On 22 May 2008, the opening night of Bill Henson's 2007-2008 exhibition at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Paddington, Sydney, was cancelled after eight individual complaints were made to Police voicing concerns about an email invitation from the Gallery to a "Private View" that depicted photographs of a nude 13-year old girl. Hetty Johnston, a child protection advocate (Bravehearts), also lodged a complaint with the New South Wales police.On the same day, Sydney Morning HeraldMiranda Devine, had also written a scathing article in response to viewing the email invitation which precipitated heated talk-back and media discussion throughout the day. In the process of removing the images from the Gallery, Police found more photographs of naked children on exhibition among various large format photographs of nonfigurative subjects, which they later sought to examine for the purposes of determining their legal status under the NSW Crimes Act and child protection legislation.Following discussions with the Gallery and a decision by Henson, the Gallery cancelled the opening and postponed the show columnist,
It was announced on 23 May that a number of the images in the exhibition had been seized by police local Area Commander Alan Sicard, with the intention of charging Bill Henson and/or the Gallery with "publishing an indecent article" under the Crimes Act.The seized images were also removed from the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery website, where the remainder of the series can now be viewed online.
The situation provoked a national debate on censorship. In a televised interview, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd stated that he found the images "absolutely revolting"and that they had "no artistic merit". These views swiftly drew censure from members of the 'creative stream' who attended the recent 2020 Summit convened by Rudd, led by actor Cate Blanchett.
On 5 June 2008, the former director of the National Gallery of Australia Betty Churcher said it was "not surprising" that the New South Wales Department of Public Prosecutions (DPP) would announce its official recommendation that no charges be laid regarding the Sydney Roslyn Oxley9 gallery's collection of photographs by artist Bill Henson.
I'm very pleased that the public prosecutor has decided that it's likely to end the debacle because they always do, as soon as you take art into court it never works ... The court is not the place to decide matters of art.
On 6 June 2008 it was reported in The Age that police would not prosecute Bill Henson over his photographs of naked teenagers, after they were declared "mild and justified" and given a PG rating by the Australian Classification Board, suggesting viewing by children under the age of 16 is suitable with parental guidance.
Australian scholar Niall Lucy criticizes Devine's response to Henson's art in his 2010 book Pomo Oz: Fear and Loathing Down Under.