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Dissent (Sally Percival Wood, Scribe)

Sally Percival Wood’s Dissent is a lively and accessible slice of Australian cultural history. Percival Wood revisits the tumultuous 1960s and reveals the extent to which an unlikely and often-forgotten institution, the university student press, sparked Australia’s progressive leap forward. Exploring the role of radical student magazines in the abolition of censorship and the advancement of Indigenous, queer and women’s rights, Dissent is also full of remarkable stories from the time: how university students helped to smuggle copies of Ulysses and Lady Chatterley’s Lover into the country, and ASIO agents infiltrated university campuses to monitor anti-Vietnam War sentiment in the student press. Percival Wood’s conversational tone lets her research speak for itself, generously quoting scandalised politicians and the brazen student editors who mocked them. At the same time, her personal admiration for the student dissidents and her disdain for the mentality of Menzies’ Australia gives the book polemical force. Dissent ends with a frank meditation on the current state of student politics and the place of student publications today, whose influence wanes in the wake of the commercialisation of higher education. This is an entertaining, relevant and well-researched book that will appeal to anyone interested in how social change is made.

Kelsey Oldham is a bookseller at Readings and deputy editor of the music magazine Swampland


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