In our modern liberal democracy, we expect the press and other media channels to be able to express free opinion without censorship or the intervention of government. This was not always the case; early newspapers in the colonies existed primarily to promulgate the wishes of government and quash any dissent, particularly among the convict population.

In 1824, the first two uncensored newspapers were published in the colonies. The first was edition no. 422 of the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser, printed on 4 June by then Government Printer Andrew Bent (c. 1791–1851), a former convict. Before publication, all proofs of the newspaper had to be submitted for government censorship. In May 1824, just as the popular Lieutenant Governor Sorrell was replaced by the less liberal George Arthur, tensions arose between Bent and his government-appointed editor. Bent replaced him with an editor sympathetic to the ideals of a free press, and on 4 June, printed the newspaper without submitting the proofs. Arthur resisted Bent’s move, claiming the Gazette as government property, but was thwarted when Bent, who owned the printing equipment, successfully appealed to the Governor in Chief, Sir Thomas Brisbane. Bent’s newspaper proceeded to criticise and attack the government. He was dismissed as Government Printer in June 1825, convicted of libeling the authorities, fined and imprisoned. He continued to print newspapers, often critical of government and private individuals, and was repeatedly prosecuted for libel before moving to Sydney in 1839.

The second uncensored newspaper was The Australian, first printed in Sydney on 14 October 1824 and published until 1848. The owners of the paper were lawyer Robert Wardell (1793¬–1834) and eminent explorer, landowner and lawyer William Charles Wentworth (1790–1872), who brought a printing press and type with them when they arrived in Sydney from Britain in July that year. The broadsheet championed liberal views and received the approval of Governor Sir Thomas Brisbane, who “considered it most expedient to try the experiment of the full latitude of the freedom of the Press”. The first edition of the paper declared it to be “independent, yet consistent—free, yet not licentious—equally unmoved by favours and by fear—we shall pursue our labours without either a sycophantic approval of, or a systematic opposition to, acts of authority, merely because they emanate from government”. Government censorship of newspapers was abandoned in New South Wales from this point.

The two newspapers were crucial in helping to establish the free press in Australia. They gave voice to all, including the disenfranchised and convicts, and created a forum for calling the colonial government to account.

Technical specifications

Issue date
9 July 2024
Issue withdrawal date
1 February 2025
$1.50 x 1
Stamp & product design
Jonathan Chong
Paper: gummed
Tullis Russell 104gsm Red Phosphor
Southern Impact
Printing process
Offset lithography
Stamp size (mm)
26 x 37.5
Sheetlet size (mm)
101 x 156
14.6 x 13.86
Sheet layout
Module of 10
FDI Postmark
Hobart TAS 7000
FDI withdrawal date
7 August 2024

Stamps in this issue

$1.50 A Free Press

The stamp depicts a silhouette of a press against a background of the two newspapers printed in 1824: the Hobart Town Gazette and Van Diemen’s Land Advertiser and The Australian (note that this has no relation to the current publication of the same name). The actual presses used for printing these first two papers are still unknown, however it is likely that they were wooden presses, as these were much lighter than all-iron presses so easier to transport to the colonies. The press shown in the stamp is therefore representative of the type of press first used. It is an English common wooden hand press, made in the early 18th century.

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Gummed stamp:

A Free Press: 200 Years Gummed Stamp

This single stamp design is from the A Free Press: 200 Years stamp issue.

Gummed stamps - RRP: $1.50


A Free Press: 200 Years Sheetlet

This sheetlet of gummed stamps from the A Free Press: 200 Years stamp issue presents the stamp design as a sheetlet of 10.

Sheetlet - RRP: $15

Sheetlet pack:

A Free Press: 200 Years Sheetlet Pack

This A Free Press: 200 Years sheetlet pack presents 10 x $1.50 stamps from the stamp issue complete with background details on the subject.

Sheetlet Pack RRP: $15.45

First Day Cover (Gummed):

A Free Press: 200 Years Gummed First Day Cover

This first day cover from the A Free Press: 200 Years stamp issue presents the gummed stamp with an official postmark.

First day cover (gummed) RRP: $1.80

This content was produced at the time of the stamp issue release date and will not be updated.