Before the modern era of social media, posters were a common way to mobilise support for a cause or push a political argument.
An exhibition now on at the University of South Australia showcases hundreds of posters from the 1970s to 1990s.
Curator Dale Durie said some of the artworks were highly contentious in their time, as they stimulated important conversations about social issues.
The women’s liberation movement of the late 1970s is something she remembers well, as it tackled equal opportunity, women’s workforce participation, their safety in the streets and contraception rights.
“It was using posters to empower the community and the power it gave for the women was amazing,” she said.
“We were standing up and saying ‘treat us as equals’.”
A poster, Girls Can Do Anything by Francis Phoenix, urged females to aspire to new roles, she said.
Ms Durie said it made girls such as herself dream of taking on the jobs men had long dominated.
“They had the impact of bringing up the next generation of girls with the idea that they could do anything,” she said.
On display are posters which drew attention to important social issues of their era. (ABC News: Sowaibah Hanifie)
Lisa Philip-Harbutt, a participant in a forum related to the exhibition, said posters also drew attention to issues such as immigration and racism.
One by artist Mark Kaziniec shared the plight of asylum seekers at an Adelaide holding centre, she said, depicting their despair after they found Australia was not always the welcoming nation they might have dreamed of.
“[Posters] gave you more information than you could read in the paper or see on the television,” she said of the era.
“They showed a different perspective, and often did it beautifully.”
Ms Philip-Harbutt said personal expression remained strong in our society, even though social media was now taking on some of the role posters once played.
“A voice is a voice, everyone has one,” she said.
“We should empower people to have one and they all should be different, because pluralism makes our world great.”
Street artists such as Adelaide man Peter Drew still use posters to deliver a powerful message, including with campaigns, Real Aussies Say Welcome and What Is A Real Aussie?
“I think art should ask questions and I try to do it in a friendly way,” he said.
Posters remain potent: Artist Peter Drew pastes up an artwork with a message. (Supplied: Peter Drew)