Have you heard about the Pink Bans of the 1970s? Learn about this little-recorded aspect of Australian history with comics-journalist, cartoonist and 2023 Friends Creative Arts Fellow Sam Wallman.

Man smiling as he holds a small red booklet and sits at a desk covered with books and papers

What were the Pink Bans? 

The Pink Bans were industrial work stoppages carried out by unionised construction workers in support of persecuted queer people back in the 1970s. These industrial actions are significant because they took place prior to the emergence of the mainstream gay rights movement.  

I am interested in this chapter of history because of my political orientation, my sexuality, my day job, and the focus of my art practice. I also think the Pink Bans are worth reflecting upon because they subvert the unthinking, incorrect stereotype of blue-collar workers as inherently backward or reactionary.

An illustrated image of two people with their heads bowed together. The background is pink and the text on the image reads ' The Pink Bans. They shouldn't pick on a bloke because of his sexuality - Bob Pringle, Building Labourers Federation, 1973.'
Sam Wallman, Pink Bans, courtesy Sam Wallman. 

Why the Library? 

I was researching a topic about which quite little has been recorded, so the fact that the Library holds such diverse collections made the fellowship very appealing. I felt as if I might be able to uncover new information in the collections, to join some dots. 

The Library does not just hold formal publications, but also personal letters, diaries, artworks, oral histories, and all matter of ephemera. It was pretty profound to look through the personal papers of Bob Pringle, a central figure in the Pink Bans. I felt as if I was almost in dialogue with him through space and time. I loved reading about how the solidarity between the different marginalised groups flowed back and forth, zig-zagging and crisscrossing. 

Equally, the luxury of having time, space and pro-active support from the librarians, to go deep down a portal of your choosing - it’s very special.   

I would encourage everyone to apply. You don’t have to be an academic or an established artist or writer. The Library wants to bring different kinds of people into the fold - the Library belongs to all of us, quite literally.

Smiling man leaning on a wooden surface behind a fold-out artwork reading 'UNION'

What’s next?

I am adapting the research into a 120+ page comic book celebrating the Pink Bans and reflecting on what lessons we might be able to take from them today. The book absolutely would not exist without the fellowship, supported by the Friends of the National Library.

Watch Sam’s fellowship lecture to see what his research uncovered about the Pink Bans.  

Learn more about the Library’s fellowships, scholarships and grants.