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Video clip synopsis – Construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge commenced in 1925, after more than 100 years of contending ideas about ways to cross the harbour. This animation is about the earlier designs for a bridge to span the harbour.
Year of production - 2007
Duration - 2min 32sec
Tags - Australian cities, Australian culture, creativity, icons, identity, see all tags


Spanning the Harbour

How to Download the Video Clip

To download a free copy of this Video Clip choose from the options below. These require the free Quicktime Player.

download clip icon Premium MP4 spanning_pr.mp4 (18.7MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 spanning_bb.mp4 (8.8MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


Spanning the Harbour is an animation commissioned for the website Constructing Australia, created as a companion to the three-part series entitled Constructing Australia, produced in 2007.

Constructing Australia
Politics, tragedy and conquest combine in stories behind the building of Australia. The Bridge, Pipe Dreams, and A Wire Through the Heart, combine rare archival images with dramatic storytelling in showcasing three landmark events that would allow Australia to mark its place in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Kalgoorlie Pipeline and the Overland Telegraph line were engineering triumphs, but the human drama in constructing Australia is even more fascinating.
A Film Australia Making History production.

The animation Spanning the Harbour was produced by Roar Film.

Background Information


Massive, majestic and breathtaking, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was the greatest engineering challenge of its day anywhere on earth. Nothing like it had ever been attempted in Australia. It not only altered the life of a city forever, it became a symbol of a bold young nation and a changing world.

At a time when there were only 30,000 cars and trucks in the entire city, the Bridge could carry 6000 vehicles and 160 trains every hour and all of Sydney’s people could have easily crossed it in a single afternoon. With its graceful arch rising high above the famous harbour, it remained the tallest structure in the city until the late 1960s.

The building of the bridge provides the backdrop for a particularly turbulent period of both national and state politics.

The advent of the Great Depression found governments having to rapidly adjust from boom times to massive unemployment. NSW Premier Jack Lang believed that government had the responsibility to protect its constituents, and was prepared to default on World War 1 loan payments due to Britain to maintain government spending and to keep people employed. Lang’s social welfare policies, which supported the working class over the wealthy industrialists, created many enemies. Lang became a figure of hatred for some of the more divisive groups in NSW. The New Guard, a movement that appealed to conservative returned servicemen who were strongly anti-Communist, was deeply suspicious of Lang and his political and economic response to the Great Depression. It was a member of the New Guard, Francis de Groot, that slashed the ribbon at the opening of the bridge.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge was completed during the dark days of the Great Depression and finished in March 1932. It is the legacy of a fateful partnership between two very different men— the brilliant engineer, J. J. C. Bradfield and tmaverick politician, Jack Lang—who shared a relentless ambition to create ‘the people’s bridge’.

Today, it is impossible to imagine Sydney, and Australia, without the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a giant steel arch resembling a coat hanger that has become one of world’s most recognised structures and an engineering triumph.

SPANNING THE HARBOUR ANIMATION NARRATIVE – A concise history of the contending ideas about ways to cross the harbour.

Classroom Activities

    1. Before viewing the video clip, brainstorm and write a definition for the term ‘icon’. Check it using a dictionary.
    2. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is often described as an ‘Australian icon’. What does this mean?
    1. Sixteen workers fell to their death building the bridge. Describe the working conditions on the bridge and give reasons why you think there were not better safety conditions.
  1. Imagine that you have been asked to create a new 400-word voice-over narration for this video clip.
    1. List the aspects of the bridge that you would like to see covered — for example why it was built, how long it took to finally decide on the best way to span the harbour, who built it and how, what it felt like when it was built, etc.
    2. Use information from the video clip as well as your own research to write the new narration. Make sure you mention the term ‘Australian icon’.
    3. Present your narration to the class by reading it out loud while the video clip is being played, with the sound turned off.

Further Resources


Go to Australian Government Culture and Recreation Portal
Go to Sydney Visitors Bureau