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Symbols of Australia

This resource explores some of the symbols Australians have chosen to represent themselves and their nation. The website is based on an exhibition at the National Museum of Australia.

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A tour of the nation's capital

In the years following World War II, Australia sought to develop a new identity, one that honoured the past while embracing technological advances and increased political stability. As this clip shows, for many people during this period, Canberra - the nation's capital - served as a metaphor for the sort of place Australia ...

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Johnson, Clift and Cohen meet Hydra's muse

The lives of Canadian poet Leonard Cohen and Australian writers Charmian Clift and George Johnston intertwined on the Greek island of Hydra in 1960. Cohen became one of the world's most celebrated singer-songwriters. Clift received more recognition for her writing overseas than in Australia while Johnston's novel 'My Brother ...

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Designing the Sydney Opera House

What does it take to create a building that is famous the world over? In 1956, NSW Premier Joseph Cahill announced a competition for the design of an opera house for Sydney. The winner was architect Jorn Utzon with 'design 218'. In this 1950s clip, learn about Utzon's aims in designing the building, the challenges in realising ...

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The Stomp, a 1960s dance craze

Imagine a dance so simple it could be learnt in minutes and so popular it became a craze. This clip from a Weekend Magazine program screened in 1963 looks at such a dance. It was called the Stomp and it was pounded out in surf clubs and council halls around Australia's coast. Watch and listen as teenagers express their ...

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The old australian record industry

Discover a time in Australia's past when the vinyl record industry was thriving. Today you can download your choice of music at almost any time or place. But in this clip from 1963 you will experience life before music downloads and compact discs (CDs): the age of vinyl records. These records created a teenage mass market ...

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ABC national TV service: opening night, 1956

Can you imagine life before television? How different would it have been? This clip is taken from the opening moments of the first ABC television broadcast in 1956. As you watch it, see how the presenter describes the event and try to imagine the impact such first broadcasts would have had on Australians more than half ...

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Mobile society: 'mechanised sloth'

Do Australians depend too much on cars and get too little exercise? Many people like to think of Australia as being an active, sports-loving nation. What effect has the motor car had on this perception? This clip from the 1960s takes a look at the question of whether the popularity of driving was becoming a risk to the ...

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Teenage drinking in the 1970s

Do you think that Australian teenagers drink too much alcohol? If so, do you think this is a new problem? Discover what teenagers thought about such drinking back in the 1970s. This ABC program from 1977 looks at the issue of teenage drinking, some possible reasons for it and some of the social problems arising from it.

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Australian teen culture: birth of skateboarding

Since its creation in California in the 1950s, skateboarding, or 'skating', has been more than a sport. Beginning as an activity for surfers when they weren't in the water, it quickly came to represent a culture, and an attitude, all its own. In this clip from 1976, watch Australian teenagers skate the streets and an empty ...

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Surfies, clubbies and a changing way of life

What effect did the rise of surfboard riding and its accompanying surf culture have on surf lifesaving? In the early 1960s, surf lifesaving was regarded as a model of the values that underpin the Australian way of life. This clip from 1964 explores the collision between the new surf culture and the traditions of the surf ...

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Surf culture hits Australia in the 1960s

How did surf culture change Australian popular culture? Rock music and the concept of the 'teenager' had arrived in Australia in the 1950s but in the 1960s the surfboard gave rise to a new youth subculture. This clip from 1964 explores conflict in the water and cultural changes that came with the rise of the 'surfie'.

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Preparing for the Olympic Games, 1956

Discover why the 1956 Olympic Games were so significant for Australia. Australian Olympic officials hoped that the games would allow Australia to be seen as a modern, vibrant, and tolerant nation. This was a rare opportunity for a predominantly white nation to be exposed to greater cultural diversity. As preparations were ...

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Surf story

Imagine riding a big wave on a surfboard back in the days when surfboard riding was the newest craze to hit Australia. At that time, many teenagers believed that surfing represented a whole new way of life. This Four Corners program from the early 1960s investigates the impact of the rise of the surfboard and surfing culture ...

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Higher density housing: design considerations

Why has living in flats or apartments only recently become a popular choice for many Australian city dwellers? In this clip, architect Michael Garbutt explores changes in higher density housing in Sydney from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. He also discusses the potential for such housing to incorporate ...

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The spoken word: Rap artist Sage Francis

What role do social issues play in popular music? While some rap music glorifies 'gangster' culture, many artists use it to express their views about things that concern them. One such artist is Sage Francis. In this clip, discover how this rap battle champion uses his art to explore important and controversial social issues.

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Germaine Greer on rock culture

Does music have the power to change the world? From the 1950s rock 'n' roll to later popular music of the 60s and 70s, music encouraged teenagers to rebel against the ideas and beliefs of earlier generations and, in some instances, to change society for the better. In this clip, explore some of these changes from the perspective ...

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Controversy surrounding the Sydney Opera House

The Sydney Opera House is considered the 'eighth wonder of the world'. Although recognised as a major landmark today, its construction was controversial. In 1966, the building's Danish designer and chief architect, Jorn Utzon, was forced to withdraw from his position. In this clip listen to Jorn Utzon and discover why he ...

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Holden, the 'all-Australian car'

What made Holden cars symbols of Australia during the 1950s, 60s and 70s? During this period, more than any other vehicle, the Holden came to reflect changing lifestyles in Australia, and helped to define for many what it meant to be 'Australian'. Find out the impact that generations of Holden vehicles have had on the lives ...

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TV killed the radio star

Can you imagine a time when, instead of watching dramas at home on a screen, people listened to them on the radio - a time when the most popular of those dramas were made in Australia? This Four Corners program from 1964 examines the reasons for the death of Australian radio serials, the role played by television in their ...