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Gwendoline Dorothea Julie Hansen (1896–1971)

by Andrée Wright

This article was published:

Gwendoline Dorothea Julie Hansen (1896-1971), film censor, was born on 19 February 1896 at Waverley, Sydney, sixth child of Alfred Julius Nielson, an assayer from Norway, and his native-born wife Martha, née Maxwell. Obtaining her Leaving certificate at Parramatta High School in 1915, Gwendoline won a scholarship to Teachers' College (Blackfriars). She joined the New South Wales Department of Public Instruction and in 1918-22 taught book-keeping, business principles, English and history at Meadowbank, Ashfield and Gloucester public schools. At the Methodist Church, Strathfield, on 15 April 1922 she married Herbert William Hansen (d.1928), a fellow teacher. Next year she was employed as a temporary teacher at Hurstville Public School. Gwendoline and Herbert moved to Springwood in the hope that the country air would help him to recover from the effects of gas poisoning in World War I. After her husband's death she returned to Sydney and took classes at Hurstville Central Domestic/Home Science School.

In January 1930 the Scullin Labor government appointed Mrs Hansen a censor for a one-year term; she replaced Eleanor Glencross whose earlier appointment had resulted from lobbying by women's organizations for a female representative on the Commonwealth's Film Censorship Board. Glencross publicly protested that Hansen's selection was a political one. The assistant-minister for trade and customs Frank Forde dismissed the charge as baseless and as being unfair 'to a soldier's widow with family responsibilities, who, on her merits, was successful in securing the position' from hundreds of applicants. Hansen rejoined her colleagues Cresswell O'Reilly and Lionel Hurley on the board in 1932 as part of a new censorship régime under which the major change was the replacement of the liberal Appeal Board by a single adjudicator. In 1933 she was reappointed for a three-year term on a salary of £2 a day, 'subject to appropriate reduction under the Financial Emergency Act 1931-1932'. Thereafter, her contract was to be renewed regularly until her retirement in February 1961.

Guided by the general principles in the Customs (Cinematograph Films) Regulations, she censored an average of 450 films a year and worked with three chief censors, O'Reilly (to 1942), John Alexander (in 1942-56) and Colin Campbell (from 1956). Hansen witnessed many changes in film content, technology and community attitudes during her thirty years in office. In an interview after her retirement she recalled classifying Charlie Chaplin's first 'talkie', remembered the ban imposed on horror films in 1949 and referred to the classification of television programmes from 1956. She also observed that Australians were becoming more broad-minded, and that films were increasingly more suitable for adults than for children. Hansen was appointed M.B.E. in 1961. Her recreations included surfing, golf and motoring, and later bowling, tapestry and needlework. Survived by her son, she died on 7 January 1971 at the Repatriation General Hospital, Concord, and was cremated with Anglican rites.

Select Bibliography

  • I. Bertrand, Censorship in Australia (Brisb, 1978)
  • Commonwealth Film Censorship Board, Report by the Chief Censor, 1928-60
  • Hansen papers (privately held).

Citation details

Andrée Wright, 'Hansen, Gwendoline Dorothea Julie (1896–1971)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 16 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (Melbourne University Press), 1996

View the front pages for Volume 14

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Nielson, Gwendoline

19 February, 1896
Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


7 January, 1971 (aged 74)
Concord, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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