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Creating an Australian Image

Video clip synopsis – Stuart Cunningham explains how innovations in technology have transformed television content.
Year of production - 2004
Duration - 1min 17sec
Tags - audiences, broadcasting, culture, identity, language, media and society, popular culture, technology and society, see all tags


Creating an Australian Image

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About the Video Clip


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

Stuart Cunningham is Professor and Director of the Creative Industries Research & Applications Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. 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


Area of study 1. Representation

The media represent reality to audiences through the essential elements of selection, construction and representation. Each media form and process constructs an image or representation of an event, idea or story and represents it in a way which is different from the audience’s direct experience of reality.

These representations involve the selection of images, words or sounds and the ways in which they are presented, related and ordered. Often this is not immediately evident in the media product which can present itself as natural and realistic. Media codes and conventions, together with such factors as the degree of realism intended in the text, the cultural contexts of the time and place of production and legal restraints, help shape a product’s structure and meaning. A media product should be approached in terms of how it constructs meaning (and therefore its relationship to reality) rather than solely according to whether the product is realistic.

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

Background Information


The issue of content – of what gets broadcast – has been one of the most hotly debated issues in the history of broadcast media in Australia. From the early days of radio in the 1930s through to the 1950s and the advent of television and beyond, concerns have been raised about what people listen to on radio and watch on television. Central to this debate has been the matter of imported versus local content – programs purchased from overseas versus programs produced in Australia. The presence of Australian-made content is considered essential for a robust sense of Australian national identity.

Creating An Australian Image
In August 2004 Qantas launched a new version of their long-running cinema and television campaign to coincide with the opening of the Olympic Games in Athens. Scored to Peter Allen’s anthem I Still Call Australia Home, the commercial featured children from the National Boys’ Choir and the Australian Girls’ Choir singing at some of the most spectacular landmarks in the world – in New Zealand, Greece, Japan, the United States, France, England and Mexico, plus every Australian State – from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania to Jabiru in the Northern Territory, Burra and McLarenvale in South Australia, Wallace Hut in Victoria, the Pilbara in Western Australia, Sydney’s Opera House and the Bondi Icebergs swimming pool. The commercial’s closing shot at Whitehaven Beach in Queensland featured 500 children forming the shape of the Qantas kangaroo.

With Qantas reputedly spending more than $17 million on the campaign’s production, the 245 hours of raw footage for the commercials took five months to shoot and employed 656 production crew from nine countries. These figures far exceed a very generous production budget for a standard Australian feature film or drama series for television.

The campaign commercial is also a recent example of the great tradition of television advertising that reflects national myths and icons back to Australians, and to the rest of the world.

Classroom Activities


Answer the following questions from the Video Clip Context and the video clip itself:

  1. What does Stuart Cunningham think of advertising on television?
  2. Write down your two favorite Australian television ads. What do you like about them? What do you think they say about being Australian?
  3. There are an increasing number of ads from overseas being shown on Australian television. Do you see this as a problem? Do you think they work as well as Australian ones?

Further Resources


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