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Disturber of the Peace (c.1945)


Disturber of the Peace is about how the noise we make may disturb other people when they are trying to sleep. The film examines the many ways sleep may be disturbed, whether it is by noisy neighbours, traffic or neglected animals. The film suggests that lack of sleep may have devastating effects on a person’s life, from ill health to loss of employment, divorce and even death. The film ends with Dr J Grahame Drew, Metropolitan Medical Officer of Health, advising people to be 'good citizens and real neighbours’ by valuing their own need for sleep and that of others.

Curator’s notes

This community service announcement was produced for the NSW Health Department between 1945 and 1950. After the Second World War, Sydney began to buzz with life again and protection against noise pollution became a concern.

Disturber of the Peace places great emphasis on the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy lifestyle and guarding against 'the fast tempo of our daily life’. The doctor at the end of the clip even links lack of sleep (indirectly) to death from heart disease! The dire predictions that lack of sleep may cause everything from divorce and unemployment to death is in keeping with the alarmist style of contemporary health advertisements about the dangers of tanning and smoking.

Disturber of the Peace labels 'sleep disturbers’ like the 'door slammer’, 'radio fiend’, 'roistering reveller’ and 'car revver’. The WWF Film Unit adopts a similar strategy in Four’s a Crowd (1957), with 'Tiddly Pete’ and 'Nick-away Ned’ representing types of waterfront worker. Think Twice (1958) and The Bones of Building (1956) are other short films about workplace safety, a subject touched on by Disturber of the Peace.

This government film is also of interest for its depiction of postwar 1940s Sydney streetscapes and the interior of houses.

The New South Wales Department of Health sponsored a number of films in the 1940s and ’50s that highlighted health and safety issues of the day, such as eye protection (Eyes Right, c1950), dengue fever (Poisoned Daggers, c1941), tuberculosis (The Constant Threat, 1946) and promoting the School Medical Service (The Happy Years, c1958). The department screened these films to community groups and schools across the state and in cinemas during Health Week.

In 2013, the NSW Department of Health is still concerned with noise as a health issue but the key responsibility for enforcing noise control now rests with the Office of Environment and Heritage, local government and NSW Police.