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The Changing Face of Australia (1970)

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Uluru education content clip 1, 2

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

Scenic shots of Uluru as the voice-over speaks of the 'geological timescale of the continent and its growth and ageing’. Then, we see Uluru weather a storm. As rains cascade down over the rock, the voice-over describes 'the elements that have shaped the Australian arc over billions of years’. As water trickles down the rock, it washes pathways and rivulets giving the rock its distinctive shape and curves.

Curator’s notes

This clip illustrates both the physical beauty of Uluru (called Ayres Rock at the time of this documentary) and also a style of filmmaking typical of nature documentaries. The Shell Film Unit often engaged the technical skills of accomplished directors and cameramen to work on their films. In this clip, as in the rest of the film, the continent is portrayed as a vast landscape weathered and shaped by the passage of time.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows images of the ancient sandstone monolith Uluru (previously known as Ayers Rock), located on a plain south-west of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory, during and after a rainstorm. The rain creates waterfalls that flow down the rock’s surface, revealing the weathering process that has aged and shaped the rock over time. A commentary at the beginning of the clip sets the scene. As the sounds of the storm pass, light melodic music accompanies the changing images of Uluru.

Educational value points

  • The clip is a striking example of Australian filmmaking of the natural environment in the 1970s. The images of Uluru reveal its beauty and grandeur. A narration sets the scene for the visual material to follow but then allows the audience to view the scenes with no interruption or interpretation. Music and sounds of nature accompany the kaleidoscope of images.
  • Rain is revealed in the clip as an agent of weathering. Over millions of years rainstorms have lashed the hard arkose sandstone rock, forming grooves, potholes and pools on its face. Water erosion has formed the parallel raised ridges that outline the sedimentary layers laid down during Uluru’s formation.
  • Uluru is an Aboriginal sacred site of significant spiritual importance to its traditional owners, the Pitjantjatjara and Yankuntjatjara peoples – known locally as Anangu. Their Dreaming explains how the weather-beaten features of Uluru – the honeycomb pitting, the gashes, ribs, pools and caves shown in this clip – were created by ancestral beings and spirits of the land.
  • As direct descendents of the ancestral beings, the Anangu see it as their sacred responsibility to protect and manage their ancestral lands. This living tradition was recognised in 1985 when freehold title to Uluru–Kata Tjuta National Park was restored to its traditional owners. It has since, rather belatedly, been included on two World Heritage lists – the World Heritage natural property list in 1987 and the World Heritage cultural landscape list in 1993.
  • According to the geological explanation for its formation, Uluru is an inselberg (island mountain), an isolated remnant of an ancient mountain range originally laid down as fan-shaped alluvial sand deposits, which eventually became sandstone. Erosion over millions of years has revealed part of the rock, although the major part of it is still below the Earth’s surface.
  • The size and grandeur of Uluru has clearly inspired the filmmakers, just as it inspires the many thousands of tourists who visit it each year. It is 335 metres (more than 100 storeys) high. To walk around its 9.4 km circumference takes three or four hours. Measuring 3.1 km east-to-west and 1.9 km north-to-south, it is even more remarkable to consider that an estimated two-thirds of the rock lies beneath the Earth’s surface.
  • In the clip the rock formation is referred to as Ayers Rock, which is the name used by non-Indigenous people until 1993. In that year a dual naming policy was adopted, which allowed both English and traditional Aboriginal names to be used. The order of the names was reversed in 2002 to Uluru/Ayers Rock and since then it has become known most commonly as Uluru.
  • Robert Raymond (1922–2003) was one of Australia’s foremost documentary makers and television pioneers. His TV achievements included founding Four Corners in 1961 – the first current affairs show on Australian television. Later, after forming his own production company, he wrote, produced and directed over 70 hour-long documentaries, including Shell’s Australia (1971–75).
  • The clip, from the film The Changing Face of Australia, provides an example of the way the Australian Shell Film Unit and the films it produced showcased Australia to the outside world. The films explored every aspect of Australia’s development as well as celebrating its natural beauty and national ethos. Their film The Back of Beyond (1954) was, for a decade after its release, the most widely viewed Australian film by international audiences.

This clip starts approximately 51 minutes into the documentary.

Footage shows the landscape of Uluru.
Narrator Perhaps no other single place or object on the Australian continent so conveys the immensity of the timescale that governs the growth and ageing of the landscape and renders so insignificant the instant of geological time that has passed since Man occupied the planet.

Thunder and lightning surround the rock.
Narrator And to be present when Ayers Rock is washed by a thunderstorm is to catch an unforgettable glimpse of the elements that have shaped the Australian Ark through the 3 billion years of its existence.

The storm causes cascades of water to run down the rock face. Cheerful brass music plays over footage of Uluru after the storm.

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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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