While recently the concept of 'national cinema' has been under challenge due to the growing interest in global and transnational perspectives, this paper utilises the idea for a discussion of the representation of schooling in two Australian post-war documentaries: School in the Mailbox (1947) and The Country Schoolteacher (1955). These films represent the cinematic high tide of the romantic construction of schooling as enabler of the [white] nation. They argue that the extension of schooling into the vastness of Australian space was an important way in which the 'imagined community' of Australia was being created in the post-war period. All diversity of environment and people is subdued in the triumph of a banal, essentially urban, and Anglophone form of governmentality - educational governmentality - which in ordinary ways was domesticating Australia's extraordinary geography. This type of governmentality, in which Australian geography was viewed as an educational management problem of 'delivery' and 'organisation', is very different from the idea of the rural and muscular 'conquering' of Australian environments in the feature films of the same period such as The Overlanders (1946) and The Sons of Matthew (1949). The academy-award nominated School in the Mailbox shows how the establishment of correspondence schools brought Australians into the Australian community of a classroom without walls, through the ordinary workings of the mailbox. The second documentary, The Country Schoolteacher, focuses on a one-teacher school at Konorigan, a town in northern New South Wales. The main classroom lesson in this film shows how Australian geography was positioned as knowable and manageable by the everyday application of maps, technology and children's imagination.
The Australian Historical Association Biennial Conference: ReViewing History. Proceedings of the Australian Historical Association Biennial Conference: ReViewing History (Perth, W.A. 5-9 July, 2010)