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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: 9-10
Strand: Place and space
Theme: Environment & Work

Key Concepts

Environment; Habitat; Development; Ecological sustainability

Curriculum Applicability Notes

ACT:Place and space – Environmental impacts
NSW:History Stage 5, Topic 3B, Topic 7A
Geography Stage 5, 5A4
NT:Environment 5.2, 5+.2
Qld:9/10 Civics – Place and space 5.2, 6.1
9/10 Geography
– Time, continuity and change D6.4
– Place and space 6.2, 6.3
– Systems, resources and power 5.4
9/10 History – Systems, resources and power 5.1
SA:Time, continuity and change 5.3
Place, space and environment 5.5
Social systems 5.10
Tas:World Futures – Creating sustainable futures. Standard 5
Vic:History 6.2
Geography 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5 ext
Economy and society 6.5 ext
WA:Place and space

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 video clip about?
  3. What is your attitude to the loggers?
  4. How do the timber fellers do their job?
  5. Is it safe work?
  6. Do you think the video clip wants you to admire them, or dislike them? Explain your reasons.

Suggested Classroom Activities

  1. Consider these ‘what if’’ situations: What would happen to that community and environment if:
    • There was a cheaper and more efficient way of felling trees developed?
    • There was an increase in the demand for timber?
    • There was an increase in wood substitutes?
    • There was a change in attitude to the environment?
  2. Each of these changes has happened. Research the actual outcomes for timber communities and the environment of these changes, looking for the positive and negative impacts in a range of areas – social, economic, community, environmental.
  3. The video clip does not tell or show us what happens to the felled logs. Have students develop a short narrative that would complete the story. This can be done from different viewpoints: the narrator in the clip; a person opposed to logging of old growth forest today; a supporter of the timber industry today.
  4. Students could draw a flow chart of the process of creating timber and timber products, from logging to end use. Students could research further to test the accuracy of their hypothesis above.

Modules That Use This Clip

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