What has made Australian children’s television distinctive over the decades? Why do adults use digital platforms to engage with shows from their childhood? In what ways does local children’s television influence how the population understands what it means to be Australian?
A Swinburne University of Technology research project in collaboration with RMIT University, Australian Children’s Television Cultures, has completed a nationwide study to discover why and how adult audiences in the streaming era engage in nostalgic screen practices, and what impacts Australian children’s television has had on multiple generations.
The study analysed 542 survey responses and 21 extended interviews with adults who grew up watching television in Australia.
It addresses a range of issues, including the lasting impacts of local children’s content on Australian cultural identity, why adult audiences revisit Australian children’s television from the past, the influence of digital technologies on sharing old children’s content, and the significance of Australian children’s television to personal and collective memories.
“This study reveals just how significant Australian children’s TV is to the cultural life of our nation,” says Chief Investigator Dr Joanna McIntyre. “It’s provided lasting experiences of wonder and a continuing sense of belonging to generations of Australians for more than 60 years.
“This research also shows that although children watch TV differently in the streaming era, digital platforms actually offer new ways to share and connect via beloved Aussie children’s content.”
The report found that for nine out of 10 survey respondents, some of their favourite shows growing up were Australian.
It also identified that the most memorable Australian children’s shows were ‘cheeky’ or ‘edgy’ and often included a particular formula – a mix of weird, quirky elements with depictions of relatable Australian life.
As one survey respondent (aged 25–30) said of the Australian shows she watched growing up: “They were all particularly quirky, scary, funny, and took you through the emotional roller coaster of being a kid (even though sometimes in a fictionalised setting). With all the quirkiness removed, it was relatable and just reflected an Australian childhood.”