Historical 16mm films of Warrnambool and District

by Alex Wilkins

In the early 1940s Alex bought a 16mm movie camera and started making family movies. He was also interested in making documentary films of important events in Warrnambool and the Western District of Victoria. These included the visit of the Corvette HMAS Warrnambool, the End of Second World War celebrations in the streets of Warrnambool in 1945 and the Warrnambool Centenary Celebrations in 1947, among many others.

Some of the films were made into documentaries at Wilkins Studios and a local sound studio, in collaboration with 3YB Manager Denzil Howson and a sound engineer.

There has been considerable environmental and cultural change in the seventy odd years since these films were originally photographed and Alex’s films provide a record of the gradual transformation of the region. For example motorbike scrambles were held regularly on almost treeless hills at Tower Hill during the 1950s. Since the 1960s an intensive tree-planting program has restored Tower Hill from barren hills to its original lush native beauty.

Alex was also interested in other environmental issues such as the bird life at Goose Lagoon which he documented with both movie film and colour slides. Other areas of interest were Julia Percy Island wildlife and the grandeur of the Grampians and the Otway Ranges.

Some films including those of the devastating Victorian 1946 floods, Tower Hill before tree restoration and early views of the Warrnambool foreshore contain valuable information for government and other authorities in pursuing ongoing environmental strategies. For example Alex’s films show how the Warrnambool beach has dramatically been eroded away in recent years, creating public awareness and concern.

Alex’s son John, while working as a lecturer at Deakin University, applied for a Priming Grant to restore, copy and reinterpret significant 16mm documentary films taken by his father during the 1940s. This project provided invaluable visual documentation of provincial town culture post Second World War.
The final package was a forty-five minute DVD including both new and original interpretations of selected events relating to the original historical films.
The DVD was launched at the Warrnambool Art Gallery in front of an enthusiastic audience. The opening entrance donations helped establish a garden project for the Friends of the Gardens of Warrnambool

Image by Alex Wilkins
Image by Alex Wilkins
Image by Alex Wilkins

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