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Video Clip Synopsis:
The axemen established camps throughout the eucalypt forests in the early 20th century. Their job was a combination of skill and stamina, harvesting giant trees for the rapidly growing hardwood industry.

2min 46sec

Axemen Fell Giant Trees is an excerpt from the film The Timber Getters (11 mins), produced in 1949.

The Timber Getters: In post-war Australia, the milling of our nation’s prized hardwood timbers was a rapidly growing industry. Mechanisation introduced economies in the handling, but the skill and stamina of the axe-men were still indispensable in timber getting. This short film looks at the work of the men living in bush sawmill camps.

The Timber Getters is a National Film Board Production. Produced by the Department of the Interior.

Study Module

Curriculum Focus: SOSE/HSIE
Year: 11-12
Strand: Place and space
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Environment; Habitat; Development; Ecological sustainability

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Senior Geography
NSW:Geography Stage 6 — Ecosystems; People and economic activity
NT:Geography stage 1 — Natural environments; People, resources and development; Issues for geographers
Qld:Senior Geography — Managing the natural environment; Resources and environment
SA:Geography stage 1 — Natural environments; People, resources and development; Issues for geographers
Tas:11/12 Geography
Vic:Geography Unit 3 — Resources
WA:Year 12 Geography — Landscape and land uses in Australia

Context / Background Information

In the late1940's, Australia was at the start of an economic boom, a large part of which included a demand for new houses for the soldier generation who had delayed family life for the six years of war from 1939 to 1945. Timber was a key material needed for housing construction.

The film also shows an industry on the cusp of great technological change. The centuries old manual methods used to fell trees were about to be replaced by increased mechanisation – for example, the crosscut saw was about to be replaced by power saws. We see a hint of this is the use of the small tractor to drag away the fallen log. One of the great implications of this change in technology would be the vastly decreased time, effort and manpower needed to fell trees, and a consequent increase in clearance rates and extent. An industrial revolution was about to occur in the industry.

At the same time modern concepts of 'environment' had not been developed. The attitude of most people was that forests were a natural resource for human use, not a source of habitat for ecological sustainability.

Discussion Pointers

  1. What is this video clip about? What is it saying?
  2. What is the context of the video clip?
  3. Where would it have been shown? To whom?
  4. Why would this video clip have been made? Who might make a similar video today? Why? Who might make a different type of video about the same subject? Why?

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. The message received by a person watching this video clip in the 1940s would probably be different to one received today. Suggest why two different communities, separated by time, could look at the same set of images yet react differently to them.
  2. What is the image of the bush that is presented in the video clip? Consider what images are used, and how they are organised. What does the film suggest the bush exist for, what is its purpose – as a human resource or a natural habitat? Is this still our image of the bush today?
  3. What is the image of the timber getters – consider how they are shown, the society that is presented, the qualities that are stressed and emphasised.
  4. What impact or consequences of the activity are shown? Does this seem to be a sustainable industry? Do we consider it to be a sustainable industry today?
  5. Draw a flow chart of the process of creating timber and timber products, from logging to end use. Research further to test the accuracy of your flow chart.
  6. The video clip does not tell or show us what happens to the felled logs. Develop a storyboard and script to complete the video clip. The storyboard and script should cover economic, environmental and social or community aspects. Divide the task among a group, and have several scripts from different viewpoints: the narrator in the film; a person opposed to logging of old growth forest today; a supporter of the timber industry today. Compare your scripts, and discuss the similarities and differences.
  7. Work in small groups to prepare a talk, the purpose of which is to draw on the film to persuade a modern audience to support their point of view about logging. Some groups prepare a talk to be given by a timber representative to a timber community; other groups prepare a talk to be given to a Greenpeace anti-logging rally. Both talks include comments on the film, which is to be shown during their talk.

Modules That Use This Clip

SOSE/HSIE Year 11-12, SOSE/HSIE Year 7-8, SOSE/HSIE Year 9-10