There’s a familiar saying among Australian baby boomers that if you can remember the 1960s then you weren’t really there.

It was certainly a socially turbulent decade with the spread of pot and widespread protests opposing the Vietnam War and “All the way with LBJ”, especially the controversial conscription ballot (the lottery no one wanted to win).

Man walked on the moon, The Beatles came on the scene to change music forever and there was pop art, free love, the building of the Sydney Opera House and the introduction of  decimal currency to Australia on  February 14, 1966.

Who could forget the now forgotten debate about what to call our new currency back in 1966. More than 1000 submissions were made to name our new coinage.

As we said goodbye to the deener, the tray, the zac and the bob the nation seriously considered whether or not to call the main new coin the oz, the boomer, the roo, the kanga, the dinkum, the kwid or the ming (after Prime Minister Robert Menzies’ nickname). One apparent frontrunner favoured by Menzies was  ‘‘the royal’’. Luckily, it was dumped in favour of  ‘‘the  dollar’’.

The era was called the swinging sixties: the start of the permissive society, an exciting decade which really changed the world. And this cultural tsunami included our surf culture taking off and women finding a revolutionary new freedom with the introduction of the contraceptive pill.

There was also the growth of the indigenous movement and, of course, the miniskirt, a liberating influence on fashion after the dour, repressive, post-war 1950s.

Unlike today, everyone smoked in the workplace before we all realised the health risks. The middle-of-the-road Melbourne band, The Seekers, found international fame and there was a migrant boom. There were also afternoon newspapers around then (before the glut of free TV channels) with newsboys on every city street corner.

The 1960s were an amazing time of change … and it was fabulous to be there.

Join us at our museum on Saturday, 6th April at 2:00 pm to be taken on a journey through the 60s and 70s by way of Russell Workman’s wonderful collection of photographs from that era.

If you would like to learn more we suggest you try to find a copy of a book Those Were the Days:  Australia in the sixties by Ron Morrison and Elizabeth Dorothy Morrison.

To quote from the book’s publicity release:  In photographs and words, this beautifully presented book rekindles memories while providing glimpses of the 1960s in Australia: the Vietnam War and the conscription lottery; the Swinging Sixties, with its mini-skirts and changing fashions, the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the Australian group, The Seekers; the loss of a Prime Minister by drowning; the excitement of Kings Cross; the building of the iconic Opera House; the advent of decimal currency; Aboriginal recognition and the changing social patterns, including the arrival of immigrants from the UK and Europe; overseas working holidays for Australians; censorship; sporting successes and the new frontiers in Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland, with the mineral boom and new towns appearing in the desert. The kaleidoscopic images are in both colour and black-and-white and are juxtaposed to emphasise the differences that emerged during this exciting decade of change.


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