After the Swill

Investigating the 100 year old forces shaping Australia’s hard drinking culture. From 6 o’clock closing laws in 1915 to today’s lock out legislation – pub and bar owners, historians, academics and pub rock musicians analyse how the tension between alcohol regulation and venues impact an important part of Australia’s social culture and wellbeing.




Six o’clock closing laws for pubs from 1915 – 1965 unintentionally institutionalised hard drinking in Australia







Publicans, historians, musicians, politicians and bar owners give their insider perspective.





Merle Thornton talks about chaining herself to the public bar at the Regatta Hotel in Brisbane




Women who changed the face of gendered socialising in the public bar, the icon of male socialising.




Angry Anderson talks about pub rock and violence




See how the hard drinking culture was perpetuated even when the law changed








and asks the question of how regulation shapes Australian culture




Alcohol related violence


After the Swill is a feature documentary highlighting how our social history directly links 6 o’clock closing to today’s controversial lockout laws.

The film unpacks how early hotel closing times due to the First World War together with isolated incidents of violence brought about the ‘six o’clock swill’ and began an epidemic of binge drinking that infused into Australia’s consciousness that persists to this day.

The film thus traces a 100 year old history of hard drinking and legislation in Australia. By the end of the six o’clock swill era, Australia saw an end to social segregation and the shift of live music from civic halls to bars and pubs. Rather than the mythologised alfresco dining brought about by new migrants, what followed was a more aggressive style of drinking: back room violence and sly grog were replaced with the ocker rhetoric of “punch-ups” and “benders.”

Throughout the film, viewers are shocked into consciousness by jarring statistics and gut-wrenching footage of drunken brutality. After the Swill moves us to the present day, highlighting the story of Daniel Christie and how his tragic death has been a catalyst for political savvy and media manipulation struggling to remain relevant.

It depicts the growing disapprobation over lockout laws and the effects on our freedom, holding discount liquor accountable for a binge drinking, pre-fuelling culture that is darker and more malevolent than any that has come before.

By seeing pubs as the centre of communities and one of the last bastions of human interaction rather than modern day ampitheatres of violence, After the Swill asks whether well managed venues are part of the solution not the problem and encourages the audience to ask themselves what a night out in a global city should be.

Though socio-historical in its analysis, After the Swill could not be more timely. The film urgently challenges us to move beyond simple calls for legislative change that will only redesign systems that have been in place since the end of the First World War. It is a call to look beyond statistics and politics and to view our drinking culture as something that needs to be changed at a behavioural level. The film ends with a publican’s lyrical words: “I think the key word is connection. Never more so, in the history of humanity, are people searching for connection. So what having a drink together gives you is a connection. I think pubs are a series of hundreds of thousands of connections.”



Angry Anderson (Rose Tattoo)
Bruce Mathieson (ALH)
Arthur Laundy (Publican)
Nick Xenophon (Senator)
Dr Gordian Fulde (Head of Emergency, St Vincent’s Hospital)
Tyson Koh (Campaign Manager, Keep Sydney Open)
Tim Philips (World Bartender of the Year)
…. amongst many


Writer Director: JAMES WARD BREEN
Writer Producer: NATALIE PALOMO

Cinematographer: ASHLEY BARRON
Additional Cinematography: DALE BREMNER
Music Supervisor: ANDREW KOTATKO
Archive Producer: LISA SAVAGE