The 50s saw the first vinyl LPs and rock and roll made a resounding debut. Australian bands began playing the new music and our artists were topping the charts. Blue jeans and t-shirts became fashionable with teenagers mimicking American movie stars like James Dean and Marlon Brando. The newspapers used the term 'juvenile delinquent' to describe young people for the first time.
The Beatles visited with sell-out shows and were frequently mobbed in Australia's cities.
In 1964, The Seekers became the first Australian group to release a recording that reached one million sales. In the late 60s and early 70s the free-spirited youth believed they were going to save the world and their music expressed the spirit of the times.
The feminist movement
With a focus on equal pay for equal work, equal career and educational opportunities, feminist organisations and networks including the Women's Liberation Movement, established in 1969, and the Women's Electoral Lobby, established in 1972, made their voices heard in Parliament. Germaine Greer became a household name with their controversial book The Female Eunuch.
The 'Freedom Rides'
Politics was also changing. Busloads of protestors led by Aboriginal activist Charles Perkins rolled through NSW in 1963 exposing the discrimination against Aboriginal Australians who weren’t permitted to enter cinemas, pubs and public pools in rural areas. It forced the Liberal-National government into a referendum that changed the constitution to give Aboriginal people the vote.
People power and flower power
Young people in the late 60s turned on, tuned in, and dropped out. Life was all about finding peace and this saw the rise of the anti-war, hippie flower power children, sharing the love, living alternative lifestyles and bearing slogans of ‘Make Love Not War!’ They opposed the war in Vietnam with a series of moratorium marches that shut down metropolitan Melbourne in 1970.
As the baby boomers reached voting age a charismatic Labor leader, Gough Whitlam was elected Prime Minister, under the slogan 'It's Time’. His campaign was directed at young people and had the very vocal support of young musicians and artists. This was the first change of government in 23 years, and it introduced a reform package that included free university education, withdrawing Australian troops from Vietnam, Legal Aid, and anti-discrimination laws for Aboriginal people.
Whitlam was dismissed by Australia's governor-general Sir John Kerr in 1975 and, for some Baby Boomers, this marked the end of their radical phase.
The face of the workplace began evolving from a homogenous, paternalistic environment to one of increased racial and gender diversity. With more women entering the workforce terms such as ‘glass ceiling’ and ‘equal opportunity workplace’ were coined. Established authority systems were questioned and the status quo was challenged. Personality profiles were developed to build awareness of how to get along with all co-workers. The workplace gradually began to reflect the rapid political and social changes of the nation.