Banned Books in Australia A Special Collections-Art in the Library Exhibition

Censorship and the ‘Rights’ to Life and Death

Australia has a long history of censoring information about contraception, abortion, euthanasia and suicide — testimony, in part, to the strong hold that Roman Catholicism has had over the political and medical classes of this country.

The Australian edition of The Peaceful Pill Handbook, by Australian authors Dr Philip Nitschke and Dr Fiona Stewart, was published in the Northern Territory in 2007. Intended for the elderly and the seriously ill, the book examines the legal and moral aspects of suicide and gives ‘how-to’ instructions for non-violent and painless suicide methods.

Originally the Handbook was given a Category 1 – Restricted classification in Australia. On the 24th of February 2007, after an application from the Right to Life Association (NSW) to review this classification, the Classification Review Board refused classification, directing that copies of the publication be removed from shelves immediately. The reason the Handbook was refused classification was because ‘it instructs in matters of crime relating to the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates), including the attempt to manufacture a prohibited drug (barbiturates); the storage of substances being used for the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates); and gives instructions enabling individuals to “take part in” the manufacture of a prohibited drug (barbiturates)’.

The Handbook is freely available in other countries, and to circumvent the ban of the book in Australia, an ebook edition is available from

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