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

Impact of war

[Episode 10 | 1918 : Bertie]

Evelyn, Bertie's sister, receives news of the death of Freddie Miller. Bertie laments the death of his father and Freddie; both killed in the war. He tells Sid, an Aboriginal soldier, about his plan to buy his brother Eddie a present on his return from the war and they devise a plan to raise the money to purchase the gift.


The Australian curriculum: English

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The Australian Curriculum: English aims to ensure that students:

  • learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose
  • appreciate, enjoy and use the English language in all its variations and develop a sense of its richness and power to evoke feelings, convey information, form ideas, facilitate interaction with others, entertain, persuade and argue
  • understand how Standard Australian English works in its spoken and written forms and in combination with non-linguistic forms of communication to create meaning
  • develop interest and skills in inquiring into the aesthetic aspects of texts, and develop an informed appreciation of literature.

English activities [2]

Activity 1: The telegram
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Subtheme(s): Language and scripting; Inventions and electronic media

Bertie and Sid rush back to Bertie's house when they hear the bell on the postman's bicycle bell as he delivers a war telegram to Bertie's sister Evelyn. She is devastated by the news of Freddie's death (her friend, neighbour and Miss Miller's nephew). It comes after the family had already received the traumatic news of the death of their father in the war.

  • After viewing the clip, ask students to describe what is happening in this scene, using evidence from the text to support their explanations. What clues have been given previously that will help the viewer to understand what is happening here? Focus on the opening scene with the telegram boy and discuss what this signals to the viewer. Have students think about how this makes them feel. Ask them to look carefully to find out what the filmmaker is drawing viewers' attention to in this scene, how this is achieved and the possible reasons why.
  • It may be necessary to give students some background about telegrams and their critical role in communication in times before it was common for people to have telephones in their homes. It is important to highlight the significance of a telegram received during wartime. Viewers must appreciate this if the scene is to have the intended impact. There may be some students whose grandparents have kept telegrams from the past, for example, wedding telegrams. Look at the format of a telegram. The message was conveyed in as few words as possible, with words such as articles omitted.
  • Discuss why telegrams were abbreviated, and find out the cost of sending a telegram. Discuss how telegrams are similar to SMS text messages. What other text formats have replaced the telegram?

  • Ask students to use the worksheet to analyse the impact of this clip. List the sounds heard in one column and the vision in the other, and note what they consider to be significant. The audio of the bicycle bell comes first, a piercing noise which precedes the image, immediately focusing attention on the bicycle and the boy. Other factors colouring the tone of this scene are the demeanour of the boy on the bicycle and the symbolism of the uniform, both designed to create particular meaning for the viewer.
  • Have students look closely at the way this opening scene is edited, with the montage of shots cutting back and forth between Bertie and Sid, and others. Ask students:
  1. What is the purpose of this? What is the filmmaker trying to make you feel?
  2. How does it make you feel?
  3. How does the filmmaker use this technique to help tell the story?


Activity 2: Prejudice
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Subtheme(s): Language and scripting
  • Consider how Sid, an Aboriginal soldier, is portrayed in this clip, and discuss the meaning of 'prejudice'. Ask students to suggest some ways in which people can treat others in a prejudiced manner. How does the filmmaker portray the prejudice that Sid encounters, for example, Sid's discomfort at entering the backyard, and Mr Watson's and his daughter's treatment of Sid?
  • Think about how Sid and Bertie relate to each other, and then how Mr Watson relates to them. Discuss the differences, and think about the reasons why the filmmaker has portrayed these relationships in this way.

  • Ask students to consider how Sid felt when Mr Watson made him stay outside his shop. What could be the reasons for the difference in Mr Watson's treatment of Sid and Bertie? Use the Student Activity Sheet E10.6 to respond to the questions. Teachers can give students some context about the conditions that Indigenous people returned to after fighting in the First World War. They did not receive the same government benefits as non-Indigenous soldiers and did not even have the right to vote at the time.


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