Australian Screen

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The Digger Carries On: Repatriation Illustrated (1919)

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clip The Anzac Hostel for returned soldiers education content clip 1, 2, 3

Original classification rating: not rated. This clip chosen to be PG

Clip description

This clip from a short documentary shows returned First World War servicemen lying in their beds, attended by nurses at the Anzac Hostel in 1919. They sew, carve decorative wooden pieces, play musical instruments and weave baskets.

Curator’s notes

Produced with government approval, this film would have been screened at cinemas to reassure Australians that the returned servicemen were being looked after and to promote the work of the government.

The camera pans slowly through the gardens of the Anzac Hostel, revealing the peaceful surroundings and contented returned servicemen.

Apart from the introductory title card, no intertitles are used. Information is kept to a minimum and the footage illustrates a recreational atmosphere.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This black-and-white, silent clip shows an intertitle introducing 'Scenes in an Anzac Hostel.’, followed by a slow pan across the grounds of a large Anzac hostel to a balcony where invalid returned soldiers in wheeled beds are attended by nurses. The men are shown undertaking leisure pursuits, including carving wood, playing musical instruments and sewing.

Educational value points

  • The clip illustrates the care made available to returned soldiers through the work of the Repatriation Department (later to become the Department of Veterans’ Affairs). The second government of Prime Minister William 'Billy’ Hughes introduced and passed the Australian Soldiers Repatriation Act 1917 to establish a repatriation service regulating assistance to returned soldiers and their dependants. The Repatriation Department owned hospitals that provided services for veterans.
  • The scenes of injured men enjoying themselves in a range of leisure pursuits present a particular perspective on the situation of invalid soldiers repatriated to Australia following the First World War. The filmmakers’ choice of viewpoint subscribes to the myth of the heroic digger, battling on in spite of adversity. In reality, however, individual veterans and society as a whole were seriously affected by the physical, mental and social costs of war, with many men having sustained chronic injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Nurses are shown caring for repatriated soldiers. Many Australian nurses also served overseas and then returned home to continue caring for the servicemen they had nursed abroad. The work in repatriation hospitals was physically and psychologically demanding, and many of the repatriation challenges faced by soldiers, including post-traumatic stress disorder, also applied to nurses.
  • While initially welcomed home as heroes, returned soldiers came to be seen as a social problem and a burden on the public purse, often apparently drunk and disorderly, or complaining about their lot. Approximately 2,000 Australian men were permanently hospitalised after the War, but in 1926, for example, 22,742 veterans also required time in hospital, indicating the long-term nature of their afflictions and hinting at the hidden costs of the War to their families, employers and the community.
  • The scenes shown are from an early public information film. Such films screened in cinemas around the country and were designed to advise the public on a range of subjects, informing attitudes and promoting the work of the government, with the aim of ultimately enhancing social cohesion and security. The example shown here highlights the need to reassure the public that the 'repatriation problem’, as it became known, was being well managed. This aim would have influenced the filmmakers in selecting what to film and in portraying an atmosphere of purposeful activity and general contentment.

This clip starts approximately 10 minutes into the documentary.

This black-and-white, silent clip shows an intertitle introducing 'Scenes in an Anzac Hostel’, followed by a slow pan across the grounds of a large Anzac hostel to a balcony where invalid returned soldiers in wheeled beds are attended by nurses. The men are shown undertaking leisure pursuits, including carving wood, playing musical instruments and sewing.

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australianscreen is produced by the National Film and Sound Archive. By using the website you agree to comply with the terms and conditions described elsewhere on this site. The NFSA may amend the 'Conditions of Use’ from time to time without notice.

All materials on the site, including but not limited to text, video clips, audio clips, designs, logos, illustrations and still images, are protected by the Copyright Laws of Australia and international conventions.

When you access australianscreen you agree that:

  • You may retrieve materials for information only.
  • You may download materials for your personal use or for non-commercial educational purposes, but you must not publish them elsewhere or redistribute clips in any way.
  • You may embed the clip for non-commercial educational purposes including for use on a school intranet site or a school resource catalogue.
  • The National Film and Sound Archive’s permission must be sought to amend any information in the materials, unless otherwise stated in notices throughout the Site.

All other rights reserved.

ANY UNAUTHORISED USE OF MATERIAL ON THIS SITE MAY RESULT IN CIVIL AND CRIMINAL LIABILITY.

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