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Video clip synopsis – The Australian film revival of the late 1970s and early 80s triggered a rise in quality of Australian TV drama and a 'high point' in the production of mini-series from the early 1980s to the early 90s.
Year of production - 2005
Duration - 3min 13sec
Tags - audiences, broadcasting, economy, entertainment, family life, historical representations, national identity, popular culture, television, television programs, see all tags



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About the Video Clip


The interviews with Liz Jacka, Stuart Cunningham and Mac Gudgeon were recorded for the website From Wireless to Web, produced in 2005.

Liz Jacka is an Author and Professor in Communications Studies for the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences at the University of Technology Sydney. Stuart Cunningham is a Professor and Director of the Creative Industries Research & Applications Centre at the Queensland University of Technology. Mac Gudgeon is a screenwriter and a community television advocate. You can view their full biographies 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


Taking its lead from the United States, Australia’s corporate culture ascended to lofty heights during the 1980s. Multi-millionaire magnates such as Kerry Packer, Rupert Murdoch and Alan Bond were feted as the new 'royalty’. Greed was good and everybody was out to make a dollar … until the bubble burst in 1987 when the stockmarket collapsed. Once again ordinary Australians lost livelihoods and life savings.

Mini-Series Come Of Age
In 1981 an adaptation of Neville Shute’s novel A Town Like Alice went to air on the Seven Network. The production was a blockbuster event, screened over three nights – a drama series with three episodes each of 120 minutes. A Town Like Alice was a national (and later international) success with audiences, and stimulated the interest of television networks in mini-series.

At the same time, 10BA tax concessions provided investment funding for quality film and television productions. Funding meant opportunities for filmmakers to explore ideas and techniques. Productions became more adventurous and inventive, drawing on European and American styles of production but reflecting Australian cultural and social themes. These factors created the conditions for the production of dozens of high-rating mini-series that were snapped up by television networks and eagerly consumed by the viewing public.

At first, historical themes dominated, ranging from the portrayal of life in the penal colonies in For the Term of His Natural Life, Sara Dane and Under Capricorn, bushranging in The Last Outlaw, the pioneering spirit in All the Rivers Run, the rise of nationalism in Eureka Stockade, the treatment of Aboriginal Australians in Women of the Sun, industrial unrest in the 1920s in Waterfront and, in the 1990s, convent life in the 1960s in Brides of Christ. In 1985 Return to Eden broke new ground with a story set in the contemporary world of corporate high-flyers.

The Kennedy-Miller organisation – creators of the Mad Max films – also produced a set of mini-series that dealt with major historical events in new ways: The Dismissal (about the downfall of the Whitlam Labor Government); Bodyline (the controversial Test cricket series between Australia and England in the 1930s); Cowra Breakout (World War II and a massacre of Japanese POWs in Australia); and Vietnam (dealing with Australia’s involvement in that war).

The mini-series also explored contemporary Australian life in detail with the ABC’s Scales of Justice, The Magistrate and (later in the 90s) Blue Murder, and SBS’s In Between, which was the first large-scale local multicultural production for the 'ethnic’ broadcaster.

Classroom Activities


Making and Producing

  1. Constructing your Micro Mini-Series
    Often Australian mini-series would use a historical event as the basis of its narrative – consider Bodyline, Where the Wind Blows and Mary Bryant. These mini-series all examine parts of Australian history and fabricate complex character portrayals and involved narratives within their work. Select a story from Australia’s history and draw up a storyboard in terms of how you would produce this story as a mini-series. Write an outline of the main characters and a synopsis of the historical narrative that is being constructed.

Critical and Historical study

  1. View the broadcaster interviews. Why is this period considered the ‘golden age’ of filmmaking?
  2. In the 1980s, economic events greatly influenced the production of film and television. In the new millennium, what influences in the world are having an impact on the production of film and television in Australia?
  3. Why do you think mini-series are not as popular today as they were in the 1980s?

Further Resources


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