Constructing Australia


Please Select Your Pricing Category

2007. 3 x 55 Minutes

Politics, tragedy and conquest combine in stories behind the building of Australia. The Bridge, Pipe Dreams and A Wire Through the Heart combine rare archival images with dramatic storytelling in showcasing three landmark events that would allow Australia to mark its place in the world. The Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Kalgoorlie Pipeline and the Overland Telegraph line were engineering triumphs, but the human drama in constructing Australia is even more fascinating.

The Bridge Celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, this is the definitive story of how a giant steel arch resembling a coat hanger became one of world's most recognised structures and an engineering triumph.

Massive, majestic and breathtaking, the bridge was the greatest engineering challenge of its day anywhere on earth. Nothing like it had ever been attempted in Australia. It not only altered the life of a city forever, it became a symbol of a bold young nation and a changing world. And it was certainly visionary. At a time when there were only 30,000 cars and trucks in the entire city, the Bridge could carry 6000 vehicles and 160 trains every hour and all of Sydney's people could  have easily crossed it in a single afternoon. With its graceful arch rising high above the famous harbour, it remained the tallest structure in the city until the late 1960s.

The tale of its construction combines immense practical problems and intense human drama; personal conflicts and political intrigues. Completed during the dark days of the Great Depression and opened in March 1932, it is the legacy of a fateful partnership between two very different men—a brilliant engineer, JJC Bradfield and a maverick  politician, Jack Lang—who shared a relentless ambition to create "the people's bridge". Along the way, they managed to stir up more than  one hornets' nest, both at home and in Britain.

Today, it is impossible to imagine Sydney, and Australia, without it, but as the film reveals, the bridge the world has come to love may not only have been utterly different, but may never have been built at all.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here

Pipe Dreams This is a story of personal tragedy, political rivalries, corruption and trial by media that nearly tore apart Australia at the moment of its birth.

In the late 1800s, two men shared a vision for opening up Western Australia by pumping a river of water through pipes across the desert. Isolated goldfields were ripe with precious metal, but the people were dying of thirst. The state's first Premier and leading explorer, John Forrest, had a vision to take water to the goldfields. In Charles Yelverton O'Connor, he found the man he needed to turn his dreams into reality. At the time, the biggest and most ambitious engineering project of its kind in the world would save thousands from disease and drought, unlock untold riches in gold, and allow the ‘Cinderella’ state of Western Australia to take her rightful place in Australia's Commonwealth.

But the five long years of the pipeline’s construction would be dogged with controversy, destroy reputations and push an individual to breaking point. As Australia voted for Federation, becoming the new Australian Commonwealth, the dream of water in the goldfields finally became a reality, but it was at a huge personal cost.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here

A Wire Through the Heart The story of the struggle to cross a vast continent and build the telegraph line that would bring Australia to the world and the world to Australia.

Australia in the mid 1800s was a land isolated by distance and divided between two very different cultures. John McDouall Stuart, a migrant from Scotland, was determined to cross the centre of Australia and reach the north coast. His success would pave the way for a communications revolution. Charles Todd had dreamed of constructing a telegraph line through the heart of the continent and in Stuart he found the man who could prove the inhospitable centre could be crossed.

The telegraph’s construction heralded the start of a new communications era every bit as revolutionary as the internet. News from overseas arrived in hours rather than months, securing Adelaide's position as the centre for early colonial communications. It made Todd a hero, but Stuart, the man who made it possible, was destroyed by the hardships he had endured and died in obscurity.

FREE Teachers' Notes - Download here

© 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.











Directors: Simon Nasht, Franco di Chiera, Darcy Yuille

Narrator: Wendy Hughes

Principle Cast: The Bridge: Bill Young, Danny Adcock, Chris Burke, Peter Sumner, Shane Porteous, Shane briant, Juliet Jordon, Ian Swallow; Pipe Dreams: Murray Dowsett, Luke Hewitt, Noel O'Neill, Ryan Quin, Mike Anthony Sheehy, Richard Mellick, Neil Hansen, Barry Strickland, George Shevstov, Peter Docker, James Hagan, Janet Pettigrew, Hannah Sutton, Martin Harvey, Heath Bergesen, Adrian Ugle, Greg Ugle, Peter Ugle, Sam Watson, Sascha Watson.

Year: 2007

Running Time: 3 X 55 minutes

Classification: PG. Consumer advice: Mild themes

Curriculum Links: English, Australian History, Media Studies, SOSE/HSIE


Calling Sydney Harbour

Fifth Façade, The



SKU 200720100
Brand Film Australia

More From This Category