Great doco from 1969 — a world away now!

The Commonwealth Film Unit here in Oz has over the years made many documentaries, some awful, many really excellent, all of course propaganda either for home or overseas consumption, sometimes both. I have recently enjoyed a 1969 offering. available through the excellent National Sound and Film Archive.

The NFSA’s mission is to collect, preserve and share Australia’s vibrant and diverse audiovisual culture as embodied by our evolving collection – reflecting who we were, who we are, and who we want to be. 

Audiovisual technologies enable us to capture moments in time: moving image and sounds in their most vivid forms. At over 3 million items, the NFSA collection transforms these records into ‘living memories’ – the many facets of Australia’s peoples, cultures, ideas and beliefs, both over time and across the land.

The collection invites all Australians to connect, no matter their background and life experiences, and find common ground and a shared sense of community. All can access it to celebrate our cultures and learn from our history to build a better future. 

The particular item I saw is After Cook (1969):

Made by The Commonwealth Film Unit 1969. Directed by Donald Murray. Narrated by John Meillon. A survey of everyday life throughout Australia, emphasising the outdoor and rural element contrasted with modern, urban living and culture. A look at the Australian people, their character, attitudes and way of life. Every three years or so Film Australia made a general film on Australia. At its most basic the film would have a landscape sequence, then a farming sequence, then transport, then cities, then sport and night life. It would probably contain a mining explosion, a ballet class, Uluru (Ayers Rock) and kookaburras. After the first few films, the makers tried to find a new approach – to present its as a quiz show, or a computer report, or a film script conference. After Cook had as its working title ‘Fellow Countrymen’. Helped by the fact that it was made on 16mm with practicable synchronous sound, it is in its final version the warmest and one of the least predictable of all the general ‘Australia’ films.

Here are a few stills I captured:

A steelworker
Political demonstration in Sydney advocating — successfully — lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
Shopping at Paddy’s Market, Sydney
Volunteer firefighters — bushfire in Sutherland Shire. Rather more sophisticated nowadays.
Family at a picnic playing cricket
CWA — Country Women’s Association — meeting
Country school-teacher
Ballet class

And so many more vignettes, so evocative for me — — some great footage of people going about their business in a very different Australia. This is the place I knew when in my first school appointment, Cronulla High, almost a lifetime away! In fact the Class of 1968, who have their own special private group on Facebook — I am a member! — are now like me septuagenarians! Can you believe it?

If you want to see it: