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Australia: Life on the Edge (ATOM study guide)

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    The vast majority of Australians live in a large coastal city. In fact, in every state except Queensland, there are more people living in the capital city than in the whole of the rest of the state, and even in Queensland most of the population outside Brisbane lives in large port cities. We are not a sunburnt people with corks dangling from our battered rabbit-felt Akubra hats – we are a coastal urban people clinging to the edge of a vast, mysterious and mostly unknown and uninhabitable island. Even the archetypal Australian Paul Hogan – who played the ultimate bush type Crocodile Dundee – started his working life as a maintenance rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge, not on a farm or a sheep station. We are swimmers, not bushies, and we live by the sea, not in the centre.

    The documentary series Life on the Edge explores this idea in great detail, examining the history and actuality of the Australian relationship with the sea. Of course, the first episode has to be about Sydney Harbour, the origin of the modern nation. The precise location of the first white settlement is discovered and it is very much changed – from wooded bush stream to central business district in 225 years. Some of the major events of Sydney Harbour in those years are considered, using tools as varied as historical re-enactment and a submersible research vessel. The presenters walk, crawl, dive, hammer, climb, research and interview in their relentless (and entertaining) pursuit of the iconic events, life and structures of the Harbour, past and present.

    While the first and strongest emphasis is on Australian history, the first program also takes time to examine the wildlife of the Harbour and the improving quality of the local biology. The significance of the local geology – the complex coastline and the Sydney sandstone – is also examined in detail as a major influence on the style and character of the modern city.

    Curriculum Links

    Australia: Life on the Edge has relevance to studies of Australian History, Humanities, Science and English.

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