Cartoon nation: Australia’s problem with its comic history

11am, Wednesday 23 September 2020 on zoom only*


Australia as a nation possesses a “great tradition of cartooning and illustration”. One of few authors to tackle the whole history of Australian cartooning – Vane Lindesay (b.1919) – observed a distinctive “’Australian School’ of black-and-white comic art” that had made Australia “an important world centre” of graphic humour. Himself a cartoonist, he saw in the cartoons something uniquely Australian; just as important for understanding the national character as other aspects of what Russel Ward had termed The Australian Legend (1958).

Indeed, it has been said that “Australians often congratulate themselves for having the best cartoonists in the world” (Phiddian & Manning, 2013: 7), and that Australians have a special appetite for political satire in graphic form.

However, as the British cartoons scholar, Tim Benson, has pointed out, given our heritage, it is “puzzling that, despite Australia’s fine tradition of political cartooning, there have been so few books published on this subject”. Based on an ARC Discovery application, this paper puts forward some reasons why Australia seems to have such a problem with its cartoon history, and posits a few solutions, at a time when the art-cum-journalistic form is transitioning to the brave new world of online media.

Presenter: Associate Professor Richard Scully

Richard Scully, BA (Hons), PhD (Monash), FRHistS is an Associate Professor in Modern History at UNE. His chief research interest is the history of political cartooning and graphic satire. Richard is the author of Eminent Victorian Cartoonists (2018), and British Images of Germany, 1860-1914 (2012), editor of Comic Empires (2020; with Andrekos Varnava) and of The Transnational Voices of Australia’s Migrant and Minority Press (forthcoming; with Catherine Dewhirst).

* Contact Karin von Strokirch for the Zoom link and other enquires: