Menu toggle

National Museum of Australia

Where our stories come alive

Collection Explorer


Explaining democracy

Object information

Physical description

A4 sheet of paper with cartoon in black felt tip pen and colour pencil highlighting.

Statement of significance

The Political Cartooning 2006 collection consists of 109 political cartoons collected under the auspices of the National Museum of Australia's 2005 2007 Political cartooning targeted collecting project and the Behind the Lines 2006 political cartooning exhibition. There are 48 different artists represented in the collection including Alan Moir, Peter Nicholson, John Spooner, Mark Knight, Sean Leahy, Bruce Petty, Cathy Wilcox and Ward O'Neill.

The cartoons provide a satirical record of the major events and personalities in Australian politics and society in 2006. Major topics addressed within the collection include issues such as the Cronulla race riots; Work Choices policy; the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) scandal; Australia's military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, East Timor and the Solomon Islands; the continuing threat of global terrorist attacks; the economy; and global warming. Taken together the collection provides a diverse visual archive of Australian political events in 2006 and demonstrates the quality of Australian political cartooning and illustration.

Educational significance

This is a colour cartoon by Bruce Petty commenting on the Australian Government's intervention into the East Timorese riots of 2006. It shows foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer leading a massive combined military force, heading towards representatives from East Timor, Solomon Islands, Iraq, Afghanistan, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and others. Downer says, 'How many times do we have to explain democracy to you people!!?' Further information is available for this resource.

Bruce Petty is one of Australia's most celebrated cartoonists and he also works in animation, sculpture and etchings. He has worked for a number of Australian newspapers including the Daily Mirror, the Australian and Time magazine (Australia) and currently works for the Age.

In April 2006, riots broke out in Dili following rivalry within the military and police; 40 people were killed and more than 20,000 fled their homes. Fighting between pro-government troops and disaffected Falintil troops broke out in May 2006. Upon the invitation of the prime minister of East Timor, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal sent troops to East Timor, attempting to quell the violence.

Political cartoons have a long history in Australia and remain one of the most popular forms of political commentary. Though caricatures and satirical illustrations appeared in some of Australia's earliest newspapers, it was not until the 1830s that they became a frequent and respectable feature of the print media. Publications such as the Melbourne Punch, the Sydney Punch and the Bulletin featured both caricatures and cartoons, and it was through these publications that political cartoons became a popular element of the Australian press.

Object information

Back to top