Australian Screen

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For Love or Money (1983)

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clip A very efficient secretary education content clip 1, 2, 3

This clip chosen to be G

Clip description

This clip looks at how women were brought back into the paid workforce to fill the lower paid positions as the economy boomed in the 1960s.

Curator’s notes

This is a beautifully edited segment showing the types of jobs on offer to the first wave of baby boom girls leaving school and to the married women who, after years of being told to stay in the home, were now being encouraged to enter the paid workforce.

About to revolutionise office work, the first computers began to appear in the workplace. They were monster-sized affairs, often taking up whole floors of buildings. They required that data be entered on punch cards by data entry typists. Data entry pools were the call centres of their day, with minimum quotas and highly regimented hours and breaks. Repetitive strain injury (RSI) or tenosynovitis was a common affliction among data entry workers. In 1984 Margot Nash made the short film Teno about the condition.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows black-and-white and colour footage of the world of work for women in Australia in the 1960s. Women at that time, including married women, were being urged into the workplace. Women in factory production lines are shown, followed by footage of women doing office work at typewriters, adding machines and early computers. The song 'I’m a very efficient secretary’ introduces a section that shows the growth of the role of the personal secretary, seen as an asset to the 'busy executive’. Voice-over readings of commentaries of the time as well as a voice-over narration link the visuals.

Educational value points

  • The clip refers to inequalities in pay for men and women in 1960s Australia. In 1912 women’s minimum wage was set by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court at 54 per cent of the male rate. A consistent and widespread organisation lobbying for equal pay began in the mid-1930s, led by women like Jessie Street and Muriel Heagney. In 1950 the basic female wage was set at 75 per cent of the male rate. Continued agitation led to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value being established by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in 1972 and the National Wage Case of 1974 extended the minimum wage to women, phased in by June 1975.
  • The subject of equal pay, raised by the clip, is one that is still of concern in contemporary Australia. Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for 2005 show that women’s pay still lags behind men’s. Women employed full-time earn, on average, $160 less per week than men, with a woman’s average weekly salary at $904 and a man’s at $1,064. When part-time workers are taken into account, women’s average weekly earnings are $322.50 per week less than men’s. In 2005, 45 per cent of women worked part-time in Australia compared to 14 per cent of men.
  • The so-called marriage bar in the Australian Public Service was abolished in 1966. Between 1967 and 1970 the number of women employed in the service increased from 3,606 to 10,940. When the Public Service Act 1901 barred married women from permanent employment in the Service it effectively blocked women’s opportunities for promotion and restricted their accumulation of superannuation. The Act allowed for equal pay but this was gradually eroded between 1916 and 1920, and during the 1950s married women were the first to be targeted for retrenchment. In 1958 the Boyer Committee recommended removing the bar. Cabinet did not approve its removal until 1966.
  • The 1960s was a period of great economic and social change for Australia, as can be seen in the footage. The economy was boosted by the influx of more than 2 million migrants and the development of new technologies that enabled the mining and manufacturing industries to grow and compete on world markets. The value of mineral production rose spectacularly and the ensuing economic boom propelled more women into the workforce. The availability of the oral contraceptive, new equal pay legislation and a higher percentage of young women entering tertiary education provided them with more life choices.
  • The clip is from the award-winning documentary For Love or Money (1983) by Megan McMurchy, Margot Oliver, Margot Nash and Jeni Thornley.
  • For Love or Money draws from a wide variety of archival sources, including home movies, newsreels, documentaries, diaries, popular songs and interviews. These are unified by a voice-over narration by actor Noni Hazelhurst. It also draws from more than 200 films made in Australia between 1906 and 1983 and has original music by Elizabeth Drake. The film won many awards including the United Nations Media Peace Prize of 1985.
  • For Love or Money, produced in 1983, is an Australian archival compilation documentary. Other examples of this style of documentary from around the same time are The Song of the Shirt (UK, 1979), about women working in the clothing industry in 19th-century Britain and The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter (USA, 1980), about women replacing men in US factories in the Second World War.

This clip starts approximately 1 hour 16 minutes into the documentary.

A sequence footage of women working in factories, and then as secretaries in offices is accompanied by narration and a fictionalised male announcer from the period.

Narrator There’s a boom on, and for the first time since World War II, married women are wanted.
Male Announcer The truth is, we can only achieve the potential growth in our economy by introducing more and more women into the workforce.
Narrator And married women want to work. An escape from isolation at home. Some independence. A second income for their children’s education. Attitudes change as the economy calls the tune. The public service lifts its ban on married women. Now working mothers can be good mothers.
Male Announcer There are 5.5 million females in Australia, and nearly 1.5 million of these go to work. The average female earnings are $37 a week; the average male earnings, $64. Women either work in the lowest-paid jobs, in which men don’t, or else they work in the same occupations as men but at a lower rate of pay.
Narrator In offices and banks, the first computers appear. They begin taking over routine clerical tasks. But, like the typewriter half a century before, office automation creates a new ghetto of women’s work.

The song I’m a Very Efficient Secretary introduces a section that shows the growth of the role of the personal secretary.
(song) Mr Jones, I’m here to do anything you want me to.
Mr Jones, I’m your right hand.
From nine to five, your wish is my command.
‘Cause I’m a very efficient secretary.

Male Announcer A capable girl, good at shorthand and typing, may succeed at secretarial work. A competent secretary is of great value to a busy executive.

(song) And when you dictate to me,
I’m as happy as a bee in a honey tree.
Please be advised I’m yours faithfully.
Would you like a nice cup of tea?
‘Cause I’m a very efficient secretary.
I’m a very efficient secretary.

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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:

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  • 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.

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

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