1994, 55 Minutes
Part of Australian Experience, The series. Other episodes include: Populate or Perish and Land of the Long Weekend
For a golden century, the wool industry gave Australia one of the highest living standards in the world. Wool and the people who grew it were entwined with the national identity. Sheep adorned postage stamps and coins. Every child learnt about John Macarthur and the merino and knew that Australia rode the sheep’s back to prosperity.
The character of the bushman became the template for the Australian identity. The Country Party was a powerful force in Australian politics; city people admired their country cousins and the economy rode high on wealth from primary exports. By the 1950s, wool was synonymous with the Australian way of life.
Yet barely a decade later, Australia had jumped from the sheep’s back on to the iron ore train. Along the way, the nation itself changed, became less homogeneous and more complex. Suddenly people in the bush found themselves out of step with those in dramatically changing cities. Advertisers may still rely on farm imagery, but between city and country people there is an ever-widening gap. As the fortunes of the rural sector wane, city identification with rural Australia is fading too.
What does the future hold for farmers and their families? What does it hold for a nation that once rode the sheep's back to prosperity? And what will become of the rural symbols and legends upon which the Australian identity once depended?
A Film Australia National Interest Program. © 2011 National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.
Producer: Susan Ardill
Director: Peter Butt
Running Time: 55 Minutes
Curriculum Links: Economics, SOSE, Australian History.Major issues and concepts include national identity, economic change, advertising and land degradation.