THARUNKA to THOR: Journalism, Politics and Art 1970–1973



WHEN: 12 Apr 2017 – 23 Apr 2017


From 1970 to 1973, NSW police issued more than forty summonses and made several arrests over the contents of the UNSW student newspaper THARUNKA, and its successor underground papers THOR and THORUNKA. The charges alleged obscenity and indecency. Wendy Bacon and John Cox between them served three weeks in prison during two trials. The publications drew participation and support from students, Sydney libertarians, radical activists, writers, lawyers and others as they waged a relentless campaign against the authorities.

The campaign contested the idea of obscenity and the legitimacy of the legal system itself. The newspapers campaigned on the war in Vietnam, Aboriginal land rights, women’s and gay liberation, and the violence of the criminal justice system. By 1973 the censorship regime in Australia was broken. Nearly all the charges were dropped.

The exhibition presents original copies of the publications and documents from the campaign, and is curated by Wendy Bacon and Chris Nash. It brings together the original editorial team of Wendy Bacon, Val Hodgson and Allan Rees with other collaborators in a series of open forums.

THARUNKA/THOR/THORUNKA were wary of special pleading for literary merit. However, the exhibition and a forum draw connections between what was happening in Sydney and a landmark 1971 controversies in New York and Germany involving the artist Hans Haacke over journalism as art / art as journalism.

Opening Wednesday 12th April | 6–8pm.

Exhibition continues until Sunday 23rd April.

Gallery open Tuesday–Saturday 11am–6pm | Sunday 11am–4pm.

Talks Schedule

Wednesday April 12, 6.30 – 8 pm:
MC: Chris Nash; Speakers: Allan Rees and Wendy Bacon.

Thursday April 13, 6 – 8 pm:
THARUNKA to THOR – the social and political context
Panelists: Allan Rees, Rick Mohr and Wendy Bacon

Sunday April 16, 4 – 6 pm:
Nuns, courts, and jail –the THARUNKA/THORUNKA trials
Wendy Bacon

Thursday April 20, 6-8 pm:
Journalism as art/art as journalism – Hans Haacke banned from the Guggenheim 1971
Chris Nash and Ian Milliss

Saturday April 22, 1.30 - 3.30 pm:
The Unacceptable Works Literary Supplement – literary publications and censorship in 1960s and 70s
Frank Moorhouse -Interview with Chris Nash and discussion

4 - 6 pm
THARUNKA to THOR – Art, design, layout and the production process
Panelists: Val Hodgson, Jenny Coopes, Rick Mohr and Jack Rozycki

Note : During the exhibition, Wendy Bacon and Chris Nash will be at the gallery from 11am to 6 pm.

Information about Curators:

Wendy Bacon

In 1970, Wendy Bacon was an editor of the student newspaper Tharunka and was later involved in the underground newspaper Thorunka. At the time, she was studying for a doctorate about theories of anarchism in the Sociology Department at UNSW. The doctorate was never completed. After leaving UNSW, she squatted in Victoria Street, produced alternative publications, worked as a feminist health worker and criminologist. She completed a law degree but was found to be 'unfit' to practise at the bar. She joined Fairfax's National Times and won a Walkley award for her investigations into NSW corruption.

In the early 1990s, Wendy started teaching journalism at UTS where she became Professor of Journalism and Director of the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism. Since leaving the university, she has been a contributing editor to New Matilda and reported for City Hub and her own blog Recently she has been involved in protesting against and reporting on the Westconnex tollroads. She has been arrested twice during recent protests, finding herself back in NSW police cells for the first time for 38 years.

Chris Nash

From 1970-73 Chris Nash was an undergraduate student in arts/law at Sydney University, fresh from Marist Brothers Parramatta. Student life and newspapers rapidly transformed his view of the world. He and his fellow students in his Honours year went on strike for a term over disputes in the Philosophy and Government Departments. He never completed the law degree.

In 1974 Chris joined ABC Radio Current Affairs, where in 1977 he won a Walkley Award for uncovering a scandal involving then Federal Treasurer Philip Lynch. In 1979 Chris joined NSWIT (now UTS) as a lecturer, and started the Razor’s Edge program on 2 SER-FM. In the late 1980s he made the award-winning independent film documentaries Brigadistas and Philippines my Philippines.

For a decade from 1996 Chris was Director of The Australia Centre for Independent Journalism at UTS, and since 2008 has been Foundation Professor of Journalism at Monash University. In 2016 Chris published What is Journalism? The Art and Politics of a Rupture.