Warning: This resource may contain references to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may have passed away.

Australia in the 1930s


In September 1931, the first full-length Australian-made 'talkie' films were released. In the next year, the film The Sentimental Bloke was released in Melbourne by a local production company.

In August 1932, the comedy film On Our Selection, based on Steele Rudd's book with the same title, was screened. This was the first film produced by the new Australian studio Cinesound. The opening sequence featured a 'bushland symphony' of bird songs and was the first time the sounds of the Australian bush were heard in a cinema.

In March 1932, the Tasmanian-born actor Errol Flynn (1909–59) starred in the film In the Wake of the Bounty, about a mutiny against Captain Bligh. Flynn moved to Hollywood to appear in many lead roles for the Warner Bros. Film Studio.

In 1936, it was estimated that 3.5 million people attended approximately 1,330 picture theatres in Australia every week.

In December 1938, federal parliament passed an act that insisted a greater proportion of Australian films should be screened in Australian cinemas. It was hoped that this effort would increase production in the fledgling Australian film industry. However, by the end of 1939, Cinesound was still the only Australian studio in production.

Errol Flynn, c. 1940s

A snapshot of 1938

  • January
    • The first national conference of Indigenous Australians was held at the Australian Hall, Sydney, to mark a 'Day of Mourning' and protest during the 150th Australia Day anniversary of colonial settlement. The conference was initiated by William Cooper, founder of the Australian Aborigines League (AAL), and The Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), led by William Ferguson, and Jack Patten. Participants called for Aboriginal land and citizenship rights.

  • March
    • Xavier Herbert won the Commonwealth sesquicentennial (150 years) literary prize for his novel Capricornia.
    • Daisy Bates (1863-1951), a social worker in Aboriginal communities and an anthropologist, published her book The Passing of the Aborigines.
    • Many of Bates's views and stories were sensationalist and incorrect, and many Aboriginal people indicated ambivalence about her and her work.

  • July
    • All exports of iron ore from Australia to Japan were suspended as Japan was seen as militaristic.

  • December
    • The federal government announced that refugees from (Nazi) Germany were to be relocated in Australia.
    • A direct radio–telephone link was set up between Canberra and Washington as a sign of closer US–Australian government cooperation.
    • Albert Namatjira, an Indigenous artist, held his first exhibition of paintings in Melbourne. All 41 pieces sold within three days of the opening.


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