Behind The Lines – The Year That Was, In Political Cartoons

Behind The Lines
Our eclectic team of writers from around Australia – and a couple beyond – with decades of combined experience and interest in all fields.

Well, 2023 is officially in the rear-view mirror – but that doesn't mean we can't reflect on it!

Behind The Lines takes a look back on the year that was, through the eyes of Australia's political cartoonists. It's an opportunity, in line with Melbourne International Comedy Festival, to have a laugh about – or reflect on – the year gone by.

Times were interesting in 2023. . . From soaring inflation, to climate change, to the Voice referendum, and international conflicts.

The political cartoonists were there through it all, and this annual exhibition features 100 cartoons which showcase that.

It'll hit Melbourne's Old Treasury Building for another year of sharing stories.

Here, we speak with Exhibition Curator Dr Alex Walton, and Old Treasury Building's Katie Dunning, about this showcase.

What is Behind The Lines?
Alex Walton: Behind The Lines is the Museum Of Australian Democracy's annual exhibition of political cartoons. It is a retrospective on the political issues and current affairs of the year that was through the lens of Australia’s political cartooning community. Contemporary political cartoons are a part of Australia’s rich tradition of free speech and free expression, values that are cornerstones of our democracy.

Who is this travelling exhibition for?
AW: Visitors of all ages can find something for them in Behind The Lines, including younger visitors and families.

Why do you think it works so well in the context of Melbourne International Comedy Festival?
Katie Dunning: Melbourne’s satirical pedigree is second to none! There’s no better place for politics and humour to meet than the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Located next to the Victorian Parliament House, the Old Treasury Building is the perfect venue for this fabulous exhibition!

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How are the cartoons selected for the exhibition?
AW: There are 100 cartoons in the exhibition, but the selection is made from well over 1,000 political cartoons produced in Australia throughout 2023. The selection of cartoons is guided by the events of the year and how cartoonists responded to these events, as well as visual impact, originality of concept, and execution of individual cartoons. Behind The Lines represents the diversity of the cartooning community in Australia, and includes emerging cartoonists and those who publish online.

This year’s them is All Fun And Games. What does that mean for the content of the exhibition?
AW: All Fun And Games is inspired by traditional party games for young and old, from pass the parcel to charades. But of course, the reference to party games is a double entendre. Behind The Lines this year recognises that politics is all about playing the game – and this game plays out in both parliament and the media. 2023 was a year for political game playing over a range of issues, including housing, superannuation reforms and the Voice referendum.

There’s also an online talk as part of the exhibition. What can audiences expect in this?
KD: Audiences will be treated to a glimpse into the mind of a political cartoonist! They’ll hear about the exhibition from the team who put it together, and gain greater understanding of what it means to work in such a visual medium.

Describe the 2024 offering in four words.
KD: Only three words needed: Political satire perfection.

Behind The Lines is on at Old Treasury Building (Melbourne) from 24 March-24 May, alongside Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

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