• Life's a beach in 1920s Australia. (SBS)Source: SBS
Narrated by Hugo Weaving, this ground-breaking documentary series injects new life into black and white footage by transforming it into glorious colour for the first time.
SBS Guide

13 Feb 2019 - 10:49 AM  UPDATED 8 Mar 2019 - 4:18 PM

Told through a unique collection of iconic archival footage brought to life in stunning colour for the very first time, Australia in Colour tells the story of how Australia came to be what it is today.

Narrated by Hugo Weaving, the series is a reflection on our nation’s character, its attitudes, its politics and its struggle to value its Indigenous and multicultural past. Australia in Colour gives us a chance to look at Australia’s history from a fresh perspective. 

This four-part series curates classic historical footage, as well as home movies and never-before-seen archival material to chart how Australia has developed as a nation. From the oldest surviving footage captured in Australia – in 1896 in Sydney’s Prince Alfred Park – to the beginning of colour television in the mid-1970s, each sequence has been lovingly restored and colourised with historical accuracy. The effect is remarkable, bringing to light history that is both shared and deeply personal.

The landscape of our collective memories is revealed throughout the series.  We see the foundation of modern Australia when six British colonies unite, the unveiling of Canberra as the nation’s capital and the Antarctic explorations of Douglas Mawson. We relive a time when Ned Kelly was the first hero of the silver screen, and see some of the quarter million men who fought in World War I – their experiences made all the more vivid in colour.

It takes a fresh and colourful look at some of the country’s most celebrated people and historical moments including Queen Elizabeth II’s first visit in 1954, cricketing legend Donald Bradman in all his glory, Beatlemania in full force as the Fab Four visit their Aussie fans and the iconic Dancing Man on George Street celebrating the end of WWII.

The series also explores the evolving role of women in the Australian workforce and their struggle for equal rights – the right to equal pay, the right to drink in public bars and even the right to not wear pantaloons when swimming.

It reflects back on uncomfortable moments in the treatment and characterisation of Indigenous people and other people of non-Anglo background, charting the gradual changes in these attitudes through the 1960s and 70s. 

Through the decades, Australia in Colour reveals how Australia finds its voice as a nation. From the White Australia Policy of 1901, to the “populate or perish” slogan of the 1940s; from the spirited protests of the 1960s to the very first hints of modern multiculturalism in the 1970s.

Produced for SBS by Stranger Than Fiction Films with funding from Screen Australia and Create NSW, Australia in Colour was made in association with the National Film and Sound Archive and has been meticulously researched, including the historical accuracy of the colours themselves. Every sequence has been curated and carefully considered and the result is a remarkable, fresh vision of history that reconnects us with our past in a way that no other medium can. 

Marshall Heald, SBS Director of TV and Online Content said:

“With Australia in Colour SBS presents a special TV moment for all Australians – we don’t experience life in black and white, and this series allows the viewer to relate to old footage in a whole new way. By turning the monochrome past into glorious colour, this series creates an intimate and deeper connection with our history and urges us all to re-evaluate what we think we know about ourselves.”

Experience Australia’s story brought vividly to life when the 4-part series Australia in Colour premieres at 8.30pm on Wednesday 6 March on SBS. Available anytime, anywhere on your favourite device after broadcast on SBS On Demand.