Ghastly results: the banning of Children of The Wasteland (1953) and the stellar rise and demise of its maker the boy bishop

Alec Morgan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 1953, the Australian film censor and the New South Wales Chief Secretary’s Office simultaneously banned a locally produced dramatised documentary Children of the Wasteland from exhibition and export. This article investigates the films interdiction and the events following that governmental action. It also explores the role of the films maker, the newly enthroned Anglican bishop of North Queensland Ian Shevill, in the propagation of a racial conversion theology that defined Indigenous peoples as inferior and exalted the cause of the ‘civilising process’. For the most part, his non-fiction films intended their audiences to perceive them as accurate representations of reality. This article argues that they instead presented a skilfully concocted filmic reality designed to garner credence for a social engineering project: to transform ‘pagan natives’ into compliant Christian citizens who would eventually be absorbed into a wider homogeneous community. It will elucidate the representation of Indigenous Australians in these films within a contesting socio-political context and the communication of racial ideology via the media, a site of hegemonic struggles over meaning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)80-97
Number of pages18
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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