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Living the 1960s

Looking back is always something done with great fondness and this reflection of life in Australia during the 1960’s is absolutely no exception. Thanks to the excellent National Library of Australia’s collection and Noeline Brown’s memories of growing into her adulthood during the times when Australia truly was changing, taking a trip down memory lane is both entertaining and educational.

The baby boomers, born post war, where coming into their own in the late 1950’s and ‘60’s, beginning to make a statement about how they were going to live, the politics of the day were beginning to change from traditional way of thinking to a more radical approach to just about everything, the food eaten, thanks to the immigrant population was moving away from the standard fare of meat and three veg.

Noeline Brown entered the ‘60’s at the ripe age of 21, making the decision to give up a steady, full time profession as an assistant librarian, to try her luck on the stages of Australia during the time when television was a new addition to some households and the acting profession, as a long term money earner, along with the burgeoning film industry, was a very new enterprise.

She found continuous work relatively quickly, eventually becoming a cast member of the popular satirical show, The Mavis Brampton Show which ran weekly from 1964 to 1968. Her career was on the move as a comedienne and she was soon to become a household name in most of the new and popular television shows written and performed by Australian actors.

Through her love of storytelling she has bought the ‘60’s alive, revisiting such wondrous things as s the beehive, a hair style beloved of the trendy young woman, stiletto heels, hippies, and sport, not to mention the scandalous bikini and the short, short, skirts, winkle picker shoes for the young men and stovepipe trousers.

During these years Australia on the sporting field was a nation to be challenged and treated with respect; the first of the incredibly popular Calypso games were held between Australia and the West Indies on the cricket grounds, which with their flair and vivacity, the West Indian side, under the captaincy of the great Viv Richards, revived what was becoming a game which was seriously beginning to flag. Tennis was considered as a top ranking sport with the great Margaret Court sweeping all before her. Swimming was experiencing a fantastic time with the likes of Dawn Frazer, Murray Rose and Isla and John Conrad’s, the brother and sister Olympic Champions, setting the pace in the Rome Olympics in 1960 going on to break many records at the Games, and Betty Cuthbert flying the flag in athletics.

Food was something that changed dramatically during the ‘60’s with the massive influx of European migrants who used wonderful things like garlic and chilli and served fantastic salads, the like of which had never graced an Australian dining room table. Sunday lunch back them was pretty well a standard Roast Lamb and an assortment of roast veg, with a dessert of Rice Pudding, Apple Crumble and Custard or the like. Awfully British!

Politics was another arena that was rapidly changing; families had traditionally followed the same party, but this was no longer considered the norm. Young people considered they had a voice and were not afraid to use it. During this tumultuous time, young Australian men were sent to Vietnam, which proved to be a very unpopular move, prime misters changed several times with the drowning death of Harold Holt, John Gorton proving to be largely ineffectual in what could be considered his watch keepers role, Gough Whitlam was elected in a hostile parliament, made some sweeping and far reaching changes to Australian laws, was axed by the Governor General, as his changes went one step two far, and Malcom Frazer was put in as Prime Mistier, a position he was to hold from 1975-1983.

Hair was the scandal stage show of the decade with on stage nudity, pot was smoked, censors could ban shows, books and music and the Beetles, Rolling Stones and Elvis Presley’s Gold Cadillac came to Australia.

The sixties were a time of great change, and depending on where you lived, who you hung out with and what you enjoyed doing, whether it be football, surfing, playing cricket, or enjoying the new, risky style of theatre and stage, not only you, but Australia, came of age.

Hugely entertaining, Living in the 1960’s will be a trip down memory lane for many and a learning curve for others, but whatever reason you choose to pick up this book, one thing you will have is a totally enjoyable trip through some of very colourful days that helped to form a Nation.