The Guardian’s Australian bird of the year survey recently had the University of Melbourne Student Union (UMSU) council in a flap. The student newspaper Farrago reported that the council had passed a motion condemning The Guardian for its failure to provide a preferential voting system. Farrago ‘broke’ the news on Twitter that UMSU president Yan Zhuang had fulfilled the council’s demands to ‘sigh very loudly in the general direction of The Guardian Australia’s offices two times, shaking her head upon the second time’. Zhuang tweeted that she wanted to end her presidency with ‘something as hilarious and ridiculous as this whole year has been’.
This undergraduate humour seems extraordinarily tame when compared with the sardonic wit and provocative articles that historian Sally Percival Wood presents in Dissent: The student press in 1960s Australia. The author argues that university newspapers played a significant role in Australia’s social, cultural, and political transformation during that tumultuous decade. But the sexual revolution is portrayed as more of a shuffle than a charge. In 1966, the University of Adelaide’s On Dit’s Bird of the Year was a female student rather than a galah or magpie. It took Women’s Liberation four years to make that ‘depersonalisation of the female individual’ extinct.