Protests, activism & dissent in Victoria

Research the history of activism, protests, rallies and campaigners in Victoria using pamphlets, posters, badges, images, articles, interviews and books.

Posters & handbills

Find & view posters in State Library Victoria collections

The Library's Riley & Ephemera Collection and Pictures Collection include significant collections of posters. These collections are listed in several separate sources. To search comprehensively you will need to check each source:

  1. Check our online catalogue - search by subject or group name to find individual posters and collections of posters held in both our Riley and Pictures Collections, for example political posters created by Liz Caffin in the 1970s.
    Some of the posters can be viewed online, for example:
    - posters from the Riley & Ephemera Collection
    - posters produced by Red Planet, Another Planet, and the Red Letter Press.
  2. Some posters may be digitised and freely available to view online.
    For items that are not digitised, place a request to view them at the library at the Ask a Librarian desk in the Cowen Gallery, or by telephoning 03 8664 7002.
  3. Check the Riley card indexes, located in the Arts Reading Room. Look for the drawers labeled 'Riley Collection: Posters' and 'Walker Press: U-Z' (the Walker Press produced left-wing materials, including posters, from 1973 to 1983).

    Access the collection by placing a request at the Ask a Librarian desk in the Cowen Gallery, or by telephoning 03 8664 7002.

Posters in other archives

The Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) website includes an archive of digitised NAIDOC posters (1967 to current). The University of Melbourne Archives also hold many posters relating to peace and feminist movements. The Australian Queer Archives (formerly Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives) includes a significant collection of posters relating to gay rights and sexual health awareness. The University of Rochester (USA) has digitised a number of Australian AIDS education posters. The Center for the Study of Political Graphics (USA) collects Australian posters. Records and digitised copies of posters in other Australian libraries can be found on Trove. Melbourne Protests (archived copy of website) includes digitised copies of many posters.

Research the politics of posters

To find out more about the use of posters in politics, read books like:

We also hold books and articles about art collectives or design studios which produced political posters, like Redback Graphix.

Librarian Olga Tsara has written articles about posters in the Library's collections:

The Library produced a website about posters in Australia to accompany the exhibition All the rage: the poster in Victoria 1850-2000. The website includes some information on co-operative poster presses and their political designs. A printed catalogue was also produced.

Photographs, drawings & engravings

The Library's Pictures Collection includes a significant collection of photographs, drawings and engravings relating to Victorian protest movements and grassroots campaigns.

Items in this collection can be found using our online catalogue. Search by topic, name of organisation, or name of campaigner.

Many images have been digitised and can be viewed immediately online, like Protestor remaining after anti Kennett demonstration by 20,000 Victorians - May 1993 , Pro abortion march, May 1979 and The eight hours demonstration (1879).

Many images that have not been digitised can be pre-ordered for viewing at the Library. Use the catalogue to find items of interest, and then telephone 03 8664 7009 for advice about access.

A significant collection of images of Vietnam war-era anti-conscription protests can be found in the Library's Dalton Collection

Many other images can be found on pamphlets in the Riley & Ephemera Collection. We are digitising copies of early illustrated handbills, ephemera and posters from this collection. Search the catalogue for the phrase "Riley and ephemera collection" to find these items (this search will exclude materials from the Pictures Collection). Most of the digitised material relates to World War I and conscription.

Illustrations published in books, journals and magazines may be referenced in our Illustrations card index. This index is stored back of house, but you can ask staff to check for references on a deferred basis. References are gradually being transferred to our online Australiana Index.

Digitised copies of images in many other Australian archives and libraries can be found using the Trove search engine. The University of Melbourne Archives (incorporating the Victorian Women's Liberation and Lesbian Feminist Archives and peace movement archives), Australian Queer Archives (formerly Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives) and the website Melbourne Protests also include significant collections of photographs.

Union poster

Illustrated colour poster advertising Unemployed workers union

Unemployed workers union, H83.181/12


The Library's Ron Tandberg, Michael Leunig, John Spooner, Peter Nicholson and Les Tanner cartoon collections contain many original works produced by these popular editorial cartoonists. These collections are held in the Pictures Collection and must be pre-ordered several week days ahead of your visit. Use the catalogue to find items of interest (search by name of political figure or topic, and name of cartoonist), and then telephone 03 8664 7009 for advice about access.

Newspapers are another rich source of cartoons including political commentary. Use newspaper indexes and sources like the Australiana Index to discover when an issue became a hot topic in the media, and then check newspapers around this date for cartoons. In modern newspapers, these accompany the editorial and letters pages. Small cartoons may also be included in major articles.

Many significant Australian cartoonists have collections of their work published in book format, for example, I am woman, hear me draw: cartoons from the pen of Judy Horacek and 19-foughty-3: a 5th volume of war cartoons by Armstrong, who worked for Melbourne's Argus newspaper. Search the catalogue by cartoonist's name to find more of these types of books.

Bicentenary poster