at a meeting of the Melbourne organizing committee on 22 May 1969, it was agreed that the Festival would no longer continue its policy of screening films that had been cut by the censors.[33] As Rado pointed out to Stratton, this meant that the censors now had to choose between letting a film through untouched, or, in effect, banning it entirely.[34]

Nine days after this meeting of the Melbourne organizing committee, the most controversial film censorship incident to date occurred. On 31 May 1969, Stratton received a certificate banning Swedish director Stig Bjorkman’s I Love, You Love (1968).[35] Stratton had been conscious that this film might create censorship problems for the Festivals, because the subtitles included the word ‘fuck’.[36] However, it had not occurred to him that Bjorkman’s film would be banned by Scott on other grounds – namely, that it supposedly showed scenes of sexual intercourse with a pregnant woman.[37]

In response, the Festivals moved quickly to publicise and challenge Scott’s decision. The day after receiving the notification of the ban, the Sydney organizing committee held a crisis meeting. As a result of this meeting, they telegrammed a protest to Senator Scott, and informed Bjorkman (who was en route to Australia to attend the 1969 Festival as their guest) of the ban.[38] The committee also set into motion a full-scale campaign of public protest.[39]

This campaign was the most successful public protest ever mounted by the Festivals, and attracted a great deal of attention from the Australian media. On the 3rd June 1969, Stig Bjorkman arrived at Sydney airport to face a barrage of questions from media representatives. The censorship issue also made the front page of many of the metropolitan dailies, and continued to attract substantial media attention in the days that followed.[40]

The first thing that Bjorkman did in Australia was attempt to have the ban removed. On 4 June, he flew to Canberra to meet Minister Scott to negotiate the removal of the ban. Bjorkman’s main argument was that the offending scene did not contain any actual or implied sexual intercourse. To the press, he described the scene as follows: “There are no sexual organs visible and they are sitting so far apart they couldn’t be doing anything that the senator would find objectionable. The man simply strokes his wife’s face.” As additional support for his claim, Bjorkman also provided telegrams from the two principal actors involved in the scene, who stated that no actual intercourse had taken place during filming.[41]

Despite the protests of the Festivals, and Bjorkman’s arguments, Scott refused to reverse his decision. In response, on 5th June 1969, Bjorkman announced to the press that he was withdrawing I Love, You Love from the Festivals.[42] The Festivals informed the press of their support for this stance by placing a protest advertisement, with nearly 400 signatures from Festival subscribers. This galvanized a range of protests in Australia. Six of the nine Australian entrants showed their solidarity with Bjorkman’s action by withdrawing their own films from the Festivals.[43] A group of prominent Australians ­–including Charmian Clift, George Johnston, Maggie Tabberer and Stuart Wagstaff – wrote to the press informing them that they supported Bjorkman’s stand, and had formally complained to the Minister.[44]

In general, the Australian media were sympathetic to the Festivals, and ridiculed Scott’s decision. The Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a gynaecologist about the offending scene, who stated that the location of the actors made physical penetration impossible. This led the Herald to remark that “it surely should be a minimum qualification for the Minister of Customs to be able to recognize sexual intercourse when he sees it”.[45] The Daily Telegraph’s cartoonist lampooned the incident with his scenario of a film director telling two naked actors in bed, “OK, now for the Australian edition – lights, camera, no action!”.[46] In a more serious vein, the Daily Mirror’s editorial stated that “Surely this absurd hurly burly affair makes it imperative that our censorship laws were clearly defined for all time”.[47] In a similar vein, Colin Bennett wrote in The Age that:

Film censorship has become a part of the Australian way of life. Guarding other people’s morals is not just an official passion, it is a national disease. It is time to bury the notion that Australians are less worthy of being treated as adults than their fellows in Europe and America.[48]

Even Bjorkman could not resist further comment on the censorship incident. With the help of Australian film-makers, the Swedish director made a four minute film entitled To Australia – with love. This short opens with a confrontation between a Customs officer and Melbourne actress Robin Bryning naked in a tin trunk.[49] This film was passed by the censor. Indeed, the entire Bjorkman incident had generated enough media interest to see this short screened on Channel 9 on Sunday night of 15th June 1969.[50]

The Bjorkman incident had catapulted the Festival’s anti-film-censorship campaign to the broader awareness of the Australian public. As the Sydney organizing committee noted, it had generated “publicity beyond the wildest dreams of any PR man”.[51] In addition, it led to the humiliating end of Senator Scott’s position as Minister of Customs. Scott himself told Ross Tzannes (then a member of the Sydney organizing committee) that the Film Festivals were “the single cause of the loss of my Ministry”.[52]

Capitalising on the publicity gained by the Bjorkman incident, the Film Festivals pushed on with their attempt to secure broader changes to the Australian system of film censorship. As noted above, the two major aims of the Festivals’ anti-censorship campaign were (1) to establish legal exemption from censorship requirements for festival films, and (2) to see the introduction of an ‘R’ or ‘AO’ classification for films, restricting the audience to those aged 18 and above. Up to this point the Festivals’ main efforts had been directed towards (1), as the Australian film trade were generally hostile to the idea of a restricted ‘adults only’ film classification. This was mainly for two reasons. First, the trade believed that such a classification could seriously restrict the audience size (and thus profits) of certain films. Second, the trade also argued that enforcing such restrictions could be costly and difficult for exhibitors.[53]

However, with the changes to film demographics and film content that were occurring in the late 1960s, trade opposition to the introduction of an ‘R’ classification began to decline in Australia. This classification had already been adopted in the US and the UK – and, closer to home, in New Zealand. This was partly in response to the increasing commercial and critical success of ‘youth market’ films, such as Easy Rider (1969) and Midnight Cowboy (1969). Films such as these promised to be lucrative commercial successes in Australia, but under the current censorship regime they would not be able to be shown without substantial cuts.

This concern was to gain the Film Festival’s important trade allies in the fight to change Australia’s censorship regime. For example, representatives from Columbia, the producers of Easy Rider, requested to meet with Stratton while he was on his overseas film procurement trip after the 1969 Festival. At this meeting, Stratton explained the Festivals’ stance on censorship – with the result that Columbia recommended their Australian subsidiary to support the Festivals on this issue.[54] Similarly, United Artists – the producers of Midnight Cowboy – began arguing publicly for changes to the Australian film classification system in the pages of the local trade rag Film Weekly. The 1969 ‘Christmas Message’ from Ron Michaels, the Managing Director of United Artists in Australia, includes the remark that:

In 1970 we can anticipate an influx of films tailored for mature audiences. In the main they will be important box-office properties, assuming of course, that under existing censorship provisions, they are not emasculated to the point where they lose both coherent continuity and box-office appeal.

In world affairs, Australia enjoys the reputation of being a progressive nation. Let us get our censorship affairs into focus with this image.[55]

This ‘Christmas Message’ shows a clear awareness of the recent changes to film audience demographics and the associated changes in film content. Alongside the genuflection to the cultural need to be ‘progressive’, this piece also contains the argument of real interest to the trade – namely, that “unless the film industry caters for the specific needs of today’s youth, they will be lost to other forms of leisure activities”.[56]

During Stratton’s overseas trip, Rado wrote to inform him of these changes of attitude towards an ‘R’ classification amongst the major distributors in Australia. In a revealing passage, Rado writes as follows:

I understand from Colin Bennett that the major distributors in Sydney got together and investigated the New Zealand scene; discovered that the introduction there of the graduated Restricted Certificate was of benefit to the box office, and now are going to force the exhibitors to go to their State Governments and demand the introduction of a graduated restricted category, and it is hoped that this will be operative within a year. This is good news on various counts …[57]

It thus seems clear from this evidence that the major distributors were not only supporting the introduction of an ‘R’ classification – they were actively placing pressure on the major exhibitors to support this as well.

It is thus unsurprising that when Stratton returned to Australia from his overseas trip, he found that attitudes towards censorship reform amongst sections of the domestic trade had changed markedly.[58] This meant that the Festivals could feel less constrained about pursuing their broader agenda of censorship reform, as there was less risk of alienating the distribution side of the trade. As will be seen, however, there was still further to go in persuading the exhibitors of the benefits of such reform. Rado’s prediction (in the passage quoted above) that an ‘R’ classification would be “operative within a year” proved to be slightly (but only slightly) optimistic.

With the momentum provided by the positive publicity garnered by the Bjorkman affair, the resulting departure of the Minister for Customs, and the shift in trade attitudes, the Film Festivals were well-prepared to mount a sustained campaign over the censorship issue. Furthermore, Scott’s replacement as Minister for Customs and Excise was Donald Chipp, who was genuinely more sympathetic towards reforming Australia’s censorship regime. According to Stratton, Chipp was “the first Customs Minister that we’d been able to talk to; the rest had been buffoons”.[59]

Chipp’s first move was to request a meeting with the Directors of the four Australian Film Festivals that imported films – Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Brisbane – to discuss the censorship issue. This meeting was held on the 16th March 1970. A detailed report of the meeting was prepared by the Melbourne organizing committee, a report which acknowledged that “From the outset it was apparent that the Minister had done his homework and was fully appraised of many aspects of the Festivals’ work”. Chipp made it clear at the beginning of the meeting that one of the Festivals’ aims – their complete exemption from censorship – would not be met “under any circumstances”, as this was “against the law”. He was, however, prepared to consider a more liberal censorship regime for the festivals.[60]

In general, the Festival Report concluded that Chipp was sincere in his desire to reform the Australian system of film censorship, and considered the Festivals a “useful ally”. It notes that the Minister “was very much in favour of liberalizing censorship and wanted to help the Festivals as much as possible”. The Report also states that Chipp wished to use the Festivals as a “demonstration as to how adult audiences could be permitted to view films now denied them because of the failure of the States to adopt an ‘R’ certificate”.

Chipp’s meeting with the four Film Festival Directors occurred in the context of a debate between different sections of the domestic trade over the possible introduction of an ‘R’ classification for films. Whilst the major distributors were largely in favour of this reform, most of the exhibition chains were opposed. As noted above, in late 1969 some of the major distributors had used the pages of Film Weekly to press the case for censorship reform. At the same time, the trade journal carried an article entitled ‘City circuits and censorship’, giving the exhibitors’ side of the argument. This article remarks that “three of Australia’s four largest capital city theatrical film circuits are, at present, in favour of retaining the existing censorship system of classification”. [61] The article in Film Weekly ends by arguing that the present system of film censorship should be maintained. At most, it results in “the denial to Australian adult audiences of a few questionable adult films” – a denial which does not justify the difficulties and costs of administering an ‘R’ classification.[62] This opinion is well-illustrated by a conversation that Stratton recalled having with Dale Turnbull, manager of Hoyts in Sydney, two years earlier, in 1967:

And I said to Dale, “Wouldn’t you like to be able to show Bonnie and Clyde with an R rating? After all, it’s an adult film”. He said, “I would rather cut it down to five minutes than introduce an ‘adults only’ classification. My staff can’t tell 18 year olds from 17 year olds”.[63]

Despite these concerns from the exhibition arm of the trade, after his meeting with the four Film Festival Directors, Chipp decided to hold a meeting with the relevant State Ministers, in order to request the national introduction of an ‘R’ classification for films. This meeting was scheduled for September 1970, and the intervening months were a period of intense lobbying by the Festivals and the exhibitors. Discussing this lobbying in an exchange of letters, on 16 April 1970, Rado writes to Stratton that:

We are just ready to go in a delegation about the R Cert., to our State government, and they beat us to it with a statement from both Bolt and Rylah [two major Melbourne exhibitors], saying that they are against it because it is impossible to administer.[64]

Four days later, Stratton replies that he is experiencing similar difficulties in Sydney, writing that:

Hoyts and G[reater] U[nion] are still earbashing State Chief Secretaries and Chipp against our concessions. They are becoming even more paranoid about the very idea of an R certificate, even one given over to the Festivals.[65]

In this intervening period, Chipp was careful to prepare the ground for his meeting with the States, by avoiding any further scandals over censorship. When the Commonwealth Censorship Board decided to ban not one, but two films from the 1970 Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals (A Married Couple and Like Night and Day), Chipp refused to overturn this decision.[66] When he wrote to the Film Festivals informing them of this decision, he also requested that they not cause any controversy over the incident. Unlike the Bjorkman incident, hardly any discussion of this banning occurs in the minutes of meetings for either Sydney or Melbourne – a good indication that this was a tactical compromise that the two organizing committees were prepared to accept.[67]

At the meeting of State Ministers in September 1970, Chipp achieved his major goal. Each Minister agreed to introduce legislation allowing a restricted classification for films.[68] As expected, this decision was met with protests from the exhibition arm of the trade. The Federal Council of Exhibitors’ Associations released a statement in October 1970, condemning the decision. Despite these last-ditch protests, the ‘R’ classification system was introduced throughout Australia, with so-called ‘R day’ being 15 November 1971.

The Film Festivals, with the assistance of Chipp, had thus achieved one of their major aims in the censorship campaign (the reform of Australia’s film classification system); however, they had not succeeded in gaining special exemption for Festival films. A Sydney organizing committee report records how things stood at the end of 1972. This report states that:

The final position taken by the Dept. of Customs and Excise was that it:
(a) refused to agree to the request that there be no censorship for festival films
(b) refused to accept the Rembard test as the criteria for censorship[69]
(c) agreed that films must be judged in their entirety and not on the basis of individual scenes
(d) stated that registration would be refused to films which might “encourage persons to resort to drugs or which portray extreme violence or pornography”.[70]

From its beginnings in late 1965, to the end of 1972, the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals’ campaign against film censorship had achieved some notable successes. They had brought the issue of censorship to broad public attention in Australia, and (along with Chipp) had made a major contribution to the liberalization of the film classification system. Furthermore, in the process the Festivals had also achieved a great deal of publicity for themselves, which had helped to position them as two of the major cultural organizations in the country. However, despite these important successes, they had failed in their goal to achieve special exemption for their own audiences, and this continues to be a contentious issue for Australia’s film festivals to this day.


[1] For what is still the best general discussion of this, see Ina Bertrand’s Film Censorship in Australia, St Lucia, 1978.

[2] For discussion, see Cathy Hope, A History of the Sydney and Melbourne Film Festivals, 1945–1972, PhD Thesis, University of Canberra, 2004, ch. 3.

[3] See Eric Williams [then Director of the Adelaide International Film Festival], “Cultural Despotism — Film Censorship” in G. Dutton and M. Harris, Australia’s Censorship Crisis, Melbourne: Sun Books, 1970, pp. 55–8.

[4] As noted by Bertrand, Film Censorship, p. 183.

[5] SFF – Oral History Archive, Ian Klava, interview by Graham Shirley, 26 October 1992.

[6] Stratton himself was first drawn to join a film society in the UK when he discovered that The Wild One, banned in mainstream English cinemas at the time, was screening uncensored through the film societies (David Stratton, interview by Cathy Hope, 29 September 1997).

[7] SFF – Minutes, 3 August 1965, Box No. 2.

[8] MFF Archives, Letter to The Bulletin, 21 August 1965, Box No. 44.

[9] MFF Archives, Letter to The Australian, 25 August 1965, Box No. 44. All quotes in the rest of this paragraph are from this letter.

[10] SFF – Minutes, 2 November 1965, Box No. 2.

[11] SFF – Minutes, 2 November 1965, Box No. 2.

[12] Bertrand, Film Censorship, p. 183.

[13] SFF – Minutes, 7 December 1965, Box No. 2.

[14] Quoted in Bertrand, Film Censorship, p. 183.

[15] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Klava, 24 August 1965, Box No. 30.

[16] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Klava, 24 August 1965, Box No. 30.

[17] As noted by Stratton, in SFF – Oral History Archive, David Stratton, self-conducted interview (n.d.).

[18] David Stratton, interview by Cathy Hope, 29 September 1997.

[19] David Stratton, interview by Cathy Hope, 29 September 1997.

[20] SFF – Minutes, 1 March 1966, Box No. 2.

[21] See, for example, Colin Bennett’s report on this speech in The Age, 11 June 1966, in MFF – Archive, press cuttings, Box No. 33.

[22] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton, 17 May 1967, Box No. 40.

[23] This was noted by Stratton in MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado 2 September 1966, Box No. 35.

[24] Bertrand, Film Censorship, p. 184.

[25] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 27 May 1967, Box No. 40.

[26] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 18 May 1967, Box No. 40.

[27] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton, 12 September 1967, Box No. 40.

[28] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton, 21 November 1967, Box No. 40.

[29] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 22 November 1967, Box No. 40.

[30] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 21 March 1968, Box No. 44.

[31] SFF – Minutes, 2 April 1968, Box No. 2. (Emphasis as in the original.)

[32] SFF – Minutes, 2 April 1968, Box No. 2.

[33] MFF – Minutes, 22 May 1969, Box No. 33.

[34] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton, 23 May 1969, Box No. 47.

[35] MFF – Minutes, “Report of the Convenor of the Censorship Sub-Committee –August 1969”, Box No. 52.

[36] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 20 May 1969, Box No. 47.

[37] MFF – Archive, Editorial “Comic Cuts” in Daily Mirror, 5 June 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[38] SFF – Minutes, “Report of the Convenor of the Censorship Sub-Committee –August 1969”, Box No. 2.

[39] SFF – Minutes, “Report of the Convenor of the Censorship Sub-Committee –August 1969”, Box No. 2.

[40] The SFF Archive (Box No. 3) contains a large variety of press cuttings on the topic.

[41] MFF – Archive, J. Perlez, “Swedish Director Withdraws Film”, The Australian, 5 June 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[42] MFF – Archive, J. Perlez, “Swedish Director Withdraws Film”, The Australian, 5 June 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[43] SFF – Minutes, “Report of the Convenor of the Censorship Sub-Committee –August 1969”, Box No. 2.

[44] MFF – Archive, “Censorship of film”, paper and date unknown, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[45] Quoted in Don Chipp’s memoirs, The Third Man, Adelaide: Rigby, 1978, p. 101.

[46] SFF – Archives, 6 June 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 3.

[47] SFF – Archives, 5 June 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 3.

[48] Bennett in The Age, 4 June 1969, quoted in Williams, “Cultural Despotism — Film Censorship”, p. 52.

[49] MFF – Archive, Allen Mapie, “Sydney’s 16th Film Festival”, Script, Screen & Art, August/September 1969, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[50] MFF – Archive, “Satire Film for TV”, Sydney, 14 June 1969, press  cuttings, Box No. 66.

[51] SFF – Minutes, 6 June 1969, Box No. 2.

[52] Quoted in Chipp, The Third Man, p. 102.

[53] From Bertrand, Government and Film Censorship in Australia, pp. 182–6.

[54] SFF – Oral History Archive, David Stratton, self-conducted interview, no date.

[55] R. Michaels, “Call for New Look in our Censorship”, Film Weekly, 18 December 1969, p. 2.

[56] “Censorship, Youth Needs, are Problems for 1970”, Film Weekly, 18 December 1969, p. 1.

[57] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton (then at the Cork Film Festival, Ireland), 12 September 1969, Box No. 47.

[58] SFF – Oral History Archive, David Stratton, self-conducted interview, no date.

[59] David Stratton, interview by Cathy Hope, 29 September 1997.

[60] All remarks are drawn from MFF – Archive, “Report on the Minister and his Guests –16th March 1970”, Box No. 52.

[61] C. B. Searl, “City Circuits and Censorship”, Film Weekly, 18 December 1969, p. 24.

[62] C. B. Searl, “City Circuits and Censorship”, Film Weekly, 18 December 1969, p. 24.

[63] David Stratton, interview by Cathy Hope, 29 September 1997.

[64] MFF – Correspondence, Rado to Stratton, 16 April 1970, Box No. 50.

[65] MFF – Correspondence, Stratton to Rado, 20 April 1970, Box No. 50.

[66] MFF – Archive, “Chipp Bans Festival Films – and Tells Why”, The Age, 9 June 1970, press cuttings, Box No. 66.

[67] SFF – Minutes, 26 May 1970, Box No. 2.

[68] See Bertrand, Film Censorship, p. 187.

[69] This was a ‘social value’ test, designed in 1959 for the analysis of the film Lady Chatterley’s Lover (1955). According to the SFF Minutes, it claimed to weigh “the artistic and literary value of a piece against its prurience” (SFF – Minutes, 17 February 1972, Box No. 3).

[70] SFF – Minutes, “Report of the Censorship Reform Sub-Committee”, 1 August 1972, Box No. 3.

About the Authors


Cathy Hope

Cathy Hope is a lecturer in communication theory and practice at the Faculty of Arts and Design, University of Canberra. Cathy's research interests include the history and operations of cultural organisations, and non-profit sector marketing strategies.

Adam Dickerson

Adam Dickerson studied history and philosophy at the University of NSW. He has been teaching at the University of Canberra for the past ten years, first in Communication and Media, and now in International Studies. His research interests include epistemology, communication ethics, and cultural history.