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Axemen Fell Giant Trees

Video clip synopsis – The axemen established camps throughout the eucalypt forests in the early 20th century. Their job was a combination of skill and stamina, harvesting giant trees for the rapidly growing hardwood industry.
Year of production - 1949
Duration - 2min 46sec
Tags - economic development, environment, resources, sustainability, see all tags


Axemen Fell Giant Trees

How to Download the Video Clip

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About the Video Clip


Axemen Fell Giant Trees is an excerpt from the film The Timber Getters (11 mins), produced in 1949.

The Timber Getters: In post-war Australia, the milling of our nation’s prized hardwood timbers was a rapidly growing industry. Mechanisation introduced economies in the handling, but the skill and stamina of the axe-men were still indispensable in timber getting. This short film looks at the work of the men living in bush sawmill camps.

The Timber Getters is a National Film Board Production. Produced by the Department of the Interior.

Curriculum Focus


This Digital Resource can be used to achieve the following outcomes:
5.2 A student uses and critically assesses a range of processes for responding and composing
5.7 A student thinks critically and interpretively using information, ideas and increasingly complex arguments to respond to and compose texts in a range of contexts
5.9 A student demonstrates understanding of the ways texts reflect personal and public worlds

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

Background Information


During the late 1940s, Australia was at the start of an economic boom, a large part of which included a demand for new houses for the soldier generation who had delayed family life for the six years of war from 1939 to 1945. Timber was a key material needed for housing construction.

The video clip also shows an industry on the cusp of great technological change. The centuries old manual methods used to fell trees were about to be replaced by increased mechanisation — for example, the crosscut saw was about to be replaced by power saws. We see a hint of this in the use of the small tractor to drag away the fallen log. One of the great implications of this change in technology would be the vastly decreased time, effort and manpower needed to fell trees, and a consequent increase in clearance rates and extent. An industrial revolution was about to occur in the industry.

At the same time modern concepts of 'environment’ had not developed. The attitude of most people was that forests were a natural resource for human use, not a source of habitat for ecological sustainability.

Classroom Activities

  1. The filmmaker presents the occupation of ‘tree felling’ in 1949 as a noble and manly occupation.
    1. Discuss and list ten examples from the video clip that agree with the above statement.
    2. Describe how the filmmaker uses cinematic techniques (camera shots, music, editing, voice-over etc) for each example you listed.
  2. Discuss and write responses to the following ‘what if’ situations. What would happen to that community and environment depicted in the video clip if:
    1. There was a cheaper and more efficient way of felling trees developed?
    2. There was an increase in the demand for timber?
    3. There was an increase in wood substitutes?
    4. There was a change in attitude to the environment?
  3. Imagine you are a student in 1949. Complete the sentence in 25 words or less, ‘The purpose of a forest is ….’
    1. As a student now complete the sentence in 25 words or less, ‘The purpose of a forest is ….’
  4. Compose a two-minute voice-over for the same video clip from the point of view of a person opposed to logging of old growth forest today or from a supporter of the timber industry today.
    1. You will need 800 words.
    2. Research and include as many facts as you can.
    3. Present the new voice-over using the video clip, with the sound turned off, to your class.

Literacy Activity: Focus = Listening / Responding

  1. Where are the giant eucalypts found in Australia? (1 mark)
  2. Identify two of the original inhabitants before people arrived from cities and towns. (2 marks)
  3. Which men make the best axemen? (1 mark)
  4. What are the ‘tools of trade’ for tree felling? (1 mark)
  5. Why are the large trees sometimes cut higher up the trunk? (1 mark)
  6. How are trees transported through bushy areas? (1 mark)
  7. On which side of the tree is the saw used? (1 mark)
  8. Identify two changes to the landscape since the arrival of the timber cutters. (2 marks)

Further Resources


Nadia Wheatley, The Blooding, Penguin Books, Australia, 1989
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