In BBC Radio 4’s A Very Australian Scandal we learn about a scandal that today would barely raise an eyebrow but in 1956 when a famous musician and conductor was found to have pornography in his suitcase at customs it led to the end of his career down under.
Englishman Sir Eugene Goossens was to transform post war Australia from a cultural backwater as it was described by Professor Margaret Johnson into a forward thinking nation which was to see the construction of the Sydney Opera House that changed the way the nation was seen. But sadly as its champion his name was to be erased from those who helped to create it. Instead of the opera house opening in 1964 it had to wait another decade for the building that looks like sea shells, a nun’s head dress or sails.
But when the customs officials opened his suitcase in what was obviously a set up – by whom we may never know – a rival maybe, the authorities keen to clamp down on sex possibly – but in the Phil Hebblethwaite’s programme we are left guessing.
The upshot was that Eugene was seen as a pariah and left for England in disgrace – his reputation in ruins to this day.
This programme helps to restore his legacy – that of a classical musical visionary. Now more than 50 years on the Sydney Opera House has finally acknowledged him and accepted it was his vision of the iconic building that finally saw it open 1973.

Harry Mottram

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