Service, stacks and scholars: The story of Chifley Library 1968–2018

12 February 2018

Were you a '60s wild child? Where were you when man landed on the moon? Did you march against the Vietnam War?

As a part of the Chifley 50th Anniversary, ANU Library has a Swinging Sixties display in Chifley Library, featuring:

  • books from the collection that were banned in Australia at that time;
  • Australian cultural ephemera, covering music, art, literature, the Vietnam War, politics and fashion; and
  • historical photographs of the Library building, copies of the campus newspaper from 1968, and articles from local newspapers, including The Canberra Times.

An exhibition will commence on 23 February in the Menzies Library foyer, featuring people who influenced the development of Chifley Library, early architectural plans and photographs of the construction, and output of significant Social Science & Humanities researchers who have used Chifley Library over the past 50 years.

Visit the online exhibition:

Service, stacks and scholars: 
The story of Chifley Library 1968 — 2018


Banned books at ANU Library

The Australian government started banning books in 1938, though “the bulk of prohibited imports were pulp fiction novels, comics, magazines and pornographic material. These items were considered to be a threat, not only to our morals, but also to Australia’s literary standards” (National Archives of Australia, 2013). During the 1940s and 1950s, crime and detective thrillers were especially popular and were frequently banned as they featured both sex and violence.

In January 1968, The Canberra Times published an article listing 97 books that were banned. One of these was The Trial of Lady Chatterley, which described the British trial of D.H. Lawrence’s book Lady Chatterley's Lover, which was banned from importation into Australia in 1929. A copy of The Trial of Lady Chatterley was smuggled into Australia in 1965, duplicated, and distributed locally to bypass the federal importation ban. “In Melbourne, the police vice squad seized 97 copies of the book when it went on sale at the Austral Book Shop in Collins Street” (The Age, 1965).

As late as 1969, Portnoy’s Complaint was declared a “prohibited import” in Australia. The publisher, Penguin Books, had the book secretly printed in Australia and kept the copies stored in a fleet of trucks, constantly on the move, as their Melbourne warehouse would have been an obvious target for the vice squad (Gribble, 2006).

The main reasons books were banned in the 1960s were depictions of sex and drug taking. Repeat offenders on the list include Henry Miller and William S. Burroughs, both American authors of the 20th century (see ANU Library’s holdings of Henry Miller’s books and William S. Burrough’s books); and the Marquis de Sade, a French nobleman of the 18th century famous for his libertine sexuality –  the words sadism and sadist are derived from his name. ANU Library hold his works individually but also his complete works, Oeuvres completes in the original French.

The banned books that are on display in Chifley Library are available for loan. If you’d like to share your thoughts on a particular title with your fellow ANU book lovers, post a short review on Facebook #bannedbooks @ANULibrary



(1965, May 20). ‘Ban on import of “Trial of Lady Chatterley” lifted’, The Age, pp 12-15.

Gribble, Diana (2006, August 29), Don Chipp: Larrikin, censor, and party founder.

National Archives of Australia (2013). Prohibited pulp.