1960s Australia – fashion, pop culture and events
The 1960s was one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades in world history – including in Australia.
It saw the birth of the civil rights movement, greater moves towards equality for women in the workplace and the beginnings of legal recognition for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
A US President visited these shores for the first time and an Australian prime minister disappeared. Humankind walked on the moon and Beatlemania swept the nation. We converted to decimal currency and created a TV show about a kangaroo that was seen around the world.
This collection highlights some memorable moments from Australia in the 1960s.
WARNING: this collection contains names, images or voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Please note: This online collection is reflective of wider content gaps in the national audiovisual collection, particularly in relation to First Nations representation, cultural and linguistic diversity, and gender diversity. The NFSA is addressing these gaps through proactive and targeted collecting activity, building First Nations representation in the collection, and facilitating repatriation of First Nations content where appropriate, in partnership with First Nations people, communities and organisations.
'Movietone recalls news highlights of an eventful year ... 1963', reads the opening title of this newsreel which provides a wonderfully edited snapshot of key local and international events in 1963, and how they were viewed at the time.
They include the Profumo Affair in the UK, US President John F Kennedy's assassination, torrential rain in Sydney, a royal visit, Australian politics and notable sporting achievements.
Black-and-white historical interview footage gets the response of white folk to Aboriginal people. The footage, shot on city streets, and in homes of white folk, reveals how Aboriginal people are viewed by the others.
Summary by Romaine Moreton
Three television commercials were used as part of a promotion and education campaign about the introduction of decimal currency in Australia on 14 February 1966.
All three commercial feature the tag line 'Get With It'.
This film shows an idyllic picture of life in the Victorian capital of Melbourne in the mid 1960s.
Part of the Life In Australia series, made for the Department of Immigration, to entice immigrants from Europe. There’s no denying that these films were a marketing tool; Australia (and its cities and rural centres) was the product, and as such, it was presented as an idyllic destination where everyone led prosperous, happy lives.
Despite the nostalgia generated by these images of a recent past – the ‘good old days’ – it is important to understand the context in which the films were made. It was the last years of the ‘White Australia’ policy, and the government wanted to attract (mostly British) migrants. Inclusiveness was not the goal, and anything that didn’t fit into the perfect postcard image was left out of these films. It’s the TV sitcom version of a complex country going through a transformative period.
The 1960s was a time of change around the world, and Australia was no exception. The Vietnam War sparked social unrest and protests challenging Australia’s participation in the conflict. There are no Indigenous people in any of these films, at the time when Charles Perkins embarked on the Freedom Ride, and only a couple of years before the landmark 1967 referendum. Women’s rights movements were also transforming Australian society, yet in these films women only play traditional roles: employed in ‘women’s jobs’ until they ‘graduated’ from working life through marriage, to become devoted housewives.
These films are fascinating examples of the 1950s-60s government filmmaking style, and capture different aspects of the Australian experience 50 years ago. They may not represent 100% of what life in Australia was, but they do capture the spirit of a nation aspiring to fulfil its potential.
The female lead is played by Adelaide born actress Elspeth Ballantyne, who would find success in the ABC soap opera Bellbird (1967-77), followed by the iconic role of Meg Jackson/Morris in Prisoner (1979-1986).
Each film in the series covers employment, industry, education, sport, health care, shopping, religion, night-life, and art.
Directed by Douglas White and now available in 4K HD. Film Australia Collection © NFSA.
Buy a copy of Life In Australia: Melbourne or of the whole Life In Australia series at the NFSA online shop.
Notes by Miguel Gonzalez
The Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (FCAATSI) has fought for the rights of Aboriginal people to be recognised in line with other civil rights movements occurring overseas. A referendum is called in 1967 for the public to make a choice. In this clip we see archival footage of Faith Bandler and Sir Doug Nicholls, who were instrumental in the fight for Aboriginal rights.
Writer Bruce Pascoe of Boonwurrung Heritage and historians Professor Marcia Langton of the Yiman-Bidjara Nation and Professor Gordon Briscoe of the Maraduntjara Nation give their unique perspectives on the outcomes of the referendum. Summary by Sophia Sambono.
An excerpt from NASA's restored footage of the Apollo 11 Moonwalk on 20 July 1969. This is from the original EVA (Extravehicular Activity) mission video of astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon.
A camera on the lunar module provided live television coverage of humankind's first step on the Moon.
The astronauts remained on the moon's surface for approximately two-and-a-half hours, during which time they collected about 47 pounds of samples, and deployed four experiments.
This newsreel features live footage of The Beatles and their fans during a concert in Sydney during their 1964 tour of Australia.
Concert footage of popular acts was still in its infancy in the 1960s. This professionally shot footage is the result of employing multiple cameras and stylish editing in post-production that effectively captures the phenomena known as 'Beatlemania'.
It's very effective in showing the band performing and perhaps more so in showing the reaction of the fans!
Parts of the clip appear to be sped-up because the frame rate has been adjusted by the filmmaker; whether or not this is deliberate is unknown. Studio recordings of several songs – which don't match the images – have been dubbed over the images, presumably because the sound that was captured live was predominantly screaming!
Despite this, it is an important recording of a significant era in popular culture. The scenes in this clip effectively serve to contextualise the pop culture phenomenon of Beatlemania.
Louis Armstrong performs his chart-topping version of 'Mack the Knife' for the ATN television special Riggio Presents Satchmo.
View more clips and read about the TV special in Louis Armstrong in Australia.
Action in Vietnam is a documentary produced by the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit.
This clip from the documentary provides an insight into Australian soldiers in Vietnam.
It features no dialogue or narration but shows helicopters evacuating soldiers from the battlefield and returning to base.
Radio and television carried news of Harold Holt’s disappearance on 17 December 1967. This clip is from the documentaryThe Harold Holt Mystery (Ten Network, 1985).
Outside broadcast technology brought grainy black-and-white television pictures live from Cheviot Beach. It was an almost surreal scene, with helicopters, navy divers and the army arriving to search for Harold Holt. It was like nothing Australia had seen before.
'I know this beach like the back of my hand', Holt said before venturing out into the the turbulent conditions. It was later concluded that high winds, rough seas and rip tides overcame him. It was speculated in the press that his body was never recovered because it was attacked by marine life, carried out to sea by tides or wedged in a rock crevice.
This is a segment from the Parliamentary debate in 1965 concerning Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. Prime Minister Robert Menzies makes the case for joining the US in fighting the Communist North Vietnamese.
Australia's involvement began in 1962 with a team of 30 military advisors. On 29 April 1965, the prime minister announced that the government had received a request for further military assistance from South Vietnam.
Australia committed around 60,000 soldiers for the duration of the war, the last of which were not withdrawn until 1972.
The Vietnam War was highly controversial and led to a vocal anti-war movement in Australia in response to the government's conscription programme.
This Movietone News clip shows Australian troops embarking for Vietnam in 1965.
The first half of the clip is silent. Narration over the second half of the clip gives background information to the conflict.
In 1964 the Australian Government reintroduced compulsory national service for 20-year-old men.
On 29 April 1965, Prime Minister Robert Menzies announced Australia would provide an infantry battalion to support US forces in Vietnam.
The government subsequently dispatched the 1st Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment in June 1965.
Please note: the first segment of this clip is silent.
Fed up with being excluded from drinking in public bars just because they were women, in March 1965 Merle Thornton and Rosalie Bogner chained themselves to the bar of the Regatta Hotel, Brisbane in protest.
This act was a defining moment in Australian feminism and resulted in the repeal of section 59A of the Queensland Liquor Act in 1970.
Archival news footage of the protests is essential to the impact of this clip. This footage is a fine example of the importance of local news outlets who capture events that later become important moments in Australia’s history.
It is also powerful to hear comments from Merle herself, as well as her daughter, actress Sigrid Thornton.
Merle was awarded an honorary doctorate for her contribution to Australian society by the University of Queensland in 2020.
This excerpt comes from the Seven News Brisbane special Queensland: Flashback 150 Years, broadcast on 30 May 2009. It was produced for the 150th anniversary of the state of Queensland. Queensland formally separated from New South Wales on 6 June 1859.
Notes by Beth Taylor
On 20 October 1966, United States President Lyndon B Johnson arrived in Australia for the first ever Presidential visit to Australia. 'They're really here', said Prime Minister Harold Holt in his welcome speech.
It was a tour very much in the context of the Vietnam War. Socially and politically it was a contentious period in Australia and America and both leaders were facing public unrest as protests against the war increased. Johnson was keen to shore up Australian support for the war and as such the tour was a show of mutual support for both Johnson and Holt. Holt, who had repeatedly used the Democratic Party slogan of 'all the way with LBJ', was facing a general election the following month.
The visit is famous in Australia partly because of the protests that took place during several public appearances by Johnson which included throwing paint at, and lying in front of, his car. It was also noted for NSW Premier Robert Askin saying, 'Run the bastards over!' while riding in the Presidential car.
As the official record only the briefest scenes of protest were included in this film and no mention is made in the narration. Even though many scenes of protest were shot by the crew, the image is altogether one more of triumph and celebration. And indeed many lined the streets to show their support for the President. Prime Minister Holt was said to be very pleased with the finished film and it was released in cinemas throughout Australia.
Johnson returned to Australia the following year to attend Harold Holt's memorial service after the prime minister disappeared off the coast of Victoria. This is one of several films made by the various government film units covering visiting heads of state from this period.
'You are the most helpful man that I have ever seen', sings Mrs Sparkle to Mr Sheen in this advertisement from 1962.
Mr Sheen is a floor and furniture polish, created in Australia in the 1950s.
The Mr Sheen character – known overseas variously as Mr Min (in South Africa) and Mr Frend ([sic], in Argentina) – was apparently based on one of the company's employees.
This is a delightful example of 1960s advertising that seamlessly incorporates live action with animation. The Mr Sheen character and jingle are a part of Australian popular culture.
Mr Sheen has such strong consumer recognition that the brand has not significantly changed for over 50 years.
'Come over to the sunny side [of the globe] now'. Directed at British citizens, this UK television advertisement promotes migration to Australia in 1967.
Directed at fathers, it advertises an information pack with brochures on employment (aimed at men), 'Woman's angle on Australia' (for 'your wife') and education (for the children).
The Chifley Government initiated the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme in 1945 as part of the 'populate or perish' policy. English migrants became known as 'ten pound Poms' because of the £10 processing fee to migrate to Australia.
The scheme peaked in 1969 with the arrival of over 80,000 migrants and ended in 1982.
This advertisement for the Holden Monaro HK begins on the racetrack amongst sleek sports cars, champion drivers (including Norm Beechey) and adoring female fans. A sequence of still images of foreign sports cars and sophisticated young consumers enjoying leisure activities sets up the demand for a car which looks and handles like a foreign sports car, but comes at a cheaper price. Over shots of headlights on a road at night, the voice-over states that such a car has not been available until now but the advertisement ends without revealing more.
This short and amusing animated Aeroplane Jelly advertisement is also notable for its product name, jingle and reflection of the time when it was made.
Bert Appleroth created Aeroplane Jelly in 1927. He was an aviation fan at a time when planes were relatively new. He even used a Tiger Moth plane to make deliveries to rural areas in 1934.
The jingle – or 'haunting Earth song' – sung by the alien in this clip is a fragment of the famous Aeroplane Jelly song. The original was recorded in 1937 and featured the voice of five-year-old Joy King. It was played on radio over 100 times per day in the 1940s and is one of Australia's longest running and best-loved jingles.
Finally, when this advertisement was made, the world was gripped in a space race with the United States and Soviet Union (USSR) competing to land a crew on the Moon. The United States made it first when the Apollo 11 mission landed on the Moon on 20 July 1969.
This quirky advertisement from 1968 extols the benefits of using Theraderm anti-dandruff shampoo. The product is still being made today.
Starting an advertisement with a person in a 17th century costume being dunked in river, as if they are a witch, may be strange but it at least achieves the effect of grabbing the viewer's attention.
The advertisement's use of simple animation effectively explains how the product works. The closing sequence has all the engaging romance of a feature film from an earlier era of cinema.
Olivia Newton-John (1948–2022) singing ‘When I Grow Up’ on the live music television show Boomeride (1965).
In contrast to the lip-synced pop music shows of the time, all songs in Boomeride were performed live and backed by a four-piece combo.
The show featured only songs written by Sydney songwriter Charles Marawood, whose compositions covered a wide range of lyrical styles, including ballads, cool lounge jazz and the occasional up-tempo mover.
Boomeride's specific aesthetic was further emphasised by the use of camera ‘crash zooms’ and creative lighting in a music-theatre-in-the-round setting.
Boomeride was filmed in ATV-0's Nunawading Studios. Named after a song by Marawood, it was produced by Melbourne production company PAKKTEL.
With thanks to Milton Hammon, Tom Jeffrey, Chris Keating, Network Ten, Rolf Schreuder, Seven Network and Mike Trickett.
Johnny O’Keefe first visited America in November 1959, convinced he could make it in the birthplace of rock 'n’ roll. Almost by chance, he managed to arrange a meeting at Liberty Records where he signed a five-year recording contract.
He recorded 'She’s My Baby’ in Los Angeles in late 1959 with producer Snuffy Garret and the best session musicians Liberty could find, including drummer Earl Palmer and guitarists Barney Kessel and Scotty Turner.
'She’s My Baby’ was released in Australia on 7 January 1960 and became his first number one record. The song has a slick and polished sound, because of the superior production facilities and experienced staff available in America at that time.
This news item concerns the mysterious deaths of Dr Gilbert Bogle and Mrs Margaret Chandler on the banks of the Lane Cove River in Sydney on 1 January 1963.
The case became famous because the cause of death could not be established and because it exposed the libertarian activities of a group of left-wing intellectuals in Sydney known as the 'Sydney Push'.
The bodies were found in unusual circumstances. Bogle was partly covered by a carpet square while Chandler's body was covered by cardboard. Both had their clothing laid neatly over them. Conspiracy theories abounded at the time and poisoning of some kind – as reported about here – seemed to be the cause of death.
As recently as 2006 there has been a new theory: that in the early hours of the morning, an eruption of hydrogen sulphide gas from the polluted river caused potentially lethal fumes to pool in deadly quantities at the location where the bodies were eventually found.
The explanation for the strange covering of the bodies was that a passerby, not a murderer, covered Bogle and Chandler to preserve their modesty.
While the clip is not visually exciting, it is still compelling. In part this is because the case itself is a famous Australian mystery but it's also the manner in which the reporter delivers his monologue, which is reminiscent of the Hollywood film noir genre of the 1940s and 1950s.
This film features the wonderful camerawork of Ron Taylor.
Taylor had worked with The Commonwealth Film Unit on a number of films and his work was well regarded here and overseas.
Perhaps best known for his work on filming sharks, including for Steven Spielberg's Jaws (1975), this film shows that his interest was in the whole marine environment, especially the Great Barrier Reef.
Taylor frequently worked alongside his wife Valerie, a champion diver and spear fisher in her own right who was similarly knowledgeable about sharks and marine life.
This film also features a musical score composed by Don Burrows.
This Nine News Adelaide story is a follow-up report on the disappearance of the three Beaumont children on Australia Day, 1966.
Jane (aged 9), Arnna (7) and Grant (4) Beaumont went missing from Adelaide's Glenelg Beach after they caught a bus there from the family home in Somerton Park.
The news report highlights evidence that has been made public one year following the disappearance of the children.
Despite a widespread police investigation, the case remains unsolved.
This compilation of clips from Skippy shows some typical adventures that Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Skippy shared in Waratah National Park.
Seen in this compilation are series regulars Head Ranger Matt Hammond (Ed Devereaux), his sons Sonny (Garry Pankhurst) and Mark (Ken James), Flight Ranger Jerry King (Tony Bonner) and Clancy Merrick (Liza Goddard) – as well as a number of human and animal guest stars!
This clips also includes a short excerpt of the opening credits, with the instantly recognisable – and memorable – theme tune by Eric Jupp.
A total of three series and 91 episodes of Skippy (AKA Skippy the Bush Kangaroo) were produced by Fauna Productions between 1966 and 1969. There was also a spin-off feature film, The Intruders (AKA Skippy and the Intruders), directed by Lee Robinson and released in Australia in December 1969.
Notes by Stephen Groenewegen
In this teaser, leading in to Homicide’s opening title sequence, convict Edgar Thompson (Roy Alexander) is on the run after escaping from the prison farm at Beechworth. He heads for a shack in the countryside, not realising that a man called Matthew Hawke (actor uncredited) is inside. A confrontation follows. Later, a man driving past the shack finds it in flames – with Thompson’s body inside. Summary by Kate Matthews.
This clip shows the restored opening of Go!! episode 117, transmitted on 28 November 1966, featuring Johnny Young.
Of the 222 episodes telecast between August 1964 and September 1967, only significant portions of seven episodes survive, and only episode 117, first broadcast on ATV 0 on 28 November 1966, survives in its entirety.
In early 2015, the NFSA acquired a 16mm black-and-white kinescope recording of episode 117 through the assistance of Melbourne television historian and author Chris Keating and Milton Hammon, manager of The Johnny Young Television Archive.
A lower quality U-matic sub-master dub, lodged by Johnny Young with the Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne in 1983, was the only previously known copy. The newly recovered film print was incomplete in three places, with nearly two minutes of film absent. Fortunately two of the missing clips were present in the U-matic copy.
Preservation staff at the NFSA cleaned the 16mm print and transferred it to a High Definition digital standard. The soundtrack was also remastered and the image and sound files re-synched. The two missing sequences were then seamlessly edited back in from the U-matic.
The final missing piece – Colin McEwan’s opening words 'From Melbourne!’, missing from both U-matic and film versions – was extracted from other Go!! footage in the NFSA collection.
The final result is the reconstruction of the complete episode using a combination of the best known surviving source material.
For sheer whimsy, it is hard to go past the one minute and forty seconds of 'He’s My Blond Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy’ by the 14-year-old Little Pattie.
Apart from being one of the longest song titles in the history of popular music, Pattie’s yodelling chirrups at the end of each line of the verses and the coy spoken bridge section after the second verse earn it a special place in Australian pop music.
It got to No. 2 in the Sydney charts and saw her awarded a Best Female Vocalist Award for 1963.
This silent Movietone newsreel clip shows Melbourne's Moomba Festival parade of 1960.
Visible in this clip are floats celebrating Italian culture, representing the Postmaster-General's Department and promoting gas for cooking and heating.
The first Moomba was a 15-day festival that commenced on 12 March 1955 but is now a four-day celebration over Victoria's Labour Day long weekend in March.
Traditional Moomba events include the Moomba parade, the crowning of the Moomba monarchs, carnivals and firework displays.
This silent clip shows a contest for best hair style and best hairdresser, featuring some leading Australian hairdressers of the time.
It reveals remarkable styles and curious fashions from the late 1960s – some of the girls on show look as though they have just come off set of the feature film Hairspray, as directed by American filmmaker John Waters.
The hair models are filmed seated as they are judged and inspected by the committee members.
This clip is an excerpt from a silent amateur film originally shot on standard 8mm. It was filmed by George Sullivan (now deceased) at an event supported by the International Hair Stylists Society of Australia at Melbourne Town Hall in 1968.
Sullivan made several films that document the Australian hair industry. His film collection was donated to the NFSA by Alan Wickes, who was part of the International Hair Stylists Society of Australia from 1961–1988.
Notes by Tara Marynowsky
This clip was aimed at visitors to Starlight Drive-In, located in the suburb of Watson to the north of Canberra and operating from 1957 to 1993.
It includes pre-show information for those attending with a special mention to replace the speaker on the stand before driving away!
The site has since been developed into the Starlight Apartments but the original neon sign still marks its location.
Drive-in theatres (also known as drive-in cinemas or drive-ins) were once very popular in Australia.
They very much appealed to post – Second World War youth and car culture. The advent of colour TV and video rental stores contributed to their demise.
Following the success of his first single 'Sadie (The Cleaning Lady)', Johnny Farnham went on a national tour with other artists including Col Joye and Little Pattie. While on tour he was interviewed by the weekly current affairs program 7 Days in an episode titled The Snap and Crackle of Pop (1968), which took an in-depth look at the Sydney pop music scene of the time.
This is a fascinating archival clip from the late 1960s that opens with The Who's 'My Generation' audible in the background. For a generation of Australian teenagers, Johnny Farnham was their pop idol of choice and this clip ably demonstrates that early in his career, Farnham attracted the attention of fans in much the same way as The Beatles.
The interview shows that, despite all the adulation, Johnny is still only a teenager himself. The elevated camerawork during the interview, whether intentional or not, makes him look diminutive and innocent, which was largely his appeal at the time. He's understandably awkward when asked about female fans.
Footage of him performing 'Long Tall Sally' is a nod back to the style of another 'Johnny', Johnny O'Keefe. There's also an amusing cutaway of him clowning around in a motel pool. In all, this clip is an engaging time capsule of 19-year-old Johnny Farnham.
Friday on My Mind by the Easybeats was composed by Harry Vanda and George Young. Recorded in London in 1966, it was released as a single later that year. This clip includes the start of the song and first verse.
Summary by Thorsten Kaeding
This commercial for the Nabisco-owned breakfast cereal Rice Krinkles features an 18-year-old Jacki Weaver.
In the early days of television advertising, corporate brands identified the teenage market as a growing business opportunity, and turned to popular stars as a way to enter the world of youth culture.
In this highly effective 30-second advertisement, Jacki Weaver dances her way around a modern-looking kitchen. The music is generic, but reminiscent of the pop hits of the day.
Not only is Weaver the star of the advertisement but the message is successfully reinforced in-store by having her face on the actual box, smiling back at potential customers from the supermarket shelves.
It was a mutually beneficial arrangement; the brand hoped to become 'cool' by association, while the star gained valuable exposure.
This short newsreel clip from 1964 looks at controversial 'topless' women's swimwear. It notes the changes in women's swimsuits since the 1920s.
The clip ends with new designs in evening wear: for gowns too, 'the frontless look is tops'.
The influence of Jean-Luc Godard's science fiction cult classic Alphaville (1965) is evident in this television ad for Berlei.
The narrator says, 'This is the fashion picture as Berlei sees it. Are you ready? ... Under plastic you need a figure.'
Notes by Beth Taylor
This TV commercial conjures up the 1960s par excellence, with a discotheque playing host to a young, groovy couple dancing under a glittering ball and eating Crunchie bars.
The clip shows a couple dancing to disco music with strobe lighting to replicate a scene in a nightclub. The song’s lyrics describe the 'beautiful golden groovy beautiful Crunchie taste’. The dancers are intercut with product shots of Cadbury’s Crunchie bar and the word 'Crunchie’ is repeated over and over at the end of the ad. Summary by Poppy De Souza.
This short newsreel clip marks the return of the 'Rockhampton Rocket', world No. 1 tennis player Rod Laver, to Brisbane in 1962.
Laver was the world No.1 amateur player from 1961–62 and the No. 1 professional player from 1964–70 when he won 10 or more titles every year for seven consecutive years.
He won Wimbledon four times and the Grand Slam twice, in 1962 and 1969. His 200 singles titles is the most in tennis history, making him one of the greatest tennis players of all time.
The home of the Australian Open in Melbourne was renamed the Rod Laver Arena in his honour, in 2000.
Radio announcer Ron Casey calls the closing minutes of the bantamweight world title fight between Lionel Rose of Australia and 'Fighting’ Harada of Japan on 26 February 1968.
Summary by Graham McDonald
In this clip the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, opens the games on 22 November and athletes march onto the field. We also see the finals of two swimming events that were held at the Beatty Park Aquatic Centre.
The men's 110 yard freestyle final was won by Canadian Dick Pound, and the women's final by Australian Dawn Fraser in world record time. Fraser went on to win four gold medals.
The Perry Lakes Stadium had a 5,000 seat grandstand with open-air seating for a further 25,000. The open-air seating proved a challenge for the more than 40,000 spectators that watched the Opening Ceremony when temperatures climbed to over 40C. While soldiers ferried water to performers, scores of spectators had to be treated for heat-related conditions.
An early summer morning on an almost empty Bondi Beach in Sydney. Local council workers remove rubbish and volunteer lifesavers check their gear, allocate safe surfing areas and practise their lifesaving skills.
Beginning and ending at Bondi, this film captures the essence of Australian beach life – the bodysurfers, boardriders, sunbakers, families, tourists and, of course, those iconic Aussie lifesavers.
From beach inspectors watching for danger to the ice cream vendors helping people cool down, Australia’s major beaches in summer have the hustle and bustle of a small town.
Surf Beach looks at the proud tradition of surf lifesavers, who give up their weekends voluntarily to patrol our beaches, keeping ordinary folks safe from disaster. Witness the thrilling rescue of a young woman who has got herself into trouble, and the military precision of the surf lifesavers as they bring her back to shore.
The highlight of the season is the Surf Life Saving Championships – a marvel of pageantry as surf lifesaving clubs from across Sydney march proudly along the beach, led by the University of New South Wales Regiment brass band.
Beautifully shot and set to a swinging soundtrack, Surf Beach pays tribute to an Australian icon: the beach.
Surf Beach is a National Film Board Production produced by the Commonwealth Film Unit.
This newsreel features highlights from the 1965 grand final which finished with the St George Dragons defeating the South Sydney Rabbitohs by 12 points to 8.
At the time, the crowd of 78,056 people set a new attendance record. In 1965, the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) capacity was 70,000 – a number which was reached a full two hours before kick-off.
Surrounding streets and parks were packed with an estimated 40,000 more who were still trying to get into the ground. Hundreds broke in by storming the Members' gates and climbing the grandstands onto the roofs.
Others bought tickets to the motor show next door at the Sydney Showground and gained a vantage point from there. Eventually police allowed thousands to sit on the ground itself, covering the outer ring of the oval.
This record for attendance at a rugby league match stood for 34 years, until the Sydney Olympic Stadium opened in 1999.
Graham Kennedy's short cameo in They're a Weird Mob (1966) is his first feature film appearance, although he was an uncredited extra in On the Beach (1959).
Nino Culotta (played by Walter Chiari) is an Italian migrant who has recently arrived in Australia and is looking for work. When Graham Kennedy (playing himself) pulls up in his car and asks for directions, Culotta is unable to help.
A nearby man from Sydney recognises Kennedy and speaks up. At first Kennedy is flattered at being recognised before being told in no uncertain terms that he’s not welcome in Sydney and should keep driving all the way to Cape York!
Kennedy is a notable Melbourne celebrity and the clip entertainingly demonstrates the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, to Culotta's bewilderment.
The filming of this scene cleverly keeps the three men – Kennedy, Culotta and the Sydney bystander – in separate frames, highlighting that they are distanced from each other because of their different places of origin.
It’s a delightful piece of scripting, cinematography and editing that captures an awkward, but humorous, three-way exchange. Filmed on a busy sidewalk, it reinforces the casual informality of the Australian lifestyle.
Kennedy's resignation at being dismissed so decisively also highlights the Australian disdain for celebrities. In just 50 seconds, this short clip conveys a lot about Australian identity.
They're a Weird Mob was directed by Michael Powell and based on the novel by John O'Grady, writing under the pseudonym ‘Nino Culotta’.
Notes by Stephen Groenewegen and Adam Blackshaw
This Cinesound newsreel clip shows a bed-pushing marathon and fundraising event.
The four young men from Adelaide who took on this challenge pushed the bed an incredible 320 miles, eclipsing the previous world record of 280 miles set in Canada.
All monies raised were for the National Heart Fund.
The clip also mentions that they sold hundreds of autographs signed by swimming sensation Dawn Fraser along the way, to raise extra funds.
This Cinesound newsreel clip shows guests in fancy dress arriving for the 1964 Annual Movie Ball at the Trocadero in Sydney.
They are dressed as characters from their favourite movie. Standing out next to those in period costume are a group dressed as rugby players, representing the film This Sporting Life (Lindsay Anderson, UK, 1963).
The Sydney Trocadero on George Street was a large art deco dance and concert hall that operated between 1936 and 1971. It was Sydney’s most glamorous dance hall and played host to a range of significant guests, including the Queen.
Brett Whiteley, Australian avant-garde artist, is interviewed by Binny Lum in London, England in 1964.
Whiteley talks about his upcoming solo exhibition at Marlborough Galleries and the figurative works he's been doing. He shares his thoughts about art schools: 'I was subjected to this absolutely antiquated, old-fashioned idea of what art can be. The only way that a young painter can organise himself and find himself is to get himself into a studio and just shut the door and quietly work out as best he can what gestures and marks he makes on the canvas are different and distinguish him from all the other marks that have been made by other men...'
In spite of all the attractions of Australia, Whiteley says that he lives in London so that he can get an 11 penny bus ride over to the National Gallery to see Piero della Francesca's pictures which he says is 'the greatest work that man has ever produced'.
He says he likes the beaches in Australia but that 'I am just basically more interested in art than I am in aquatic sports'.
At the end of the interview Binny Lum says that Whiteley is one of our great artists to which Whiteley makes a mocking 'la-la-la' sound in the background. She concludes saying that one day this is probably going to be quite historic tape.
The cover image for this interview is a frame from Don Featherstone's documentary Difficult Pleasure: A Portrait of Brett Whiteley (1989).