Distraction from the war – a day at the beach

Distraction from the war – a day at the beach
Access fees

This brief clip from around 1914 is one of few surviving film records of Australian beach scenes from this period. Beachgoers of both sexes are seen strolling along the sand of an unidentified beach in their Sunday best. A small group playing in the shallows is all male since ‘open bathing’ (swimming outdoors) was still considered somewhat improper at this time. A glimpse of a lone skiff indicates that Australians were quick to embrace all aquatic sports, not just swimming.

As predominantly coastal dwellers of the world’s only island continent, most Australians unsurprisingly came to regard the beach experience as a natural birthright. This brief clip from circa-1914 comprises a slow pan across a rocky foreshore to a nearby headland. It also reveals the transition from an essentially passive to a more robust beach culture. Until the early years of the twentieth century, strict moral codes ensured that daylight bathing was confined to those few enthusiasts willing to bathe in the very early mornings or at less popular beaches. In Sydney in 1902, Randwick Council allowed daytime bathing on selected portions of local beaches for the first time. Other councils soon followed suit and, over the next decade, ‘surf-bathing’ gained in popularity around the Australian coastline.

This silent footage has had the 1910 composition, 'By the Brook: Idyll' added by the NFSA.

Moving image NFSA title: 99347; Sound NFSA title: 303421