Golden Days in the Australian Sun 1950–1970

At the beach
In the 1950s and 1960s, Christmas heralded the start of annual summer holidays for many Australian families. Those who didn’t already live near the coast usually headed towards it, mostly in Holdens and sometimes hauling a caravan. They made tracks to seaside places such as the Gold Coast, Manly, Byron Bay and Sorrento, plonking their bodies on the warm sand, transistors to their ears, to bake in the summer sun. Back then most people seemed unconcerned about sunburn and, as the images show, even beach umbrellas were in short supply.
Cooling off
It’s no secret that Australia can be very hot, especially in summer. As the song says, we are girt by sea, and for 85 per cent of Australians a blissful dip in the ocean has always been less that two hours’ drive away. For those living further inland, sanctuary was found in a nearby river or lake, or the town’s public swimming pool.
Cossies, togs and bathers
Until the 1940s, Australian women wore decidedly modest, albeit colourful, one-piece swimsuits. But the bikini was already in vogue overseas and by the early 1950s Australian women were daring to wear it. Discover the many fashion statements that could be made by wearing a favourite pair of cossies, togs or bathers!
Nice one, sport!
Between 1950 and 1970, Australia was triumphant in all the sports we loved. We dominated in the pool, won the Davis Cup a remarkable 15 times, and boasted an impressive record against every Test cricket nation. As these images show, Australian youngsters were keen to play the game, and on most summer Saturdays all around the country, boys and girls would play tennis or cricket, or swim like champions.
Out and about
Australians have always been fairly laid back and never more so than in summer. Looking at these images from the 1950s and 1960s, it’s plain that sophistication was seldom a consideration when choosing what to wear. On holidays, most people preferred to be comfortable rather than trendy, and bare feet were common on coastal streets, as were unbuttoned shirts and even swimwear.
Credits: Story

This exhibit is from 'Summers Past', a larger exhibition developed by the National Archives of Australia in 2005. Many of the photographs were taken by the Australian News and Information Bureau. A sample of favourites from the exhibition are featured here. The exhibition toured Australia from 2005 to 2012.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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