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About the Video Clip:

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: 7-8
Strand: Place and space
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Environment; Habitat; Development; Ecological sustainability

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Place and space – Environmental impacts
NSW:Geography Stage 4, 4G2, 4G4
NT:Environment 4.2
Qld:Place and Space Level 5
SA:Place, space and environment 4.4, 4.5
Tas:World Futures – Creating sustainable futures. Standard 4
Vic:Geography 5.2, 5.3, 5.4
WA:Place and space
Time, continuity and change
Natural and social systems

Context / Background Information

During the late 1940'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 video clip 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 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. Brainstorm your ideas about the logging of old growth hardwood forests. Complete this sentence: ‘The purpose of a forest is: . . . ‘
  2. What is this film about?
  3. What is your attitude to the loggers?
  4. How do the timber fellers do their job?
  5. Is it safe?
  6. Do you think the video clip wants you to admire them, or dislike them? Explain your reasons.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Divide into two groups. Have one group watch the video clip without sound, and say what they think the message is. They should explain how the images have created that impression. The other group should listen to the narrative without any images, and say what they think the message is. They explain how the narrative has created that impression. Compare your two impressions.
  2. Complete the sentence ‘The purpose of a forest is . . . ‘as the maker of the video clip would have answered it. Compare it to your own earlier ideas, and discuss the similarities and differences.
  3. Create two storyboards for a final scene that shows what happens to the logs, one of which is from the perspective of the timber industry, the other from the perspective of Greenpeace. Do a websearch of both bodies to gather information that will accurately reflect their points of view on the issue.

Modules That Use This Clip

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