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Video clip synopsis – Actors gather around a microphone to record an episode of radio soap The Country Hour. Tim Bowden reflects on how significant radio series were in Australia.
Year of production - 1950
Duration - 2min 48sec
Tags - ABC, broadcasting, family life, media and society, popular culture, radio, soap operas, see all tags


Radio Soap Operas

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About the Video Clip


This video clip is an excerpt from the film This Is the ABC, produced in 1955 by the Film Division of the Department of the Interior for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. This video clip is 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


Inquiry Question
What have been the major social and cultural features of a post-war decade?

A student:
5.1 explains social, political and cultural developments and events and evaluates their impact on Australian life
5.2 assesses the impact of international events and relationships on Australia’s history
5.4 sequences major historical events to show an understanding of continuity, change and causation
5.5 identifies, comprehends and evaluates historical sources
5.6 uses sources appropriately in an historical inquiry
5.7 explains different contexts, perspectives and interpretations of the past.

Students Learn About:
Post-war Australia
The impact of changing technology on everyday life in post-war Australia:

  • housing
  • home appliances
  • entertainment
  • transport
  • communications

Students Learn To:
outline the impact of the main technological changes over time on everyday life in post-war Australia, based on a selection of sources.

Decade Study
The social and cultural features of ONE post-war decade including:

  • fashion
  • music
  • entertainment
  • sport
  • British or American influences on popular culture

    – describe the main social and cultural features of the chosen decade
    – outline the main influences of Britain or the USA on Australian popular culture of the chosen decade
    – assess the impact of the chosen decade in shaping Australian identity
This material is an extract. Teachers and students should consult the Board of Studies website for more information.

Background Information


The 1950s were boom years for Australia. The nation shared a vision of creating great wealth from the land through new resource-based industries and construction of the massive Snowy Mountains Scheme. A million 'new Australians’ arrived from war-torn Europe – many speaking languages other than English – and the forces shaping Australian society were on the move again.

Soap Operas
Serials populated by 'ordinary Australian families’ were the most popular entertainment on radio in the 1950s. The genre termed 'Soap Operas’ originated in American radio serials of the 1930s, and owes the name to the sponsorship of programs by major soap powder manufacturers. Promoted as a way to 'liven the humdrum’, they offered an escape from the drudgery of real life. Listeners rode the roller-coaster of emotional crises through their beloved characters. The focus on nuclear families – mum, dad and the kids – expressed and reinforced the most important social values of Australia in the 50s.

The most famous of all Australian radio soap operas in the 1950s was Blue Hills, which aired Monday to Thursday from 1948 to 1976, a total of 5795 episodes. Blue Hills was broadcast as part of ABC radio’s Country Hour. The fifteen-minute serial dealt with the problems of rural life and recounted the adventures of the Gordon family. Whole towns ground to a halt for fifteen minutes each day. The service in stores and pubs virtually stopped while each episode went to air. Other popular soap operas included When a Girl Marries, Portia Faces Life and the classic Dad and Dave.

Classroom Activities

  1. List all of the aspects of life in the 1950s that the archival video clip from This is the ABC reflects. Your response should include technology, fashions, forms of entertainment, types of media as well as any other aspects that you can find.
    1. The actors who are performing in the archival video clip are from Blue Hills. Blue Hills was broadcast between 1949 and 1976 as part of the ABC’s Country Hour and focused on the problems and adventures of a country family. Use the archival video clip and any other research you might find to list the ways in which Blue Hills is different from today’s television soap operas. In your answer you should consider technology, the types of performers, the content and storylines.
  2. According to Tim Bowden, who was the audience for radio soap operas? What does this tell you about Australian society in the 1950s?

Further Resources


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