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Video clip synopsis – A young boy plays along with a musical game during one of the many ABC broadcasts for children. Children from around Australia tune into a kindergarten broadcast over the ABC. Tim Bowden remembers the ABC children's program The Argonauts.
Year of production - 1950s
Duration - 2min 48sec
Tags - ABC, broadcasting, children, culture, family life, identity, media, media and society, popular culture, radio, see all tags


Family radio

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Additional help.

About the Video Clip


The first video clip is an excerpt from the film This is the ABC produced by the Film Division of the Department for the Interior for the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1955. The second video clip is an excerpt from the film The Invisible Link, produced by the Department of the Interior for the Postmaster-General’s Department for the Australian National Film Board in 1951. Both archival video clips are on the From Wireless to Web website, produced in 2005.

The interview with Tim Bowden was recorded for the website. Tim Bowden is a broadcaster, radio and delivision documentary maker, oral historian and author. 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


In this English unit students will:

  • discuss past examples of Australian radio programming for children, and question whether radio provides similar programming for children today
  • in pairs research and write a magazine article about the history of radio serials, aiming it at a specific audience
  • draft and edit a short story that draws on research of a children’s radio program.

Reading Standard: students view imaginative, informative and persuasive texts that explore ideas and information related to challenging topics, themes and issues. They identify the ideas, themes and issues explored in these texts, and provide supporting evidence to justify their interpretations. They produce personal responses. They infer meanings and messages in texts.

Writing Standard: students produce, in print and electronic forms, texts for a variety of purposes including speculating, hypothesising, persuading and reflecting. They write extended narratives or scripts with attention to characterisation, consistency of viewpoint and development of a resolution. They edit their writing for clarity, coherence and consistency of style.

Speaking and Listening Standard: students express creative and analytical responses to texts, themes and issues. They critically evaluate the spoken language of others and select, prepare and present spoken texts for specific audiences and purposes. When listening to others, students ask clarifying questions and build on the ideas of others.

The activities in this unit are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strands of Level 5 Communications (Listening, Viewing and Responding standard; Presenting Standard), and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, Processing and Inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 5 Interpersonal Development (Building Social Relationships standard; Working in Teams standard), and Personal Learning (The Individual Learner standard; Managing Personal Learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority website for more information.

Background Information


The wireless delivered education and entertainment to children, companionship to women at home, and gave families an evening pastime.

The ABC’s Children’s Session with its Argonauts Club began in 1933, and by 1950 the club boasted 50,000 members. School lessons were broadcast in all States. Programs such as Women’s Session and Banish Drudgery dominated morning slots, with hints on health, mothercraft, the science of beauty, cooking and cleaning. Popular recorded music (English and American crooners and dance bands) was the staple of the commercial radio stations.

But family serials were the most popular entertainment, and most popular of these sagas was Dad and Dave, based on Steele Rudd’s classic On Our Selection (1899). According to the first radio episode in 1937: “this is a human story of two typical Australians … their families, their lives, their hopes, their dreams, their fears and their triumphs … you’ll laugh with them … and perhaps their troubles will remind you of your own …” (Kent 37)

Classroom Activities

  1. Getting started
    In class, view the accompanying video clip interview with Tim Bowden, and the extracts from the archival clips, This is the ABC, and The Invisible Link, then discuss and write notes on the following:
    1. Name the ancient Greek myth the Argonauts Club was based on, and explain why children who joined the club were given special names
    2. The Argonauts Club began in 1933, and by 1950 had 50,000 members. The club broadcasts included a mix of entertainment and education, with light studio conversation, an adventure serial, general knowledge competitions, writing activities, plus information and opinions about topics such as history, art or science, supplied by ‘experts’. Describe how children participated in the activities of the Argonauts Club
    3. Comment on whether the Kindergarten of the Air program fulfilled a valuable service
    4. Are there any Australian programs for children on the radio today, or presented in radio format (as in podcasting) on the Internet? If so, describe them. If not, offer reasons.
  2. Preparing a magazine article
    In pairs research the history of Australian radio serials for children from the 1930s to the 1950s, then present an illustrated article of about 400 words about the topic, aimed at a popular magazine for children and young teenagers. Make sure the magazine pages you produce have either two or three columns, and all headlines, text and picture captions are word-processed.
  3. Writing a short story
    After watching the video clips of This is the ABC and The Invisible Link, plan, draft, edit, proofread and correct a short story in 500 words about a home or school in the Australian outback where young children are about to listen to a radio broadcast of the Kindergarten of the Air. What happens, who are the characters, when and where is the story set? The story may be a drama or a comedy, and should be set many decades ago, before TV was introduced in Australia. (You may need to carry out further research on the history of this radio program before writing the story).

Further Resources


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

Go to Having Fun, The War Years, (scroll down to Children’s Radio Club advertisement from Western Mail, 2 December 1948

Go to Biggles takes to the skies again!, radio broadcast, ABC Western Plains NSW, 15 April 2003, presented by Chris Coleman

Go to Tony Palermo’s Ruyasonic, Audio Theatre/Radio Drama Resources, April 2006

Richard Lane, The Golden Age of Australian Radio Drama 1923–1960: A History Through Biography, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 1994