Main content area

Memorable hoaxes from Australian history

For a bit of fun this April Fools’ Day, we thought we’d look back on three of the more memorable hoaxes from Australian history.
Here they are…

April 1, 1975

Television program ‘A Current Affair’ reported that the Opera House was sinking, and interviewed various experts about plans to save the building. Viewers were reassured that life jackets would be offered at future performances.

a6058025h.jpg

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House, Max Dupain, 1973

Find this image in the collection here.

April 1, 1978

Entrepreneur Dick Smith floats an iceberg into Sydney Harbour. Smith had been suggesting transporting icebergs from Antarctica as a solution to water shortages – however his April Fools’ iceberg was really a barge covered in plastic sheets and spray foam.

aae_36614h.jpg

An iceberg

An iceberg,  Series 01: Photographs of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, 1911-14, Frank Hurley

Find this image in the collection here. 

June 1944

Though not technically an ‘April Fools’ Day’ joke, the ‘Ern Malley’ affair of 1944 was one of the greatest literary hoaxes in Australian history.  Authors James McAuley and Harold Stewart wrote 17 poems in one afternoon under the fictitious name ‘Ern Malley’, and submitted them to the modernist magazine ‘Angry Penguins'. A whole issue of ‘Angry Penguins’ was subsequently devoted to the ‘late’ Ern Malley’s work. The hoax was revealed not long after, much to the humiliation of the magazine’s editor Max Harris. 

angry_penguins.jpg

Angry Penguins

Angry Penguins ‘Ern Malley’ issue, June 1944; One of ‘Ern Malley’s’ modernist poems.

Find Angry Penguins in the collection here.