Actor Charles 'Bud' Tingwell being interviewed at home
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image04-2021/aus_bio_men_hero_budtingwell.jpg

Australian Biography: Men

Australian Biography: Men

Notable Men Talk About Their Lives

This collection profiles some of the most extraordinary Australian men of our time.

It features remarkable individuals who have had a major impact on Australia's cultural, political, artistic, sporting and social life.

Through revealing in-depth interviews conducted for Film Australia's Australian Biography TV series, the subjects share valuable experiences and insights.

Watch more interviews from the series in our Australian Biography: Women curated collection.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons.

Main image: Charles 'Bud' Tingwell

Australian Biography: Franco Belgiorno-Nettis
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Franco Belgiorno-Nettis (1915–2006) was born in Cassano delle Murge, Italy.

He migrated to Australia in the 1950s and founded the engineering company Transfield.

Starting with virtually nothing, the company was awarded a contract to build power transmission lines in Port Kembla.

Transfield soon became a major industrial force and in 1991 it completed the successful construction of the Sydney Harbour Tunnel.

Australian Biography: Charles Birch
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Charles Birch (1918–2009) was one of the world's leading geneticists.

His early investigations into the insect world led to his interest in population ecology. He went on to explore the inter-reaction of humanity with the environment, studying genetics at Chicago University then Oxford.

As Challis Professor of Biology at the University of Sydney, he helped lay the foundations for the new science of ecology.

His search for a philosophy that could embrace both science and God culminated in what he calls 'an ecological model of God'.

Australian Biography: Neville Bonner
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Born on Ukerebagh Island in northern NSW, Neville Bonner (1922–1999) started his working life as a ringbarker, canecutter and stockman.

He spent 16 years on the repressive Palm Island Aboriginal Reserve where he learned many of the skills that would help him later as a politician.

Bonner became the first Aboriginal person in Federal Parliament, representing Queensland as a Liberal Party Senator from 1971 to 1983.

Read a transcript of the complete interview.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Australian Biography: Jim Cairns
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420890
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In a deeply reflective interview, Jim Cairns (1914–2003), who was Deputy Prime Minister in the Whitlam Government, brings a new dimension to our understanding of his controversial role in Australia's history by placing it in the context of the broader motivations of his life.

It includes his revelation about a childhood secret that lay at the heart of many of his later frustrations, disappointments and vulnerabilities.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1998.

Australian Biography: HC 'Nugget' Coombs
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Dr HC 'Nugget' Coombs (1906–1997) was born in Kalamunda, Western Australia and was one of Australia's most outstanding and influential public servants, serving and advising seven prime ministers over a 30-year period.

Coombs had a profound influence behind the scenes in business and politics and worked hard to achieve a distinctive social, economic and cultural place for all Australians, particularly Aboriginal Australians.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1992.

Australian Biography: Bruce Dawe
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This encounter with highly regarded Australian poet Bruce Dawe (1930–2020) gives an insight into the motivation and methods of a very fine writer.

His ability to express the drama and beauty of everyday life made his work readily accessible to the general public.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1997.

Australian Biography: Smoky Dawson
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Smoky Dawson (1914–2008) was born in Warrnambool, Victoria.

He was Australia's first cowboy and a pioneer of Australian country music.

Smoky and his horse Flash were legendary. An entire generation of young Australians grew up listening to his radio show and abiding by his 'code of the west'.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1994.

Australian Biography: Malcolm Fraser
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Malcolm Fraser (1930–2015) became Prime Minister following the dramatic dismissal of the Whitlam Government in November 1975. He held the office for over 7 years.

Fraser later became co-chair of the Commonwealth Group of Eminent Persons, which worked toward democracy in South Africa. He was also President of CARE International.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1994.

Australian Biography: Hayes Gordon
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Hayes Gordon (1920–1999) was born in Boston, USA.

He moved to Australia in 1952, performing lead roles in the shows Kismet and Annie Get Your Gun.

In 1958 he founded the Ensemble Theatre at Milsons Point. It became a theatrical landmark in Sydney and was responsible for many innovative and challenging productions.

After his association with the Ensemble, he played Tevye in two productions of the highly successful Fiddler on the Roof, which became the most celebrated role of his Australian career.

Australian Biography: Jack Hazlitt
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Jack Hazlitt (1897–1993) was a 'survivor's survivor'.

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Jack lied about his age and enlisted in the Australian Infantry Forces.

He survived the war, serving at Gallipoli and in France and Belgium.

His interview for Australian Biography in 1992 was his last.

Australian Biography: Donald Horne
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Professor Donald Horne (1921–2005) was one of Australia's foremost academics, historians and philosophers.

He was the author of The Lucky Country, an evaluation of Australian society published in 1964 that questioned many traditional attitudes.

A staunch republican, he was the editor of The Bulletin magazine in the early 1960s and was made a professor in political science at the University of New South Wales.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1992.

Australian Biography: Thomas Keneally
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Thomas Keneally (b. 1935, Sydney NSW) is one of Australia's most popular and prolific writers, having published more than 30 novels, dramas, screenplays and books of non-fiction.

He is also one of its most distinguished, winning numerous prizes including the Man Booker Prize for Schindler's Ark (1982), later made into an Academy Award winning film by Steven Spielberg (Schindler's List, 1993).

Founding chairman of the Australian Republican Movement and an obsessive rugby league fan, he talks in this interview of his Irish Catholic background, his abandoned studies for the priesthood and his life as a writer.

Australian Biography: Phillip Law
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403211
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Phillip Law (1912–2010) was born in Tallangatta, Victoria.

He showed early academic ability and, at the age of 16, became a teacher.

He loved skiing and mountaineering and became fascinated by Antarctica. In 1949 he became Director of the Australian Antarctic Division, a position he maintained until 1966.

During that period he established the Mawson, Davis and Casey stations and led numerous voyages to explore the coast of the Australian Antarctic Territory.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1993.

Australian Biography: Mungo MacCallum
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Mungo MacCallum (1913–2020) was a distinguished journalist, writer and broadcaster, known for his satirical wit.

He followed his father into the newspaper business, and after serving in the Second World War, wrote a column for the Sydney Sun newspaper.

He then joined the ABC where he made a successful career writing radio features.

In the 1950s the ABC sent MacCallum to England to find out about the new medium of television. He returned to become head of television training, and produced the ABC's first television broadcast.

He later became a freelance broadcaster.

Australian Biography: James McClelland
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Born into a working class Catholic family in 1915, 'Diamond' Jim McClelland (1915–1999) worked as a lawyer, specialising in industrial relations, after serving in the army during the Second World War.

He went on to play an important part in Australian politics during the 1970s. He was elected to the Senate in 1971 and the following year became a Cabinet minister in the Whitlam Labor Government.

He retired after 7 years in parliament and was appointed to the bench of the NSW Industrial Commission.

He later became Chief Justice of the NSW Land and Environment Court and headed the Royal Commission into British atomic tests at Maralinga. 

Australian Biography: Don Metcalf
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Professor Donald Metcalf (1929–2014) was internationally renowned for his pioneering medical research on the control of blood cell formation.

This fundamental research has been used in the treatment of millions of cancer patients around the world.

Born in 1929, Donald and his researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne made their scientific breakthrough in the 1960s when they began the task of isolating, purifying and cloning natural hormones called colony stimulating factors (CSFs) which stimulate the production of white blood cells.

They established that CSFs could be given to cancer patients, enabling them to have stronger treatment and to recover faster.

Australian Biography: Jack Mundey
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Jack Mundey (1929–2020) became a national figure in the early 1970s when he led the Builders' Labourers Federation's famous 'green bans'.

This extraordinary conservation campaign redefined the development of Australia's major cities.

A crusading unionist and Communist Party member, he also fought for safety reforms on building sites and helped usher in a new era of union activism for wider social issues, from feminism and gay liberation to land rights and international politics.

In this interview, Jack reflects on his lifelong commitment to social justice.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 2000.

Australian Biography: Sir Marcus Oliphant
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Sir Marcus Oliphant (1901–2000) was a founding father of the Australian National University in Canberra and a former Governor of South Australia.

In 1927 he became part of a team at Cambridge University, whose task was to split the atom.

After the atom bomb was used against civilians in Hiroshima, he went on to devote his considerable scientific talent and energies to finding peaceful uses for atomic power.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1992.

Australian Biography: Charles Perkins
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In a life of exceptional achievement, Charles Perkins (1936–2000) – soccer star, university graduate, Aboriginal activist and Canberra bureaucrat – was often in strife.

In this interview he gives his own account of the personal experiences that fuelled his great anger against white injustice and his determination to fight for Aboriginal rights.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1998.

Read a transcript of the complete interview.

WARNING: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that the following program may contain images and/or audio of deceased persons
Australian Biography: Bill Roycroft
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Bill Roycroft (1915–2011) was a gold medal Olympic equestrian.

His courage, loyalty, laconic bush humour and, above all, his capacity to endure are well displayed in this portrait of a great Australian horseman.

Australian Biography: Bob Santamaria
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Bartholomew Augustine (Bob) Santamaria (1915–1998) was a political activist, ardent anti-Communist, committed anti-feminist and devout Catholic.

While his intelligence and leadership always inspired enormous loyalty in his followers and admirers, he was condemned by his enemies as Machiavellian and destructive.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1997.

Australian Biography: Peter Sculthorpe
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Peter Sculthorpe (1929–2014) was born in Launceston, Tasmania. 

In this interview he describes the way in which Australian history and landscape have influenced him and tells of the emotionally significant events in his life which have found expression in his music.

He also explains, with warmth and eloquence, the nature of his endless journey to try to create the perfect work of art – a journey that continued to motivate his work until his death.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1998.

Australian Biography: Victor Smorgon
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Victor Smorgon (1913–2009) was born in Heidelberg, Ukraine.

He was one of Australia's richest industrial entrepreneurs but he began his life in starvation and poverty in the turbulent years when Russia moved from a tsarist regime to communism.

In this interview, he reveals the secrets of his phenomenal success in business as he tells the story of his extraordinary life.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1998.

Australian Biography: Charles 'Bud' Tingwell
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Charles 'Bud' Tingwell (1923–2009) was one of Australia's best loved actors.

His career began in radio but, after flying Spitfires in the Second World War, he moved to the movies, including an uncredited role in Smithy (1946).

A short stint in London television extended to 16 years and made him one of Britain's most famous faces.

As an actor then director, he has also worked on some of Australia's favourite TV series including Homicide, The Sullivans and The Flying Doctors.

He has starred in films such as Breaker Morant (1980), The Castle (1997) and Innocence (2000).

When interviewed at the age of 80 for Film Australia's Australian Biography series, he was busier than ever. 

Australian Biography: Albert Tucker
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Artist Albert Tucker (1914–1999) was born in Melbourne. In 1947 he travelled to Japan where he saw the devastation of Hiroshima – it was an experience that would have a profound effect on his work.

Tucker spent 13 years in Europe and his international career finally took off when the Guggenheim Museum purchased some of his work and the Museum of Modern Art in New York mounted an exhibition.

During the 1960s he began to enjoy popularity at home. All major Australian galleries acquired his work and a 1990 retrospective drew over 90,000 visitors.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 1994.

Australian Biography: Tom Uren
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Tom Uren (1921–2015) was one of the most respected Labor politicians of his generation.

His youthful plans for a career as a boxer were derailed by the outbreak of the Second World War. His experiences as a prisoner of war, slaving on the Burma-Thai Railway, instilled in him a lifelong opposition to militarism and a belief in socialism and peaceful co-existence.

At war's end, he joined the Australian Labor Party, entering Federal Parliament in 1958.

In 1972 he became Minister for Urban and Regional Development in the Whitlam Government, setting up the Australian Heritage Commission and the Register of the National Estate and creating new national parks.

Australian Biography: Ray Whitrod
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Ray Whitrod (1915–2003) came to national prominence in 1976 when he resigned as Queensland's Commissioner of Police as a protest against corruption.

His efforts to reform the state's police had met with strong opposition from both within the force and the Bjelke-Petersen Government.

It was a very public stand which enhanced his reputation as a police officer of unusual integrity, dedicated to improving the world around him.

In this interview, Ray looks back over a distinguished career, including his involvement in establishing ASIO and the New Guinea Police Force.

He was interviewed for Film Australia's Australian Biography series in 2000.