Australian Screen

Australia’s audiovisual heritage online

Farey: Opening of Sydney Harbour Bridge (1932)

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clip Backyard play education content clip 1, 2, 6, 7

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

Clip description

This simple home movie clip taken by Leslie Francis Farey from 1932 shows us children candidly playing in a suburban backyard in Melbourne. Three children play with a pram, doll and tin drum. The youngest child is holding what looks like a box brownie camera and he then tries to climb the front gate.

Curator’s notes

This home movie clip shows a glimpse into suburban life in the 1930s. Although during the Great Depression, the family represented in this clip is fairly affluent, but it does show an aspect of the roles men and women had in family life.

This home movie clip was filmed with a hand-held 16mm camera and natural lighting. There is no commentary nor any intertitles used which leaves any interpretation of the footage based solely on what is visible on screen.

Teacher’s notes

provided by The Le@rning FederationEducation Services Australia

This clip shows three young children playing with a pram, doll and tin drum in a suburban backyard in Melbourne in 1932, with the youngest child holding what may be a box brownie camera. The clip then cuts to a woman and toddler walking up the pathway in the front garden. The Federation-style houses across the street can be seen clearly in the rear of the shot. The toddler is then filmed trying to climb over the front gate. The black-and-white silent footage was shot by Leslie Francis Farey as part of a home movie and may show members of his family.

Educational value points

  • The clip provides examples of the toys children played with in the 1930s. Toys such as those shown reflected the more traditional and defined gender roles of the period, with dolls, prams and mini-kitchen appliances for girls, and tin soldiers, trucks and trains for boys, similar to but more pronounced than is the case today. While economic hardship caused by the Great Depression meant that families had little or no money to spare for toys, most children had homemade toys that were often quite inventive and well crafted. The boy in this clip may be holding a box brownie, probably the first mass-produced and inexpensive camera, a small box camera made from jute board and wood.
  • Like the houses shown in the background, middle-class suburban homes built in the 1930s were generally smaller than in earlier years, as such families were increasingly unable to afford domestic help. The houses usually consisted of two or three bedrooms, often with a sleep-out (enclosed patio or veranda) at the back, a kitchen and formal living room. Most houses had a kitchen garden in the rear yard that provided a fresh supply of vegetables.
  • A Federation-style house is shown. Federation is the name given to a style of house designed and built in Australia between the 1890s and the 1920s, from around the time the individual colonies joined together as a Federation in 1901. It was the first house type designed to incorporate the outdoor lifestyles adopted by Australians and the houses usually included groups of windows, and wide verandas that were integrated under the main pitch of the roof. Notable for their distinctive decorative features, the houses were usually made of brick and had strapped gables, tall chimneys and leadlight windows.
  • Suburban gardens in Australia were generally based on an English model. The front garden shown is planted with roses, and the front fence is bordered by a hedge. Introduced English plant species and picturesque cottage gardens were still favoured in this period and it was not until the 1970s that indigenous species became popular as garden plants.
  • By the 1930s Australians were increasingly moving from the inner city, which was associated with slum housing and pollution, to the suburbs, which were seen to offer a quieter neighbourhood with fresh air, a pleasant view and a garden, and regarded as an ideal place to raise a young family. The popularity of the suburbs became such that in 1972 social critic Donald Horne dubbed Australia 'the first suburban nation’.
  • In the 1930s, men were usually the sole wage earners and most married women remained at home to fulfil domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning and childrearing. The family shown here appears to be fairly affluent. However, in this period the Great Depression had a disruptive effect on many families, as many men lost their jobs due to the slowdown of the economy.
  • The woman shown in the clip wears a style of dress that was common at the time. It extends to just below the knee and has a low waistline, straight bodice and collar. In the 1930s, fur stoles and wraps were popular. Both men and women wore hats in public, and women also wore gloves.
  • The types of clothing worn by children in the 1930s are shown. At that time most mothers made their children’s clothing. A playsuit with tie, like the one shown, was popular for very young boys, who also wore shorts. Young girls wore either cotton or woollen smocks while older girls often dressed in skirts with a blouse and jumper.
  • Lesley Farey shot this home movie footage using 16 mm film. Amateur filmmaking such as this took off after the 16 mm camera was introduced in 1923 as an inexpensive alternative to the conventional 35 mm film format. In that period the camera was still priced beyond the reach of most people and therefore the home movie footage we are able to see dating from the time generally comes from fairly privileged sources. These sources, however, offer a record of the lifestyles, cultures and traditions of Australians, and significant events in the nation’s history.

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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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