Australian Workers Film Guide


A searing critique of social stratification across class and gender lines in early 1970s Australia, this commercially successful feature tells the story of an electrical tradie turned arts student seeking to ‘better himself’ through higher education at the University of Melbourne. Although married, Jock Petersen has an affair with his tutor, who is the wife of his pompous professor. He also has sex in public with another student in support of a feminist protest.

Petersen quickly discovers an educational class barrier, where an elitist and exploitative intellectual class hinders any attempt at class mobility. While Petersen is partially portrayed as a working class hero, the film underscores his own personal limitations, particularly in terms of educational attainment and the treatment of women. Having decided to leave his wife and kids for his tutor, Petersen becomes enraged and rapes her after she accepts a job in England.

Petersen ends up leaving the university and returns to his job as an electrician. The filmmakers paint a picture of an indulgent and idle educational class, cowardly and preoccupied with their own self-interest.

Special Notes/Achievements

  • Commercial cinema release, 1974

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 104 mins

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Film Key Cast: Jack Thompson – Jock Petersen, Jacki Weaver – Susie Petersen, Kathy Gollan - Narrator, Wendy Hughes – Dr Patricia Kent, Belinda Giblin - Moira, Arthur Dignam – Professor Charles Kent, Charles Tingwell – Reverend Petersen, Helen Morse - Jane, John Ewart - Peter,

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