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Video Clip Synopsis:
Three lighthouse keepers and their families are the only residents on remote and windswept Maatsuyke Island, off the south-west coast of Tasmania.

2min 16sec

Lighthouse Keepers and Their Families is an excerpt from the film The Lighthouse Keeper (11 mins), produced in 1949.

The Lighthouse Keeper: There are few lonelier jobs than that of a lighthouse keeper. Around Australia’s long coastline are the lighthouses that provide navigational aids to ships at sea. Many of these are sited in lonely spots, but the people who tend them never fail to keep the lights ablaze. This program looks at the lifestyle of a family living in the lighthouse on Maatsuyker Island, off the southwest coast of Tasmania.

The Lighthouse Keeper is a National Film Board Production. Produced by the Department of Information.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: English
Year: 7-8
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Gender Roles; Isolation; Changing Technology

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Everyday texts – Language: Contextual understanding
NSW:(2003 Syllabus) Stage 4 Outcome 4, Outcome 10
NT:R/V 4.1 – 4.3
Qld:Cu 5.2
SA:Texts and contexts 4.3
Tas:Communicating – Being literate, Standard 4
Vic:Reading – Texts 5.7
WA:Understanding Language
Attitudes, values and beliefs

Context / Background Information

Lighthouses are essential for the safety of ships. Each has its own special sequence of flashing, and this tells navigators where they are located. They are always placed on land, and warn of the presence of rocks and land that need to be avoided in an area. This lighthouse is situated on Maatsuyker Island below Tasmania. For many years three lighthouse keepers and their families lived on this island. It is an isolated location where food and supplies were brought in every few months by boat. It is a challenging environment where the weather is changeable, often with very cold winds. Despite these challenges, these lighthouse keepers never failed to keep the lights ablaze. It might be a lonely occupation but for certain people, they enjoy the lifestyle in a remote place like Maatsuyker Island. There is also something beautiful about lighthouses. Today, however with changes in technology which automate lighthouses, lighthouse keepers have become part of a bygone era.

Discussion Pointers

Describe the setting of the lighthouse. Is it an attractive place?

Describe the jobs that need to be done to keep the light working and visible.

The video clip tells us that three families live there. Why might those families choose to live there?

What might be the advantages and benefits of living in this way? What might be the disadvantages or costs?

The families on the lighthouse form a small community. List some words that describe the special qualities needed for people to live in such a small community.

The video clip shows people in gendered roles. Explain what that means, and what those roles are. Why do you think people had such separate roles at that time?

The lighthouse families are involved in a special job that benefits the community while making great demands of all the people involved. Brainstorm as a class and make a list of other special community or civic roles that exist in our society.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Write a diary of a day on the island for a child there. Describe your feelings and emotions for that day.
  2. Lighthouses are often settings for mysteries, or for drama — sometimes involving for example, dangerous storms or kidnappings. Imagine that you have been asked to provide a story outline for a film set in a lighthouse. Think of a plot outline and set it out in steps.
  3. Does this video clip show you all the aspects that you want to know about life in a lighthouse? Imagine that you have been asked to prepare some questions for a journalist to interview the lighthouse keepers and their families. Make a list of questions you would want them to answer.
  4. Nearly every lighthouse in Australia has become automated, and there are no longer any families living on them. Many of these lighthouses are considered heritage sites. Imagine that you have been asked to create a plaque that will help tourists to the island appreciate what they are seeing. List some of the points you would write on that plaque.

Modules That Use This Clip

SOSE/HSIE Year 7-8, English Year 7-8, English Year 7-8