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Andrew Fisher’s Lunch Box

Video clip synopsis – Andrew Fisher’s tin lunch box reminds us that humble beginnings informed his political career: he went from union organiser to three-time Prime Minister, inventing the Australian ideal of a ‘fair go’ along the way.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 5min 5sec
Tags - Australian History, icons, identity, leadership, Prime Ministers, see all tags


Andrew Fisher’s Lunch Box

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About the Video Clip


Andrew Fisher’s Lunch Box is an episode from the series The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures, produced in 2007.

The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures
Award winning cartoonist and yarn spinner, Warren Brown, reveals the emotional lives of Australian Prime Ministers through 10 objects they used every day or even adored – from Robert Menzies’ home movie camera, to Joseph Lyons’ love letters, Harold Holt’s briefcase and Ben Chifley’s pipe. These treasures reveal the nation’s leaders, as you have never seen them before.

The Prime Ministers’ National Treasures is a Film Australia National Interest Program produced in association with Old Parliament House and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Curriculum Focus



A student:
5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
5.3 explains the changing rights and freedoms of Aboriginal peoples and other groups in Australia
5.5 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources
5.8 locates, selects and organises relevant historical information from a number of sources, including ICT, to undertake historical inquiry
5.9 uses historical terms and concepts in appropriate contexts.

This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


Andrew Fisher’s tin lunch box reminds us that humble beginnings informed his formidable political career. Leaving school at ten, he was a coalminer throughout his teens, and migrated to Australia from Scotland at 23. He rose quickly from union organiser to three-time Prime Minister, inventing the Australian ideal of a ‘fair go’ along the way. Among a host of policies designed for the common good, he advocated maternity allowances and greater political equality for women.

Andrew Fisher (1862-1928) was Prime Minister of Australia three times; from November 1908 to June 1909, April 1910 to June 1913, September 1914 to October 1915. He is regarded as one of the most successful Australian politicians.

Andrew Fisher’s lunch box is held at the Gympie Gold Mining Museum in Queensland.

Classroom Activities


1. Interrogating objects

History sometimes involves the study of artifacts — often in a museum, as part of a site study. Objects and artifacts can tell you about a person or a time — but only if you can ‘interrogate’ them to find out what their story is.

Here are questions that you can use on museum objects, such as this one about the Prime Minister, to help reveal the meaning and significance of objects.

  • Describe the object. (Size, shape, materials, function etc.)
  • What does it show? — People? Symbols? Words? If so, who or what are they?
  • What is its context? (Time, place, social group etc.)
  • Who produced it?
  • For what possible purpose/s?
  • Who was it meant for? (Just one person, or a whole audience?)
  • What might it tell us about attitudes and values — that is, those things that people believe are the right way to behave?
  • What does it tell us about how people behaved at the time?

Now write a summary sentence beginning:

‘This object helps me understand or realise that . . . ‘

2. Understanding another time

Andrew Fisher’s lunch box surprises us because it tells us about employment practices that no longer exist in our society, so it reminds us of economic and social change over time.

  • Why do you think children such as Andrew Fisher were sent down coal mines at such a young age?
  • How might this have influenced Fisher’s later ideas about political policies?
  • Why do you think Fisher became actively involved in a union?
  • Why would others in the same situation not have become actively involved?
  • What does his lunch box therefore suggest about qualities that might exist in a Prime Minister, and also the policies that he might pursue?
  • You can now research Fisher further to see if your ideas seem to be accurate.

Further Resources


Go to National Archives of Australia – Australian Prime Ministers

Go to the Australian Dictionary of Biography