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Video Clip Synopsis:
For 6 years the two half arches gradually draw closer together. A dream is realised when the heaviest and biggest bridge arch in the world is finally completed.

2min 3sec

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge Finally Completed is an excerpt from the film Sydney’s Harbour Bridge (8 mins), produced in 1933.

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge: Officially opened on 19 March 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was a massive engineering undertaking that transformed the city. This short film documents the construction of one of the world’s great landmarks in its various stages, and provides a fascinaing glimpse of life around Sydney Harbour and Circular Quay in the twenties and thirties.

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge was filmed over several years and edited to celebrate the opening.

Sydney’s Harbour Bridge was produced by the Department of Commerce.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 9-10
Strand: Time, change and continuity
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Icon; Empathy; Change; Symbols and symbolism

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Time, continuity and change
Place and space
NSW:History 7-10, Topic 3
NT:Social systems and structures
Qld:Civics, TCC5.1, 5.3
History, TCC5.4
Geography, TCC5.1, 5.3
SA:Time, continuity and change, 5.2
Place, space and environment, 5.4
Tas:Communicating—Being literate, Standard 5
Social responsibility—Understanding the past and creating preferred futures, Standard 5
Vic:History 6.2
Geography 5.2, 5.3

Context / Background Information

The city of Sydney grew on two opposite sides of a harbour.

By 1923 the two sides could be reached by a short ferry ride, or by a 20 kilometre road trip over the nearest bridge. A new bridge to connect the two was needed.

In that year a contract was signed to build a steel arch bridge. This was the strongest design for the money at the time. Construction continued for the next seven years, with workers and materials coming from all over the world. The cantilevers met over the middle of the harbour in 1930.

When construction started on the bridge, business was booming in Australia. But by 1929, an economic depression had set in. The bridge helped many during this period, as an average of 1,400 people were employed each year to work on its construction, with many more getting jobs supplying materials like sand and rivets. As the working week was gradually reduced from 48 to 33 hours during the building of the bridge, more people were given jobs working on the bridge.

The bridge was finally opened in 1932. The opening was disrupted when a member of the New Guard, Francis De Groot, slashed the ribbon with his sword before the Premier Jack Lang could do it. The bridge has become one of the most internationally recognisable symbols of Australia.

Discussion Pointers

  1. The Sydney Harbour Bridge is often described as an ‘icon’. What does this mean?
  2. Look at the video clip with the sound turned off. Describe what is being shown. List some of the aspects of the bridge that the narrative might be covering.
  3. Now watch the video clip again with the sound on. Does this give you a different impression of the visual images?
  4. There are no pylons supporting the bridge in the harbour. What is the purpose of the arches? Why does the bridge stay up?
  5. The bridge carries road, pedestrian and train traffic. But we do not see the road being built. See if you can work out how the road is suspended on the bridge.
  6. Sixteen workers fell to their death building the bridge. Look at the working conditions on the bridge shown in the video clip. Describe them. Why do you think there were not better safety conditions? Explain your views.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Imagine that you have been asked to create a new narrative for this video clip. List the aspects of the bridge that you would like to see covered — for example why it was built, who built it and how, what it felt like, when it was built, etc. Create a short narrative.
  2. Imagine that you were a worker on the bridge during its construction. Describe your feelings and experiences about this, basing it on images and scenes in the video clip.
  3. The bridge tells us a lot about change over time. Draw up a table with 4 columns, headed positive change, negative change, positive continuity and negative continuity. Now think about possible social, economic, environmental and community changes and continuities associated with the bridge. Put these in the appropriate columns. For example, you may have ‘increased motor traffic’ in the negative change column, but reduction in the time to cross from one side to the other in the positive change column. See how many you can come up with.

Modules That Use This Clip

English Year 7-8, The Arts Year 9-10, SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10