Film Australia

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Film Australia

Film Australia was a company established by the Government of Australia to produce films about Australia in 1973. Its predecessors were the Cinema and Photographic Branch (1913–38), the Australian National Film Board (1939–1955, under different deparments), and the Commonwealth Film Unit (1956–72). Film Australia became Film Australia Limited in 1988 and was consolidated into Screen Australia in 2008.


Administration of the Film Australia Collection was transferred from Screen Australia to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia on 1 July 2011.

The mission of the organisation changed through its earlier incarnations, but from 1973 its aim was to create an audio-visual record of Australian culture, through the commissioning, distribution and management of programs that deal with matters of national interest or illustrate and interpret aspects of Australian life.


In 1913 the Cinema and Photographic Branch (also known as the Cinema Branch) was created in Melbourne under cameraman Bert Ive, after he had been appointed government photographer and cinematographer. The Branch was administered by a number of Commonwealth government departments during its existence, changing the focus of the photographs and films, including the promotion of Australian merchandise, tourism, and immigration. When it came under the Commonwealth Immigration Office in 1921, the Cinema Branch was expanded, and by the end of the Silent era (1927 onwards), it was making a film a week. Lyn Maplestone, production manager from 1926, directed many of the films made by the Branch in the 1930s. [1]

The Cinema and Photographic Branch wound up in 1938, [2] Ive died on 25 July 1939, and Australia was at war with Germany two months later. [1] The Cinema Branch moved into the new Department of Information (DOI), becoming the Australian National Film Board (also referred to as the Film Division, created in order oversee coordination of government and commercial filmmaking, and to engage film production in the war effort and based in Sydney). From 1950, the division came under the Australian News and Information Bureau, [3] until 1955, and from 1956 until 1972 it was the Commonwealth Film Unit. [2]

By the late 1940s all film production took place in Sydney, and the Melbourne branch closed in 1954, after continuing to process some non-theatrical film until this time. [3]

Stanley Hawes was the Producer-in-Chief from 1946 to 1969. [4]

In June 1973 the unit was superseded by Film Australia, [3] which became Film Australia Limited in 1988. [2]

The operations of Film Finance Corporation Australia, Australian Film Commission, and Film Australia were merged as Screen Australia in July 2008. [5]

Administration of the Film Australia Collection was transferred from Screen Australia to the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) on 1 July 2011, and the Film Australia Library became the Film Australia Collection. [2]

The Australian Children's Television Foundation became distributors for Film Australia's children's catalogue, with the exception of Boffins , maintained by the NFSA.[ citation needed ]


In 1973 Film Australia gained its first female producer, Suzanne Baker, who in 1977 became the first Australian woman to win an Academy Award, for Best Animated Short Film, for Leisure , animated by Bruce Petty.[ citation needed ]

Some of Michael Thornhill's first films were short documentaries made for the Commonwealth Film Unit, including The Esperance story (1968) and Cheryl and Kevin (1974). One of Film Australia's most successful films is A Steam Train Passes . [6] [7] It has won many awards and is generally regarded as Australia's finest railway film. [8]

Film Australia also created one of Australia's most successful children's television programs, Johnson and Friends , which ran for four series. The program sold to over 50 territories and ran from 1990 until 1995. This venture also lead to the creation of further children's programs, including The Girl from Tomorrow / Tomorrow's End , Boffins , Escape from Jupiter / Return to Jupiter and Spellbinder / Land of the Dragon Lord .[ citation needed ]


Before becoming Screen Australia, Film Australia was one of the nation's leading producers of television documentaries and educational programs. Film Australia produced programs under the National Interest Program: a contract with the Australian Government to devise, produce, distribute and market productions that deal with matters of national interest or illustrate and interpret aspects of Australian life. Additional funding for a ten-part series on Australian history was provided by the Government from 2005.

Film Australia was the executive producer of these productions, drawing the creative and technical talent needed to produce them from Australia's independent documentary production industry. The company also provided support to the Australian documentary sector through a range of services and facilities, under its Community Service Obligations.

The Film Australia Library manages over 5000 titles and 150,000 photographs, reflecting a century of Australia's history. This unique archive of footage and stills is made available to the production industry. Film Australia Digital Learning creates projects targeted to the developing market for educational resources, primarily for delivery online. It draws largely on the materials in Film Australia's Library, and creates opportunities for documentary filmmakers and multimedia producers in education and new media production.

Film Australia Distribution markets both National Interest Program productions and independently produced documentaries to Australian and international broadcasters, and to libraries, schools, universities and community groups.

Film Australia Studios in Sydney is a purpose-built film and television production facility and provides screening venues, a sound stage, sound post-production facilities, a film laboratory, production offices, editing and transfer suites. These are used by many Film Australia and low-budget independent film and television productions, and by long-term tenants who operate production facilities and service companies. [4]

Film Australia’s Digital Resource Finder [9] is a quick, convenient and easy-to-use search engine for teachers and educators. It features FREE FOR EDUCATION video clips from Film Australia’s remarkable archive—one of the nation’s largest and most historically significant collections. Clips are matched with print-friendly two-page resource sheets that include background information and engaging student research and classroom activities written by leading teachers.

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  1. 1 2 Shirley, Graham. "Bert Ive: Filming Australia for the World". NFSA . Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "About the Film Australia Collection". NFSA . Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  3. 1 2 3 National Archives of Australia. "Commonwealth Film Unit" (PDF). Fact Sheet 25. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  4. 1 2 "About Film Australia". Film Australia. Archived from the original on 28 August 2007. Retrieved 23 August 2007.
  5. "Who we are - About us". Screen Australia. 1 July 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  6. "Anthony Buckley Receives Ken G Hall Award". 15 November 2000. Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2007.
  7. "Honorary Degree: Anthony Buckley". Archived from the original on 12 October 2006. Retrieved 13 March 2007.
  8. "A Steam Train Passes". Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 13 March 2007.
  9. "NFSA Digital Learning: Online Educational Resources of the Former Film Australia". Archived from the original on 30 August 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007.