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September 21, 2023

Vale to the fearless and humorous Richard Neville

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Richard Neville with his favourite covers from both the Australian and London editions of Oz Magazine. Picture: Craig Wilson/The Australian
Richard Neville with his favourite covers from both the Australian and London editions of Oz Magazine. Picture: Craig Wilson/The Australian

Richard Neville, one of the founding editors of the iconic counterculture magazine, Oz, died last Sunday in Suffolk Park, aged 74, after a struggle with dementia. His wife Julie Clarke Neville and daughters Lucy and Angelica were by his side.

With Oz co-founders Richard Walsh and Martin Sharp, Neville fought unearned privilege, all forms of prejudice and sexual bigotry with humour and courage. In NSW and in the UK he and his co-editors were several times charged with obscenity and corrupting the young.

In England, Richard spent time in prison before the politically motivated charges were successfully appealed. John Lennon contributed a song to the battle to protect the Oz editors and Geoffrey Robertson defended them in court.

After the London Oz closed, Neville and Walsh founded another newspaper in Australia, The Living Daylights, and Richard went on to become an author, broadcaster and futurist, with books such as Playpower and Hippie Hippie Shake.

Former Democrats/independent MLC Richard Jones was a close friend of Richard’s since the 1960s. Jones said he regularly visited Neville until he died.

‘The last thing he said to me was two weeks ago,’ Mr Jones said.

‘I asked him if he remembered taking cannabis oil with me, and he replied rather loudly “Yes!”.’

Jones told The Echo he met Neville in Sydney after he moved from the UK in 1962. ‘He was the first person I met in Australia outside my bosses. Both of us were copywriters at the time, and he worked at critiquing ads.

‘I loved his wit, humour and optimism and above all how he challenged conservatism along with everything else. He was so bold and simply unafraid.

‘He was not afraid to be jailed. We used to laugh all the time, even when he was locked up. Those years of conservatism were so stifling and he was so refreshing.

‘He was such a vibrant character and his use of words was extraordinary. He changed the Australian landscape and was a catalyst with abortion and censorship issues, for example. He dragged us away from that ridiculous bullshit.’

The Guardian has a detailed tribute to Neville see http://bit.ly/ozwizardrn.

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