The Shadow

[Episode 8 | 1938 : Colum]

The Shadow is a famous a comic character, popular at this time with children. The character and his adventures were made into a radio play, which was broadcast as a serial each week. Colum and Thommo are calculating how much they need to win on the Melbourne Cup to guarantee that Thommo's family will not be evicted from their home.


The Australian curriculum: History

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The Australian Curriculum: History aims to ensure that students develop: 

  • interest in, and enjoyment of, historical study for lifelong learning and work, including their capacity and willingness to be informed and active citizens 
  • knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the past and the forces that shape societies, including Australian society 
  • understanding and use of historical concepts, such as evidence, continuity and change, cause and effect, perspectives, empathy, significance and contestability 
  • capacity to undertake historical inquiry, including skills in the analysis and use of sources, and in explanation and communication.

History activities [1]

Activity 1: Radio
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Subtheme(s): Chores, business and employment; Entertainment and games; Inventions and electronic media

The 1930s were the golden age of radio. Radio had been a nationwide phenomenon during the 1920s, when it broadcast music such as jazz, but its most important role was presenting current affairs. During the 1930s, radio was a source of entertainment, communications and relief from everyday troubles and hardship. However, owning a radio attracted a licence fee and few people could afford this luxury during the Great Depression.

  • As a class, discuss the historical significance of news broadcasting via radio. Students could investigate what significant broadcasts were made in the 1930s. They could also look at how broadcasts were produced and by whom. The following websites will help prompt discussion:
  1. Modernity, Intimacy and Early Australian Commercial Radio, 'Talking and Listening in the Age of Modernity: Essays on the history of sound', Bridget Griffen-Foley,
  2. Australian Broadcasting Commission,
  3. History of the ABC: 1930s,

  • Radio plays were popular entertainment in Australia in the 1930s. The Shadow was a serial based on a comic book by the same name, and it is a great example of a radio play that appealed to a younger generation of listeners.
  • Ask students to participate in a question and answer activity about The Shadow radio play.
  1. How does the story come to life on radio? What elements have the radio producers used to recreate the stories and hold the listeners interest?
  2. Other than dialogue, what sounds did you notice in the clip The Shadow?
  3. How do you think these sounds have been created?
  4. Why do you think radio plays were so popular with people before television came to Australia in 1956? Are radio plays still being broadcast today and if so, where?
  5. What other types of radio programs were available to listeners in 1938, other than radio play serials?
  6. As a follow-up activity, ask a senior family member about the radio programs they remember? Which did they like and when did they listen to them?


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