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Video clip synopsis – Newsreels of the war boosted the morale of Australians at the home front. The newsreel of Australian troops on the Kokoda Track shared the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1942.
Year of production - 1940
Duration - 1min 14sec
Tags - World War 2, censorship, civics and citizenship, communication, identity, media and society, newsreels, see all tags

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Newsreels boost morale

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About the Video Clip

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This interview with Ray Edmondson was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Ray Edmondson is the Former Deputy Director of the National Film and Sound Archive and is now honorary Curator Emeritus. You can view his full biography at From Wireless to Web

The website is a selective history of broadcast media in Australia. Decade by decade, from radio and newsreels to TV and the internet, this history shows how the Australian broadcast media developed and shaped the way Australians see themselves.

From Wireless to Web is a Film Australia production in association with Roar Film.

Curriculum Focus

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Inquiry Questions
What was the impact of the war on the Australian home front?

Outcomes
A student:
5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history
5.3 explains the changing rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples and other groups in Australia
5.4 sequences major historical events to show an understanding of continuity, change and causation
5.5 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources
5.7 explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past.

Students Learn About:
wartime government controls including censorship

Students Learn To:

  • describe the controls on civilian life imposed by the wartime government
  • outline the arguments for and against such controls in wartime.
This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information

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At the start of World War II in 1939 Australians rushed to support Britain – the mother country – in her battle with Hitler’s Nazis. Then the Japanese bombed Darwin, killing hundreds, and the nation realised a greater enemy was battering at the door. Help came not from Britain but from a new friend, the United States. The 1940s shifted Australia’s sense of its place in the world.

Boosting Morale
At the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, the broadcast industry was immediately enlisted to support the war effort. Throughout World War II (1939-45) radio and cinema newsreels played vital roles, informing citizens and boosting morale.

Newsreel footage about the war came from official cameramen at the front. It passed through the hands of government censors, then the same material was issued by the Government to both newsreel producers in Australia: Cinesound Review and Fox Movietone News (Australian edition). Using the same material, each production company prepared its own story – sometimes with quite different results.

During the war, Cinesound Review attained high production values. Its best newsreels were superbly crafted productions, as well as being highly effective propaganda. Cinesound Review 568 called Kokoda Front Line, became the quintessential war newsreel, and earned Australia its first Academy Award (Oscar) when it was one of four films to share the prize of Best Documentary for its contribution to the war effort.

Dated 18 September 1942, Cinesound Review 568 was filmed on New Guinea’s blood-soaked Kokoda Track by cinematographer Damien Parer. The inscription on the 1943 Oscar reads, “To Kokoda Front Line, for effectiveness in portraying simply yet forcefully the scene of war in New Guinea, and for its moving presentation of the bravery and fortitude of our Australian Comrades in Arms”.

Classroom Activities

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  1. According to Ray Edmondson, what was the purpose of wartime newsreels?
    1. Explain the reasons why it was necessary for the Australian Government to try to boost morale during World War 2. Give specific reasons for your response.
  2. Find three examples of World War 2 propaganda. Use these items to create a PowerPoint presentation that will help your audience to understand
    1. the types of propaganda that were used in Australia during World War 2
    2. why propaganda was used
  3. Find out about filmmaker Damien Parer, who made Kokoda Front Line. You can follow the links below. Use this information to design a memorial to Damien Parer that will help people to learn about his life and understand the importance of his achievements. Your design brief must include a written explanation of your design choices and a biography of Parer.

Further Resources

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Go to From Wireless to Web for more about the history of broadcast media in Australia.

Go to Australian War Memorial

Go to Damian Parer’s War Sunday, 25 April 2004, Graham Davis (reporter), Paul Steindl (producer)