Document Type

Conference publication

Publication details

Milner, L 1998, ‘Commos and ratbags: left-wing images of urban Australia’, Images of the Urban: Conference Proceedings, Sunshine Coast, Qld., Sunshine Coast University College, Buderim, Qld., pp. 212-216.


The cultural construction of the past in Australia has a variety of sources. There are the authorised, official histories in print, in the form of books, newspapers, journals, biographies. There are memories of lived experiences, and the recalling of stories passed down to us. Some of the most potent sites of remembering our more recent history are, however, to be found in visual media. Films and video productions engender their own historical consciousness, and validate their own sites of memory.

In this paper I wish to open up a set of memories we have about life in Australia within a particular period, and move towards articulating one counter-memory. In remembering Australia in the 1950s, our visual sources come mostly from newsreels (through Cinesound or Movietone), or works from the government filmmaking body, the Australian National Film Board (ANFB). These accounts have shaped our collective memory of that time in certain ways; generally, they act as agents for a hegemonic outlook. Not only do these works give us information about specific events, they give us an indication of the cultural and political context in which they were produced. And the construction of political subjects in these works was generally from a conservative point of view.