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Beautiful Melbourne (1947)


This footage, put together by the Brotherhood of St Laurence in 1947, illustrates the conditions of inner-city housing in Melbourne, Victoria.

It shows inner suburban housing in poor condition. This is compared with a family living in a Housing Commission Estate. The children living on the estate are cleaner, happier, and their surroundings are in stark contrast to those still living in slums.

Curator’s notes

While the footage is very grainy and in quite bad condition, the social conditions depicted in Beautiful Melbourne, and the detailed observations of family life, retain their importance and powerfully capture the conditions of the time.

The impact of the depression between the World Wars had a significant effect on inner-city housing Australia wide. By the late 1930s, the problems of slum housing were widespread, and there was pressure on governments to find solutions. In 1937, the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board in Victoria delivered a report entitled: 'Slum Reclamation: Housing for the Lower Paid Worker – First Progress Report’ which resulted in the establishment of the Housing Commission of Victoria in 1939. However, housing production during the Second World War came to a standstill. In the mid 1940s the Commonwealth Housing Commission was established to address a growing crisis, but at the time this footage was shot, the crisis was far from alleviated.

The footage was originally accompanied by live commentary by one of the Brotherhood of St Laurence priests. The Brotherhood of St Laurence is a social justice organisation that was established during the Great Depression with a strong interest in the provision of housing to lower income families and individuals. This film aimed to bring awareness to the public of the state of people living in slum housing in Melbourne.