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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

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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


Reading standard: Students read, view, analyse, critique, reflect on and discuss contemporary and classical imaginative texts that explore personal, social, cultural and political issues of significance in their own lives. They will also read, view, analyse and discuss a wide range of informative and persuasive texts and identify the multiple purposes for which texts are created. They explain how texts are shaped by time, place and cultural setting in which they are created.

Writing standard: Students write sustained and cohesive narratives that experiment with different techniques and show attention to chronology, characterization, consistent point of view and development of resolution.
They write persuasive texts dealing with complex ideas and issues and control the linguistic structures and features that support the presentation of different perspectives on complex themes and issues. They select subject matter and begin to use a range of language techniques to try to position readers to accept particular views of people, characters, events, ideas and information. They compose a range of other texts, such as feature articles, webpages and workplace texts. They plan and deliver presentations, sequencing and organizing complex ideas.

Speaking and listening standard: Students analyse critically the relationship between texts, contexts, speakers and listeners in a range of situations.
When engaged in discussion, they compare ideas, build on others’ ideas, provide and justify other points of view, and reach conclusions that take into account of aspects of an issue. They draw on a range of strategies to listen to and present spoken texts, including note-taking, combining spoken and visual texts, and presenting complex issues or information imaginatively to interest an audience.

The activities in this learning module are relevant to the Interdisciplinary Learning strand of Level 6 Communications (Listening, viewing and responding standard; Presenting standard) and Thinking Processes (Reasoning, processing and inquiry standard; Creativity standard).

The activities are also relevant to the Physical, Personal and Social Learning strand of Level 6 Interpersonal Development (Building social relationships standard; Working in teams standard) and Personal Learning (The individual learner standard; Managing personal learning standard).

This material is an extract. Teachers and Students should consult the Victoria Curriculum and Assessment Authority 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.
    1. Discuss and write responses to the following ‘what if’ situations. What would happen to that community and environment depicted in the video clip if:
      * There was a cheaper and more efficient way of felling trees developed?
      * There was an increase in the demand for timber?
      * There was an increase in wood substitutes?
      * There was a change in attitude to the environment?
    2. Imagine you are a student in 1949. Complete the sentence in 25 words or less, ‘The purpose of a forest is ….’
    3. As a student now complete the sentence in 25 words or less, ‘The purpose of a forest is ….’
    1. 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.
      * You will need 800 words.
      * Research and include as many facts as you can.
      * Present the new voice-over using the video clip, with the sound turned off, to your class.

Further Resources


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