The Helping Hand: The Story Of The Good Neighbour Movement

Australian Workers Film Guide


With one in six Australians born overseas, this government documentary promotes the work of the Good Neighbour Movement in welcoming new migrants to the country and assisting them in adjusting to Australian life. It consists of 300 affiliated organisations such as churches, government departments, sporting bodies, women’s organisations, media, as well as employers and trade unions. Many of the volunteers were once migrants themselves.

As articulated by the film’s presenter, Morven S Brown, professor of Sociology at the University of New South Wales, the key objective of the program is to promote understanding between migrants and Australians. This is achieved by befriending migrants, inviting them into homes, introducing them to clubs and friendship groups and assisting with advice about Australian laws, customs, housing and education. The movement also seeks to reduce migrant loneliness and create strong and lasting connections with Australian society, which may eventually lead to migrants calling Australia home permanently and taking up citizenship.

The film opens with footage of migrants arriving at an airport and on a ship in Sydney Harbour. After an extended to-camera piece by the presenter about the movement, a migrant family is visited by a representative of the Good Neighbor Council. This representative assists with reading English. This is followed by footage of migrants workers in various industries, including the steelworks in Wollongong, cane cutters in Far North Queensland, construction workers in Melbourne, grape pickers in the Barossa Valley, autoworkers in Sydney, trawler fishermen in Ulladulla, earthworks in rural Western Australia, restaurant workers in Adelaide, as well as workers on the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme in New South Wales, where two thirds of workers are migrants living in hostels. Cooma branch representative, Norman Harvey, explains how most are men who have come to make money and have no intention of staying permanently.  The teaching of English is important and a class is held. Trade unions also recognise the importance of Good Neighbours, and the secretary of the Ironworkers Association of Port Kembla, Mr Malcolm, is an active member.

The presenter underscores the importance of Australians making an effort to understand the migrant’s point of view and to extend the warm hand of friendship to make them feel welcome. Friendship is seen as the key to helping migrants to feel at home and consider becoming permanent Australians.  A number of migrants are profiled, such as Italian Pino Chelsea, who first started as a cherry picker, then worked in a sawmill before arriving to work on the Snowy Mountain Hydro Electric Scheme.  He remembers a farmer’s wife inviting him to have meals with the family, the sawmill boss who helped organise his Snowy Mountain job, or the sawmill workers who gave him a send off from the local pub. Gustaf Olin of Denmark, now living in Wollongong, talks about having his own home and living the outdoor life of sunshine, which is different to the family life of indoor Europe.  Mrs Boulan of Czechoslovakia talks about the process of integration and finding Australian friends and feeling Australian herself, while not needing to renounce her homeland. She now assists with pronunciation at citizenship ceremonies and is considering becoming an Australian citizen herself.

The presenter speaks an eloquent piece about migrants coming to accept and embrace shared Australian values, which is summed up as mateship. The film concludes with a naturalisation ceremony held by Sydney’s Waverley Council.

Special Notes/Achievements

Produced for the Australian Department of Immigration by Visatone, Sydney. An Australian Commonwealth Film Unit Production.

Author: J Bird, 2023

Duration: 26 mins

Film Release Year:

Film Shooting Format:

Film Aspect Ratio:

Film Distribution Format: ,

Film Colour:

Film Director:

Film Producer:

Film Writer:

Film Key Cast:

Film Executive Producer:

Film Cinematographer:

Film Editor:

Film Sound Recordist:

Film Composer:

Film Production Company: