Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Joan Dorothy Long (1925–1999)

by Anne Pender

This article was published online in 2023

Joan Dorothy Long (1925–1999), film producer, director, and screen writer, was born on 20 July 1925 at Rushworth, Victoria, third of five children of Francis Charles Boundy, Methodist minister, and his wife Katherine, née Robinson. Joan attended Geelong High School before studying English and history at the University of Melbourne (BA Hons, 1945), beginning her course at the age of sixteen. As a student, the historian Kathleen Fitzpatrick inspired her with her clarion call to ‘bring original thought to bear on history’ (Long 1977). She recalled that when she saw the film Citizen Kane (1941) during her university years, she felt ‘shattered’ (Hewett 1976, 36), and she then determined to try to work in cinema.

Following her graduation Boundy took a course in typing and shorthand, did secretarial work, and applied for work at the Commonwealth Film Unit in Sydney, securing a job in 1948 as secretary to the producer-in-chief, Stanley Hawes. Women were not permitted to work as production assistants at that time, but she did gain valuable training in the cutting room. After around three years she became a director, encouraged by Hawes. She made some eight educational films, doing all the researching, writing, directing, and editing on her own, which gave her a thorough grounding in every aspect of film-making.

When Boundy married Martin Merrick Long, a journalist, on 31 December 1953 at Wesley Chapel, Newtown, she gave up working, cared for two stepchildren, and had two children herself. Later she did some freelance scriptwriting for the film unit, eventually returning to the organisation as a full-time scriptwriter after more than a decade away from the industry. She made two documentaries about the history of the film industry in Australia, The Pictures That Moved (1968), for which she was the writer, and The Passionate Industry (1971), for which she was writer and director; both were screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Around 1970 the producer Anthony Buckley asked Long to read an autobiography about a barmaid living in Sydney, with a view to making a film adaptation of the work. The author was not identified in the text, but had worked as a housekeeper for the writers Dymphna Cusack and Florence James. Long agreed to write the screenplay for the film Caddie (1976). Writing a feature film gave her pleasure and the challenge of capturing a woman’s experience was important for her. She later remarked that the Depression had ‘never really been portrayed in Australian feature films before’ and that it ‘left a rather bitter stamp … on all Australians, on our culture, on our attitude to life …’ (Long 1977). In 1972 she was elected president of the Australian Writers’ Guild, the first woman to serve in this role. She believed that developing the film and television industry in Australia was a matter of ‘national importance’ (Keavney 1972, 15), in order to ensure there were opportunities for Australian writers in Australia.

After the release of Caddie, Long formed her own production company, Limelight Productions, and set to work writing and producing a film based on the memoirs of the son of a travelling picture-show man in the early years of the twentieth century. The result, The Picture Show Man (1977), featured John Meillon, and Long proudly explained at the time that it brought to Australian cinema a ‘gentle comedy’ (Jennings 1977, 24) that was far removed from the ‘ocker’ comedies of the early 1970s. She recalled that ‘it was a very lonely experience producing that film all by myself from home,’ and that ‘when it was finished I … vowed that the next time I made a film it would be with a partner’ (Morton-Evans 1984, 8).

Long was appointed AM in 1980. She next joined forces with Margaret Kelly to co-produce the successful feature film Puberty Blues (1981). She produced Silver City (1984), a film about postwar Polish immigration to Australia, and Emerald City (1988), a film adaptation of the stage play by David Williamson. In 1984 she was appointed the first chair of the advisory committee of the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA).

‘Precise in dress and speech’ (Jennings 1977, 24), with red hair and a ‘friendly smile’ (Hewett 1976, 36), Long was described by her friend Jennie Boddington as ‘always dauntless, positive, [and] brave,’ with ‘a spirit of obligation, of service, and of giving herself to the community’ (Boddington 2000). Her interest in social history drove her film-making throughout her career. When she entered the industry there were few female role models on the production side in cinema and her contribution to the Australian industry was original, sustained, and significant. Among her many awards and nominations were the Dorothy Crawford award of the Australian Writers’ Guild (1991), and the Ken G. Hall award from the NFSA (posthumously in 1999). Predeceased by one stepson, she died on 2 January 1999 at St Leonards, survived by her husband, their daughter and son, and one stepson; she was cremated. In 2007 a street in the Canberra suburb of Franklin was named after her.

Research edited by Karen Fox

Select Bibliography

  • Boddington, Jennie. ‘Eulogy for Joan Long [January 1999].’ Senses of Cinema, no. 8 (July 2000). Copy held on ADB file
  • Buckley, Anthony. ‘Joan Long.’ Independent, 1 March 1999, Monday Review 7
  • Henningham, Nikki. ‘Long, Joan (1925–1999).’ The Encyclopedia of Women and Leadership in Twentieth-Century Australia. Australian Women’s Archives Project, 2014. Accessed 21 July 2022. Copy held on ADB file
  • Hewett, Jenni. ‘Joan Long Is Winning Her Way to the Top.’ West Australian (Perth), 18 May 1976, 36
  • Jennings, Terry. ‘Lots of Love and a Little Lunacy.’ Advertiser (Adelaide), 20 August 1977, 24
  • Keavney, Kay. ‘She Writes for Movies, Leads a Union, and Likes Doing the Cooking.’ Australian Women’s Weekly, 13 December 1972, 15
  • Long, Joan. Interview by Hazel de Berg, 15 July 1977. Transcript. Hazel de Berg collection. National Library of Australia
  • Morton-Evans, Michael. ‘A Producer Perseveres and Wins Her Silver.’ Australian, 12 September 1984, 8

Additional Resources

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Anne Pender, 'Long, Joan Dorothy (1925–1999)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2023, accessed online 13 June 2024.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Joan Long, 1984

Joan Long, 1984

National Archives of Australia, A8746:KN7/3/84/240

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Boundy, Joan Dorothy

20 July, 1925
Rushworth, Victoria, Australia


2 January, 1999 (aged 73)
St Leonards, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death

bowel perforation

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

Key Organisations