Obituary: Richard Neville, Australian journalist

Born: 15 December 1941 in Sydney. Died: 4 September, 2016 in Byron Bay

Richard Neville, Australian journalist, author, social commentator and founder of Oz magazine. Picture: Getty Images

Australian author and social commentator Richard Neville, best known as founder of the 1960s counterculture magazine Oz, has died, his wife said. He was 74.

His wife Julie Clarke Neville said she and their daughters Lucy and Angelica were with Neville when he died on Sunday night at the Australian east coast town of Byron Bay.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Our wonderful Richard has gone on to his next adventure,” Clarke Neville posted on Facebook late on Sunday.

She did not say what he died of, but Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported he had Alzheimer’s disease.

Born in Sydney on 15 December, 1941, the young Neville railed against the long era of conservative rule in Australia that lasted from 1949 until 1972.

He was editor of the University of New South NSW student magazine when he collaborated with Richard Walsh, editor of Sydney University student newspaper, and artist Martin Sharp to publish the anti-establishment magazine Oz.

The magazine, first published on April Fool’s Day in 1963, mocked hypocrisy in Australian society and took on taboo subjects including abortion, homosexuality, sexism, racism and censorship.

Neville was among editors charged with breaching obscenity laws and became locked in a two-year court battle before being cleared on appeal. The public profile of Oz grew when the editors moved to the more permissive society of London.

In 1971, Neville and two of his co-editors Felix Denis and James Anderson were charged in Britain with corrupting the morals of children through an obscene publication.

They were jailed but later won the case on appeal. The last Oz was published in 1973.

“It was a stroke of luck, the obscenity [trial] because it made the magazine quite famous,” Oz cartoonist Peter Kingston said.

Kingston said Neville became a life-long friend who was motivated by a strong social conscience and a confrontational nature.

“He made me squirm a lot. That was Richard’s forte,” Kingston said. “I’ll miss him making me squirm.”

Neville met journalist Julie Clarke in 1974 and the pair wrote The Life and Crimes of Charles Sobhraj, a biography published in 1979 of the French serial killer who preyed on Western tourists in south-east Asia in the 1970s. The couple married in 1980.

Neville also published his explanation of the international counterculture Play Power in 1970 and his memoir of London in the 1960s Hippie Hippie Shake in 1995. It was adapted into a movie of the same title in 2010.