Woman Edgar, Patricia
AM, BA, Bed, MA , PhD, Hon Dlitt
- Children's television activist, Media policy developer and Teacher
Written by Helen Tully, National Film and Sound Archive
Persistence, determination, and commitment to working for the benefit of community have been the hallmarks of Patricia Edgar's career - a career that changed forever what Australian children saw on television and demonstrated to the world the potential of the moving image as a source of learning, mystery, and engagement for young people.
Born in Mildura, Victoria in 1937, the third daughter to parents Reg and Eva Etherington, Patricia felt early her father's desire for a son. It 'drove me to prove I could do what any son could do & better' (Edgar, 2006, p. 3). She was an early consumer of popular culture, a frequenter of Hollywood films and a lover of comics. Patricia attended Mildura High School where she joined the high school debating team. Academically successful, coming third in Geography for the Victorian Matriculation, she won a place at the University Women's College at Melbourne University. There she completed her BA and whilst at her first teaching placement at Norlane High School, undertook her Bachelor of Education.
In October 1960 Edgar married Hamilton-born Don Edgar, the son of a widow who 'was accustomed to women working and to men helping in the house … unusual for a man for his time' (Edgar 2006, p. 10). Edgar and Don had two daughters and, challenging traditional expectations of the day, Patricia returned to the workforce after the birth of her children taking on two part time positions. The first involved teaching at the Council of Adult Education, albeit at a reduced rate than her male counterparts. Edgar developed a course on the changing role of women which attracted media attention and high enrolments from women wanting to learn and participate in a wider life. Second, she was appointed to the newly established role of Secretary for the Victorian Association for the Teaching of English. In this position Edgar co-ordinated the professional body, produced its first magazine and ran the annual conference.
In 1966 Edgar accompanied her husband to the United States. While he undertook a PhD she was able to explore her interest in film and television, completing a Masters in Communication at Stanford University and significantly, an internship with KQED, a public TV channel in San Francisco. Inspired in her early 20s by Simone De Beauvoir's The Second Sex, Edgar found in the United States like minded people; a place where 'women were expected to have opinions' (Edgar 2006, p.14). Reluctantly returning to Australia in 1969 Edgar found the older traditional attitudes to women still entrenched. Looking for something new she was appointed as the first Chair of La Trobe University's Centre for the Study of Educational Media and Communication, thus beginning a University career that would see her introduce the first film courses to an Australian university and the attainment of her PhD (1974) on self esteem and the perception of children's understanding of film violence. The subject area would become central to her career and also to her book, Children and Screen Violence (1977 Edgar's foresight in fighting for Professor Jerzy Toeplitz to be appointed to the Media Centre at La Trobe University was career changing; leading to her appointment to the Australian Film Television School Council. There, over a 6 year period, Edgar honed her board skills and met people, such as John Morris, who would later assist her in the establishment of the Australian Children's Television Foundation. She also commenced a continuous involvement in media related committees, culminating in eight years as Deputy Chair with the Film Finance Corporation (1988-1995).
Edgar's ongoing interest in the role of women and sexism in the media became the theme of her book, Media She (1974). The subsequent publicity surrounding the publication of this book brought her skill set to the attention of Dr Moss Cass Minister for the newly created, Department of Media. The Department was responsible for the regulation of the broadcasting industry and included the regulatory body, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board (ABCB). In 1975, International Women's Year, Edgar was appointed to the ABCB Advisory Committee for Television Standards as Chair of the Advisory Committee on Program Standards. Subsequently she was appointed to the ABCB itself, the first woman to do so and then to its successor, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal's, Children's Program Committee. This began a career in media policy development in which she actively helped drive the introduction of a children's drama quota for free-to-air Australian TV and oversaw the introduction of the 'C Classification system' which set standards for Australian children's television.
Another public presentation, the 2nd Annual John Grierson Lecture (1979), would open the next door in Edgar's career. The lecture during the International Year of the Child, on the topic, Children's Television, the Past, the Present and the Future / Patricia Edgar, was read by the Victorian Minister for Education, Norman Lacy. He shared the vision of Edgar, and others, for the creation of a not-for-profit foundation responsible for the production of drama programs specifically for children. After three years of political advocacy and hard work the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF) was established in 1982 with Edgar as its first director. Under her guidance the ACTF would go on to produce 165 hours of children's production over the next 20 years. The programs, commencing with Winners ( 1985) included the well known and highly acclaimed, Touch the Sun (1988), Round the Twist (1989-2001), Lift Off (1992-96), Noah and Saskia (2004) and the feature film Yolngu Boy (2001). Over this period the ACTF productions would win 90 Australian and international awards and were sold to over 100 countries helping establish Australia as a leading producer of children's programs.
Changing economic times, increased presale requirements for Australian film & TV funding, new technology, and the beginning of the 'commodification' of children were the catalyst for Edgar's idea of a World Summit on Television and Children. The first summit, held in Melbourne in 1995, had delegates from 71 countries and the meetings continues today under Edgar's chairmanship. At their core is a commitment to encourage the production of quality programs for children, raise the status of children's media and promote an understanding of the role the media can play in education.
Edgar's services to children's education and children's television have been recognised in Australia and abroad. She received the Order of Australia for services to children's television and the media in 1986, the Award of the Archbishop of Sydney Citation on World Communications (1992), Correspondent Member of the Academia Argentina de Artes y Ciencias de la Comunicacion (1996), Australian College of Education Medal (1998), AFI Longford Life Achievement Award (2001) and in the same year was presented with the Centenary Medal by the Governor General. She was awarded the Dromkeen Medal for her contribution to children's literature (2007), and the La Trobe University's distinguished Alumni Award (2011). Edgar was also Chair of the Breast Cancer Network of Australia for ten years (1999-2009).
National Film and Sound Archive
- Edgar, Patricia: Interviewed By Ina Bertrand: Oral History, 15 November 2006, 715326; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
- Mexico '75, 1975, 44372; Edgar, Patricia; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
- Women Working In Television Project. Interview With Dr Patricia Edgar, c. 2005, 738917; National Film and Sound Archive. Details
- Edgar, Patricia, Bloodbath, Melbourne University Publishing, Melbourne, Victoria, 2006. Details
- Hogan, Christine, Look at me! : behind the scenes of Australian TV with the women who made it : 50 years, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, ABC Books for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney, New South Wales, 2006. Details
- Tully, Helen, Women in Television - Edgar, Patricia, AM BA, BEd, MA , PhD, Hon Dlitt, Women and Leadership in a Century of Australian Democracy, National Film and Sound Archive, 2014. http://www.nfsa.gov.au/research/papers/2014/02/28/women-and-leadership-century-australian-democracy/#edgar. Details
- 'Patricia Edgar: Screenography', in Australian Screen, National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), http://aso.gov.au/people/Patricia_Edgar/screenography/. Details
- Argall, Ray, Patricia Edgar, Australian Screen, Video and Transcript of interview, Edgar, Patricia, National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), 9 June 2009, http://aso.gov.au/people/Patricia_Edgar/interview/. Details
- Tully, Helen, 'Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF): 30 but still a child at heart', in National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA), 16 March 2012, http://www.nfsa.gov.au/blog/2012/03/16/actf-30-still-child-heart/. Details
- Elizabeth Reid at the 1975 World Conference of the International Women's Year
- Audio Visual
- National Film and Sound Archive
- Australian delegation at the 1975 World Conference of the International Women's Year
- Audio Visual
- National Film and Sound Archive
- Patricia Edgar
- Audio Visual
- 9 June 2009
- National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA)