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National Museum of Australia

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Photograph of 'Hector Cat' at work

1992.0037.0048

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Photograph of 'Hector Cat' at work

Object information

Physical description

A black and white photograph of 'Hector Cat' at work.

Statement of significance

This collection comprises material relating to a road safety children's education programme of the late 60s and 70s. The objects are a complete set of parts for the Hector the Cat costume and Hector the Cat road safety pamphlets, audio-cassette, calendar, films, catalogues and photographs.

This road safety programme was based on a central figure of Hector the Cat. Hector was the brain-child of H E Clarke and Margaret O'Rourke, whose initials were used to ultimately give Hector his name. The character of Hector was used in many forms in order to increase his public profile and by association that of road safety for children. Calenders and children's games, mobiles, audio tapes and pamphlets were all part of the promotional campaign produced by the Federal Office of Road Safety. Along with promotional films produced by Film Australia, this package was available nation-wide as a means of changing children's attitudes towards road safety.

Hector the Cat was an educational road safety campaign designed for children. The campaign was designed to raise the awareness of issues and procedures surrounding road safety by increasing the profile of these issues and thereby effecting people?s attitudes towards it. Using an extensive promotional campaign which included the use of a life size cat named Hector, whose costume is part of this donation, the material was distributed through organizations such as the Road Safety Council of the ACT.

The gradual demise of Hector as the symbol identifying road safety began in the late 70s. A philosophical change took place in the Department of Transport on how road safety should be presented. It was decided that it was people?s behaviour regarding road safety that needed changing not just their attitude towards it. This change coupled with the growing environmental awareness of the time eventually led to Hector becoming history. The new campaign now uses native Australian animals as the mascots for children's road safety education. Cats, particularly feral ones are dangerous to the delicate native fauna ,therefore, the continued promotion of Hector in light of this information was unpopular and was discontinued.

However, Hector lives on as a symbol for many older Australians who remember his road safety antics from their formative years. The use of a cat as a mascot for presenting educational information to young audiences is also linked in with the popular children's culture of the time, calling to mind television cartoons such as Pixie and Dixie, Tom and Jerry, Felix the Cat, Top Cat and Friends and the Sylvester cat cartoon series, just to name a few. Hector was amongst the finest in his league and this collection attests to the power of popular culture for conveying educational information.

Object information

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