This is a printer friendly page
Free for educational use
Video clip synopsis – Newsreels of the war boosted the morale of Australians at the home front. The newsreel of Australian troops on the Kokoda Track shared the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1942.
Year of production - 1940
Duration - 1min 14sec
Tags - censorship, documentary genre, filmmaking, newsreels, Papua New Guinea, propaganda, reporting, representations of war, see all tags


Newsreels boost morale

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 morale_pr.mp4 (9.1MB).

ipod icon Broadband MP4 morale_bb.mp4 (4.3MB), suitable for iPods and computer downloads.

Additional help.

About the Video Clip


This interview with Ray Edmondson was recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Ray Edmondson is the Former Deputy Director of the National Film and Sound Archive and is now honorary Curator Emeritus. 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.

Background Information


At the start of World War II in 1939 Australians rushed to support Britain – the mother country – in her battle with Hitler’s Nazis. Then the Japanese bombed Darwin, killing hundreds, and the nation realised a greater enemy was battering at the door. Help came not from Britain but from a new friend, the United States. The 1940s shifted Australia’s sense of its place in the world.

Boosting Morale
At the declaration of war on Germany in 1939, the broadcast industry was immediately enlisted to support the war effort. Throughout World War II (1939-45) radio and cinema newsreels played vital roles, informing citizens and boosting morale.

Newsreel footage about the war came from official cameramen at the front. It passed through the hands of government censors, then the same material was issued by the Government to both newsreel producers in Australia: Cinesound Review and Fox Movietone News (Australian edition). Using the same material, each production company prepared its own story – sometimes with quite different results.

During the war, Cinesound Review attained high production values. Its best newsreels were superbly crafted productions, as well as being highly effective propaganda. Cinesound Review 568 called Kokoda Front Line, became the quintessential war newsreel, and earned Australia its first Academy Award (Oscar) when it was one of four films to share the prize of Best Documentary for its contribution to the war effort.

Dated 18 September 1942, Cinesound Review 568 was filmed on New Guinea’s blood-soaked Kokoda Track by cinematographer Damien Parer. The inscription on the 1943 Oscar reads, “To Kokoda Front Line, for effectiveness in portraying simply yet forcefully the scene of war in New Guinea, and for its moving presentation of the bravery and fortitude of our Australian Comrades in Arms”.

Classroom Activities


Making and Producing

  1. Propaganda Project
    Go to the From Wireless to Web website and look at the section on wartime broadcasting. Construct a propaganda advertisement based on the theme “Might is right!” The clip is to be no longer than 2 minutes. Students need to think about how they can manipulate the values and beliefs of the audience in their propaganda work.
  2. Documentary Filmmaking
    In production teams no bigger than four students produce a documentary video that is based on the students interpretation of one of the following:
  • Volunteers
  • Fascinating characters
  • Personal worlds
  • Social issues
  • Criteria for assessment
  • Construction and conveying the truth (re-enactments can be used)
    Running time is to be no longer than 8 minutes. The documentary must include one still image and an excerpt from an interview.

Critical and Historical studies

  1. What is propaganda and what does it represent in terms of the aims of governments and countries? What is the relationship between propaganda film and the audience/world it wishes to target?
  2. Set up a debate on the following topic:
    “Cinema must not be left to run its own course in the hands of filmmakers but must be an instrument of control for government in the interest and security of state and country”.
    In the debate consider the following:
    1. Issues of nation security
    2. Issue of sedition laws in Australia
    3. The issue that news should be objective and that propaganda only feeds the interests and needs of governments
  3. “During civil unrest some of the best documentaries are produced.”
    In reference to Damien Parer’s 1942 Academy Award-winning work on Australians at war on the Kokoda Trail, discuss this statement. Also reflect on other documentaries that have dealt with the themes of war and social unrest.
  4. In recent years a number of documentaries have been made focusing on war. These contemporary documentaries present unique views of war and its participants. These include Soundtrack to War (dir. George Gittoes), Fahrenheit 9/11 (dir. Michael Moore) and Blowing in the Wind (dir. David Bradbury). Each of these documentaries presents the issue of conflict in a particular manner and present a unique window into the world of war and armed conflict. Select one of the films, view it and write a critique of the film in terms of how is presents a factual account of the film’s subject. Below is a scaffold to used in your assessment of the film:
  • Investigative power of the narrative
  • Dramatic portrayal of the subject
  • Unique/ unusual approach to the story
  • Empathy with the audience
  • Effective use of archival material
  • Personal insights and emotive encounters with the subjects
  • Stylised presentation of the subject matter
  • Clarity of the information being presented

Further Resources


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

Go to Australian War Memorial

Go to Damian Parer’s War Sunday, 25 April 2004, Graham Davis (reporter), Paul Steindl (producer)