Midnight Oil: 1984

In 1984, Midnight Oil release their iconic record Red Sails in the Sunset. They embark on a relentless tour around the nation performing raw and electrifying music that reignites the imagination of young Australians. That same year, their lead singer Peter Garrett commits to run for a Senate seat in New South Wales for the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP).

Midnight Oil had been building a strong following since 1977. Their live performances were legendary. Their popularity gave a voice to the feelings of a young generation concerned about nuclear power, Indigenous affairs, environmentalism and US dominance of Australian culture. With the full support of the band, Garrett launches himself and his fellow band mates into a strenuous and demanding alliance between rock music and politics.

The NDP campaign resonated powerfully with young people concerned about nuclear weapons and war. A demographic previously alienated from politics was suddenly energised and ready to vote Garrett into the Senate. Working from makeshift offices with few resources and aided by NDP Campaign Manager Mark Dodshon, Garrett darts from schools to rallies, talking to the media and spreading the message of the campaign. As the NDP starts to poll strongly politicians from all sides go on the attack.

Meanwhile the pressure of performing on both the live stage and the political stage takes its toll on the band. With their lead singer campaigning throughout the day and performing at night it becomes an anxious and conflicted time for the band. The added adrenaline and excitement surrounding Garrett’s Senate campaign draws a lot of media attention and their profile goes from the back pages of the entertainment section to the front pages of the news.

Thirty years in the making and featuring never seen before footage of the band on and off the stage, Midnight Oil: 1984 is the untold story of the year Australia’s most iconic rock band inspired the nation to believe in the power of music to change the world.


Midnight Oil: 1984 is suitable for secondary students in Years 10 – 12 undertaking:

  • Australian and Global Politics
  • Australian History
  • English
  • Media
  • Music

In Australian and Global Politics, Midnight Oil: 1984 offers students the opportunity to engage in discussions about key political and social issues, and to reflect on the importance of being informed citizens, voters and participants in their local, national and international communities. Activities have been designed to prompt awareness of the nature of power and policy formulation through a discussion of the role and influence of individuals, interest groups and minor political parties in Australian politics.

In Australian History, Midnight Oil: 1984 allows students to discuss, interpret and evaluate how Midnight Oil as a band and the music of Midnight Oil have contributed to Australian society and culture. The film is a relevant resource to teach the Year 10 Australian Curriculum elective: Popular Culture.

In English, Midnight Oil: 1984 expands and enriches students’ understanding of human experiences. Activities have been designed to allow students to discuss, interpret and evaluate the film, including its ideas, characters, themes, contexts and cultural significance; and to identify, analyse and evaluate the way the film uses structures, features and conventions to construct meaning.

In Music, Midnight Oil: 1984 develops students’ knowledge of musical genres, styles and cultures and their understanding of artistic processes. Activities have been designed to allow students to discuss, interpret and evaluate the music of Midnight Oil and the band members’ careers as musicians; and to observe, research and critically discuss the stylistic, technical, expressive and aesthetic features of music within a particular style and period.

In Media, students can use Midnight Oil: 1984 to describe, analyse and interpret a professional media product in terms of how it communicates ideas to a specific audience. Activities have been designed to allow students to describe and discuss ways that a documentary depicts events, people, places and themes.

Teachers are advised to consult the Australian Curriculum online at https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/ and curriculum outlines relevant to their state or territory for further information.

The study guide activities promote student engagement and active participation via individual reflection, class discussions, and small group and team work. Multiple activities are provided to allow teachers to select those which will best suit the demands of the subject and the needs of the students.

If you do not own copies of Midnight Oil’s music, you can listen online by accessing Midnight Oil’s artist profile on Spotify at https://open.spotify.com/artist/72KyoXzp0NOQij6OcmZUxk. Watch music videos of Midnight Oil’s songs online at https://www.midnightoil.com/videos/.

It is recommended that teachers preview Midnight Oil: 1984.

Midnight Oil: 1984 ATOM Study Guide is available here.