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Video clip synopsis – Bruce Petty investigates the effects of political satire and cartooning.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 2min 22sec
Tags - censorship, civics and citizenship, democracy, drawing, historical representations, icons, Learning Journey Satire, media and society, national identity, politics, Prime Ministers, representations, satire, see all tags


The Effect of Cartoons

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About the Video Clip


Talkback Classroom is a forum program run by the Education section of the National Museum of Australia. Each year, panels of three secondary students selected from schools Australia-wide interview leading decision makers on important current issues. The panels participate in a ‘learning journey’ (researching the issues and developing interview skills) to explore the issues and prepare for the forum.

In 2007 a forum on the topic of ‘Political Satire’ was held. The guests interviewed were John Safran, SBS TV/Triple J radio presenter and Canberra-based cartoonist David Pope. The interview panellists were ACT students Kirrily Howarth (Yr 12 St Francis Xavier College), Samantha Bobba (Yr 10 Lyneham High School) and Wil Francis (Yr 9 Belconnen High School). In preparation for the forum, students participated in a learning journey that involved interviewing Australian cartooning icon Bruce Petty and Joe Hockey, Shadow Minister for Health and Ageing.

Curriculum Focus


Go to The National Curriculum Statements for Civics and Citizenship
Teachers and students should consult their state’s curriculum and learning programs.

Background Information


Australia has a rich political history. A significant part of this history is political satire; this allows society to see the ‘underbelly’ of the political process and to gain insights into governmental behaviour and decision making.

Political satire in Australia is most often seen in the form of cartoons or television programs. The first political cartoon published in an Australian newspaper appeared in 1835 in the Cornwall Chronicle in Launceston, Tasmania. Many of Australia’s major newspapers continue to feature political satire cartoons as part of their daily editorial. With the arrival of television in Australia, political satire soon moved into this medium in the form of shows such as The Mavis Bramston Show, The Games, The Glasshouse and The Chaser’s War on Everything.

Many contemporary topics are covered by political satirists. Climate change, terrorism, economics, the environment, elections and government ‘indiscretions’ are often targets for political satire. Often the satirists will interpret a topic in such a way that will expose the real substance of it, frequently allowing people to gain a better understanding of the topic and to be better informed. Political satire performs an important role in Australia’s democratic society; it is a potent device that can expand awareness of the matters that affect all Australians.

Classroom Activities


Before You Watch

Over a period of two weeks, collect examples of political cartooning from newspapers and on-line sources. Analyse the range of current affairs that forms the subject matter of the cartoons. Look for any patterns in the subject matter i.e. some being emphasised more than others. Compare any cartoons that address the same topics; discuss them in regard to which may be more effective in commenting upon those topics. Try to establish what might make some cartoons more effective than others that are on the same topic.

While You Watch

Bruce Petty refers to an incident in which an Australian cartoonist living in another country was expelled from that country after he produced a cartoon that featured the country’s Prime Minister. Make a note of the name of the cartoonist and the country involved so that you can research the incident later on. Expand your research to include any other examples in which a cartoonist has caused a major upset by producing a possibly contentious cartoon. Look for reasons (cultural, political etc.) as to why the cartoon caused problems. Discuss in class the effect of the cartoon(s) and consider the range of opinions in your class.

After You Watch

Stage a class debate on the topic of ‘Cartoonists shouldn’t stick their noses into politics’.

Further Resources


Go to National Museum of Australia Talkback Classroom site

Go to National Museum of Australia ‘Behind the Lines’ Political Cartooning travelling exhibition

Go to National Museum of Australia Civics and Citizenship studies units