“Taking to the Streets” Exhibition

Uranium Picket at Hamilton Wharf in August 1977 - 2“Taking to the Streets – two decades that changed Brisbane 1965 – 1985”Museum of Brisbane Exhibition 2006.

The exhibition was opened on 6 April 2006. After an extended season and over 80,000 visitors later the exhibition was closed on Sunday 10 September 2006. Many took advantage of the last days to see the Taking to the Streets exhibition. A closing ceremony took place in the foyer of City Hall after people had taken a final look at the exhibition.


Taking to the Streets obtained contributions from people who were involved in the various campaigns during 1965-1985 (e.g. right to march campaigns, land rights struggles, anti-uranium movement, women’s movement, peace movement and solidarity struggles)

There was an afternoon tea provided at a closing ceremony at 3pm on the final day by the museum.
A number of contributors and people who participated in the campaigns described in the exhibition spoke at the closing ceremony.

Different perspectives of the 1965-1985 era were presented by a number of speakers to a small gathering of about 50 people.

Jo Besley from the Museum of Brisbane said that there will be an attempt to preserve the exhibition. This may be in the form of a website, a DVD or a booklet. It depends upon support for the MoB to do this and resources made available by city hall.

Just one of the perspectives presented at the closing ceremony is reproduced below:

Democratic Rights

The defining political struggle of 1965 – 1985 period covered by the exhibition was the Right-to-March campaign of 1977-1979.

This democratic rights struggle was the main political opposition to the Bjelke-Petersen government at that time.

The right-to-march campaign was an extra-parliamentary opposition. For Joh Must Go 21 Aug 1978example, slogans such as Unite in Opposition to the State and Federal Governments and JOH MUST GO featured strongly during this campaign. All debate in the co-ordinating committees meetings flowed from this extra-parliamentary perspective that was to bring down the Bjelke-Petersen government.

Meanwhile there was reluctance by the ALP parliamentary opposition to take up the fight. This was shown on at the Unite in Opposition to the State Government rally on 11 Nov 1977. The ALP state secretary threatened to dis-endorse its federal senator for Queensland, George Georges, if he spoke at this rally on the eve of the state election.

Georges did not speak that day but he did take part in the rally at the request of the Civil Liberties Coordinating Committee (CLCC).

11 Nov 1977 March into 'valley of death'Into the ‘Valley of Death

That evening 197 people were arrested attempting to march out of King George Square into Albert Street, only hours before the polling booths were opened. A few more people were arrested again on the day of the election itself in the square. As a direct result of the right-to-march campaign there was a 10% swing against the Bjelke-Petersen government in the metropolitan area.

While the right-to-march campaign fell short of its goal to bring down the government, this was its intent.

The Nationals were prevented from ruling in their own right until 1982; Bjelke-Petersen bribed two Liberal MLAs, Lane and Austin, promising them ministerial leather in order to have the numbers to form a National party government in its own right.

The impact of ordinary workers who fought the right-to-march campaign with their unions, unassisted by the official ALP opposition, was the most significant aspect of this campaign.

The Trades and Labour Council were reluctant to march but they were overwhelmed by workers, unemployed and students who wanted to see the democratic rights slogan “JOH MUST GO” realised.

The Taking to the Streets exhibition did not cover the South-East Queensland SEQEB disputeElectricity Board (SEQEB) dispute.

However the SEQEB dispute was a significant chapter in the democratic rights struggles that began in 1977. Right-to-March campaigners linked up with the SEQEB workers in 1985 in union support groups.

Sadly the organisations (Civil Liberties Coordinating Committee [CLCC] and Civil Liberties Campaign Group [CLCG]) that made the right-to-march campaign possible had not continued through to 1985. The result for those workers may well have been different if organisations like the CLCC and CLCG had continued.

In the 1990s Queensland was saddled with successive Labor governments that refused to reinstate sacked SEQEB workers (or give them their full entitlements) and who, to their shame, gave Bjelke-Petersen a state funeral in 2005.

A street march led by aboriginal people, sacked workers and democratic rights ban bjelke march and anti uranium picket 1977campaigners behind the original 1977 banner “BAN BJELKE” on the day of Bjelke-Petersen’s state funeral in 2005 marched to parliament chanting “Never Forgive, Never Forget, Never Again.”

Despite the shortcomings of representing history, which are our shortcomings, the stories of the democratic rights struggle is still a true story, it may not be the story of many, but it is our story.

It is a good story that should be told of how ordinary people tried to bring down a government and nearly succeeded.

The images shown here are from archival material held by the Leftpress collective.

Ian Curr
Updated 8 Nov 2013

March around KGSq on 12 Nov 1977 after mass arrests the night previous

2 thoughts on ““Taking to the Streets” Exhibition

  1. Photos from the Street Marches 1977 - 1979 says:

    Recently a comrade from the Revolutionary Socialist party asked me to provide a collection of photos from the Street Marches 1977 – 1979 towards an exhibition. Here is what I found in my collection. Note the photographers who shot these photos are not always known. When they are I have attributed them.

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