About this record
This black-and-white cartoon by Alex Stitt is from the 1977 ‘Life. Be in it’ national public health campaign. It contains four cells and depicts the character of Norm in four progressive stages: sitting in an armchair with his legs up and a can of beer in his hand; getting out of his chair with the ‘Life. Be in it’ slogan on the television screen; stepping away from the chair and the television set; and finally walking. The cartoon is titled ‘Norm’s walk’.
- This cartoon is part of the pioneering 'Life. Be in it' public health initiative developed and implemented in 1975 by the Victorian Department of Youth, Sport and Recreation. The campaign was adopted by the Australian Government in 1978 and became a high-profile national campaign, supported subsequently by each state and territory.
- Low fitness levels and rising health costs in the community at the time were behind the 'Life. Be in it' campaign's aim of raising awareness on the issue. The federal Cabinet funded the program modestly (as it was a time of rising health costs and increased budget cuts) but withdrew financial support after 1981.
- The cartoon encourages increased participation in everyday physical activities such as walking—an emphasis developed in response to international research that found public health campaigns encouraging active recreation were more likely to succeed, compared with campaigns emphasising formal exercise.
- The cartoon depicts the character of 'Norm' as a lethargic, beer-bellied, middle-aged couch potato, more interested in watching television than doing formal exercise. Those who associated fitness with effort or difficulty could easily identify with Norm who, as this cartoon illustrates, finds he is able to integrate exercise into his daily routine and increase his own wellbeing with the minimum of effort. Norm has since become a cult figure in Australian popular culture.
- By 1977, when this cartoon appeared, the campaign had created a broad awareness, within the Victorian community, of the benefits of increased participation in low-key physical activity. However, its success in prompting behavioural or attitudinal change is less certain. While death rates from cardiovascular disease have fallen steadily since 1977, the number of Australians living with cardiovascular disease and obesity has increased.
- This cartoon was designed and drawn by animator Alexander 'Alex' Stitt as part of a campaign devised by advertising company Monahan Dayman Adams (MDA). Writer and broadcaster Phillip Adams was a principal member of the firm and had the original idea for 'Norm'. Adams and Stitt were behind the equally successful 'Slip! Slop! Slap!' sun-smart campaign produced for the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, which featured the memorable animated character 'Sid the Seagull'.
Learning resource text © Education Services Australia Limited and the National Archives of Australia 2010.