A poster is any piece of printed paper designed to be attached to a wall or vertical surface. Typically posters include both textual and graphic elements, although a poster may be either wholly graphical or wholly text. Posters are designed to be both eye-catching and informative. Posters may be used for many purposes. They are a frequent tool of advertisers (particularly of events, musicians and films), propagandists, protestors and other groups trying to communicate a message. Posters are also used for reproductions of artwork, particularly famous works, and are generally low-cost compared to original artwork.


According to the French historian Max Gallo, "for over two hundred years, posters have been displayed in public places all over the world. Visually striking, they have been designed to attract the attention of passers-by, making us aware of a political viewpoint, enticing us to attend specific events, or encouraging us to purchase a particular product or service." The modern poster, as we know it, however, dates back to 1870 when the printing industry perfected colour lithography and made mass production possible.

Propaganda and political posters

Posters during wartime were also used for propaganda purposes, persuasion, and motivation, such as the famous Rosie the Riveter posters which exhorted women workers to work in factories during World War II. 

In Australia for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people posters are a form of showing of their artwork or advertising a government institute.

John Oxley Library - Poster Collection

The John Oxley Library has a collection of posters focusing on a variety of topics.  One such topic is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (HPT ATS). These poster range from a variety of topics and designs, from childcare to land rights.

A small section of this collection can be viewed in the photographic section of Wantima.  

My apologies for the bad photographic images, but the protection cover is not removable and taking an image is difficult.  View Wantima Posters


The first NAIDOC poster was created in 1972 to promote ‘Aborigines Day’ which had become widely accepted as a day for Australians to come together in support of better rights for Indigenous people. The protest nature of the poster continued until 1977 with titles like ‘Self Determination’ and ‘Chains or Chance’ publicising political change and a day of remembrance.

The 1978 poster reflected a decision by the recently established National NAIDOC Committee to move from a day of demonstration to a week long celebration in July. The cultural focus of the poster’s title ‘Cultural Revival is Survival’ highlighted a decision to weave ideas of culture and history into what had become predominantly politically based themes for the posters.

The 1988 poster appropriately titled ‘Recognise and Share the Survival of the Oldest Culture in the World’ was the first to reflect the NAIDOC name change formally incorporating the inclusion of the Torres Strait Islander community.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) launched the official NAIDOC poster competition in the mid 1990′s inviting entries from around the country and offering generous prize money as well as the opportunity for newly emerging artists to display their work nationally. Entrants were required to develop an artwork based around set themes such as ‘Respect’ and ‘Families are the basis of our existence’. Read more about the past National NAIDOC themes. http://www.naidoc.org.au/naidoc-poster/poster-gallery/

Posters from the turn of the Century took on a more futuristic flavour with ideas of a way forward for Indigenous people through children and community featuring in the themes. The contemporary style of posters and the quality of the production are notable too, and perhaps a result of, the more strategic approach to the competition and better publishing services.

Today, 100,000 posters are distributed nationally. The poster is a creative opportunity for artists to convey messages depicting the cultural and political history of Australia’s Indigenous people and is the primary tool for promoting NAIDOC Week activities.

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