Sunday, May 06, 2007

Banned in Australia

I was chatting on Friday (a very pleasant staff get together) to some colleagues when I mentioned that there are many books, films, CDs, and websites banned in my homeland, Australia. Some of them were surprised, but Australia has recently reactivated sedition as a punishable offence and the general direction taken for freedom of expression in the Commonwealth of Australia is a sad affair. I remember seeing early Australian silent films from the National Film Archive that were risque even by today's standards. Today they would be banned. Here is some recent censorship from Oz:

Some Things Banned in Australia

E for Ecstasy
Ecstasy and the Dance Culture
Ecstasy Reconsidered
Ecstasy, Dance, Trance and Transformation
Ancient and Modern Methods of Growing Extraordinary Marijuana
Legal Highs
Psychedelic Shamanism: The Cultivation, Preparation and Shamanic Use of Psychotropic Plants
Defence of the Muslim Lands,
The Ideological Attack,
The Criminal West,
Join the Caravan,
Jihad in the Qur’an and Sunnah,
The Absent Obligation,
Islam and Modern Man,
The Qur’anic Concept of War
The Peaceful Pill

Ken Park
Salò o le 120 giornate di Sodoma
Saddam Hussein’s Execution Video
The Gore Gore Girls
Jihad of Terrorism

Video games recently banned in Australia:
50 Cent: Bulletproof
Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude
Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure
NARC (2005 update)
Reservoir Dogs
Rule Of Rose
Singles: Flirt Up Your Life
Shellshock: Nam '67
The Punisher
Blitz: the League

People Banned in Australia:
Snoop Doggy Dog
David Irving
Dr Warren Hern
Rajendiram Sutharsan
Vietnamese Thang Long Water Puppet Troupe
Liberian youth soccer team
Four of Fiji’s Air Pacific staff members

Art Banned in Australia
Zanny Begg’s Checkpoint for Weapons of Mass Distraction

Photographs showing human rights abuses in East Timor by Indonesian forces, some included images of the 1991 Dili Massacre. The photos were to be displayed in the foyer of the Australian House of Parliament. During its installation in March of 1997, some members of the Australian Parliament ordered the photograph's removal.

Gillian Mear's play "Fineflour" and Churchill's play "Top Girls." A New South Wales review panel banned the plays from the New South Wales Higher School Certificate reading list. The officials suggested that Churchill's play is "dated," shows "contempt for religion," and" contains gratuitous violence."

Australian Centre for Photography exhibition, "Changeling: Childhood and the Uncanny".

Publications banned
Student paper Rabelais article The Art of Shoplifting

TV Programs
4th March 2002 Meet The Press with Tim Russert 'Arabs were not responsible for Sep 11'

Banned Websites:
“Written text, including books and extracts thereof, on Australian Web pages are to be subject to censorship using guideline designed and developed for movies from 1 January 2000. Material classified R is to be subject to an adult verification system, else illegal online. Material classified X is to be the equivalent of Refused Classification, that is, illegal online.”

•Propaganda Bought to you by the Mining Industry

•Richard Neville’s was taken down by the Australian Government in March 2006 after a satirical letter supposed to be written by the Prime Minister apologizing for the Iraq war was published on the site.

•The National Filter Scheme was announced by the Australian federal Government in June 2006. The 116 million dollar scheme includes the Protecting Families Online Internet filtering initiative. As well libraries are filtered by the Australian Government NetAlert Limited (

•The Australian Government SurfWatch spiders the Web -- much like a search engine -- carrying out text-based analysis, often for sexually explicit words. If a disallowed string of words is found the product checks links from that site to other sites and does text-based analysis on those links as well. SurfWatch then blocks the ISP address of the site.

In recent years (ending June) the OFLC Classification Boards have rated:

• Publications
o 2003: 1705 (30 banned, additional 1414 banned in Queensland)
o 2002: 1516 (16 banned, additional 1261 banned in Queensland)
o 2001: 1832 (70 banned, additional 1541 banned in Queensland)

• Films for public exhibition (cinema films)
o 2003: 439 (0 banned, but Ken Park ban in sale/hire/video statistics)
o 2002: 437 (1 banned)
o 2001: 376 (0 banned)

• Films for sale/hire (generally videos, DVDs, etc)
o 2003: 2727 (10 banned - includes Ken Park, 336 X/banned in all States)
o 2002: 2788 (17 banned, additional 523 rated X/banned in all States)
o 2001: 2852 (85 banned, additional 933 rated X/banned in all States)

• Computer Games:
o 2003: 661 (2 banned)
o 2002: 747 (1 banned)
o 2001: 583 (0 banned)


Rod said...

Hey Jim

Really interesting post. But one suggestion: you need to make a distinction between "banned" and "censored".

i.e. The Timor photos were not banned from Australia, but their exhibit in Paliament house was censored.

Same goes for Churchill's "Top girls" -- it can still be purchased legally in Australia, but it's been purged from the NSW school system.

While I absolutely agree with the point you are making, I think you're making things look even more frightening than they are.


((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Yea Rod, I could have spent a lot more time on researching this entry (it just got more and more complex the more I looked into it). Most of my searches were done along the lines of censorship. I am making things look frightening and maybe more than they are. But banning works on many levels. The prevention of access to a work of culture is a ban, whether at a single school or in a nation state.
The removal of the Timor photos was censorship. It would be difficult to ban all images of the Dili masacre, but the will to do so is obviously there if they are dealt with in the way they were at the Parliment House of Australia.
Having grown up in Queensland in the 1970's and 80's I have a bee in my bonnet about this sort of thing. To me it is reality we are dealing with when culture is censored. Good or bad reality it can be, but it is so often done with political and historical interests in mind.
This is perhaps why I impressed so much the idea of banning.

((((((((ö)))))))) said...

Just saw this and thought to put it here as an update:
“Two international studies ranked Australia 35th and 39th on a world press freedom index,” Mr Hartigan said. “We should be up there with other democracies that are way in front of us.",20867,21702688-7582,00.html