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The Australian Steel Works (c.1920)


This promotional documentary presented by the Made in Australia Council looks at the workings of an Australian steel works factory in Newcastle.

Curator’s notes

One of a series of films made by the Melbourne-based Made in Australia Council, The Australian Steel Works takes the viewer on a tour around the Newcastle factory. It begins with a touring party disembarking from the jetty at Port Waratah and proceeding to walk through different areas of the steel works. Various parts of the steel works are shown, including the making of steel rails for use in the building of the Trans-Continental Railway.

Like other Made in Australia Council films that detail the inner workings of Australian factories, The Australian Steel Works is important because it is an early example the Council’s work in promoting the development of a strong industrial sector. This was hoped to make Australia ‘self contained’ and aid in the ‘defence of the Commonwealth’ (The Age newspaper, 18 August 1927).

The Made in Australia Council was formed in the early 1920s as part of a campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of local production and to promote Australian-made goods. Emerging out of a growing movement in support of local manufacture and production, the Made in Australia Council drew support from the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, Australian Industries Protection League, Australian Natives’ Association (now Australian Unity), the Education Department and Railway Commissioners (Australian Natives’ Association Annual Conference Report 1924). It promoted support for Australian-made goods through the distribution of posters, leaflets, pamphlets and the production of ‘moving pictures’. The Council’s slogan was ‘wherever you trade, buy Australian Made’.

The Australian Steel Works is part of the Harry Davidson Collection held at the National Film and Sound Archive. Harry Davidson was a private collector who built an extensive collection of early Australian films including documentaries and newsreels. Davidson collected other examples of the Made in Australia Council’s films produced in the 1920s. Together these films provide an insight to both the Made in Australia movement and local industries that were producing Australian-made goods.