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Dangerous Immigrant (1960)


Produced by the CSIRO Film Unit for the Commonwealth Department of Health, this documentary alerts the general public to the dangers of a destructive pest – the European house borer, or Hylotrupes bajulus – which damages softwood timbers imported from overseas. It asks the audience to alert the appropriate authorities should they suspect that the pest is present in their home.

Curator’s notes

The sensationalism of the film’s title – Dangerous Immigrant – frames the threat of the European house borer as an urgent problem with serious impact. The film had the cooperation of the health, agriculture and customs departments and its message stretches across all three areas.

The film begins with a dramatised scenario in which the Taylors, a couple living in a pre-fabricated housing estate, identify the European house borer in their home by the sounds it makes. A detailed life cycle of the pest shows how the larvae chew through the inside of the softwood, leaving the surface unmarked. The film argues that the borer is a significant threat to foreign softwoods brought into the country through migration (as luggage), overseas imports (such as softwood timbers) and packaging of freight. If not controlled, the borer could result in high rebuilding costs for the housing sector.

The borer is a ‘dangerous immigrant’ because it is easily transportable and goes unnoticed through its invisibility inside the wood. The film emphasises the slippery, sneaky quality of the pest and its threat to ordinary homes as well as the timber industry. By expanding the threat from the agricultural sector to one of greater public concern, the film successfully commands attention from its audience.