Don’t Be Too Polite Girls

Australian Workers Film Guide


This is an interesting short documentary addressing the theme of women and work in 1970s Australia. The film begins with the ‘Women in Work Show’, a whacky outdoor performance by the Melbourne Women’s Theatre Group, in which the performers inform the audience about gender discrimination in the workplace before and after World War Two. With the men off fighting, women were admitted to the workplace only to find themselves out of work once the men returned from the war. After a baby boom and an increase in the need for workers, women once again returned to work, but they still were treated as second class workers when it came to job security and equal pay. 

The performance scene is then intercut with interviews and footage of women carrying out housework as well as working in factories and making appliances. Women talk of the importance of work and companionship instead of being isolated at home. One woman says she learned more from working than going to school. Women discuss the importance of earning a wage and achieving a level of independence, while another describes work as an avenue to escape personal problems at home. This is followed by scenes of a woman busy at work, after which she goes home to cook for her kids. She laments that unless she is ill, her husband doesn’t help at all with the housework.

The theatre performers highlight how women are expendable at work, while men are considered more important breadwinners. One woman points out that this is discriminatory as there are plenty of female breadwinners at the factory she works in. The film ends with a plea for male workers to join women in solidarity for job security and equal pay, and proposes that the real fight is not women against men or vice versa, but a fight against the bosses who exploit both men and women.

According to the credits, this film had some assistance from the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union. The film is also noteworthy because it was directed by Martha Ansara, one of Australia’s first female cinematographers. Ansara herself struggled to break into the male dominated world of cinematography but eventually managed to do so after graduating from the Australian Film Television and Radio School in the 1970s. [1]

[1] Australian Cinematographers Society (n.d.), [website], viewed 6 March 2023  <>

Special Notes/Achievements

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 14 mins 30 secs

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Film Writer: Martha Ansara, Aileen Beaver, Mavis Rapp,

Film Key Cast: Mavis Rapp – Performer, Aileen Beaver – Performer, Michelle Rapp – Performer, Gary Rapp - Performer,

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