an NFSA website

Safety First (c.1936)


This short drama was made in the mid-to-late 1930s and sponsored by the Road Safety Council of NSW. It aims to raise children’s awareness of road safety rules and demonstrates the correct procedures to follow when using the roads. The story concerns a group of young children who, led by the police sergeant’s daughter (Gloria Dawn), set up a Safety Squad Club. They put on trial children who break the road safety rules.

Curator’s notes

This early example of a road safety film blazed a trail for similar films over the next 70 years. The NSW Centre for Road Safety (a descendant of the Road Safety Council of NSW) is still concerned with teaching children how to cross the road and ride bicycles and scooters safely on public streets. Their website even includes songs and rhymes, similar to those in Safety First, to reinforce road safety.

Adult road safety campaigns tend to focus on different issues (such as speeding or drink driving), but it is interesting to compare Safety First with The Eyes Have It (1958) made by the Australian Road Safety Council 20 years later. Cricketer Keith Miller uses sporting analogies to encourage adult pedestrians to watch for traffic.

Safety First would likely have been shown in schools and made available for screening by community groups like Lions and Rotary Clubs. Chas E Blanks made sponsored films and advertisements during the 1930s and ’40s and you can see the producer’s family in his first advertisement, for Sydney ferries (Chas E Blanks: Families at Seaside, Sydney Harbour, c1930).