National Film and Sound Archive

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) is Australia's audiovisual archive, responsible for developing, preserving, maintaining, promoting and providing access to a national collection of copies of film, television, sound, and radio audiovisual materials and related items. The collection ranges from works created in the late nineteenth century when the recorded sound and film industries were in their infancy to those made in the present day.

The Archive was formally established as the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (within the then Commonwealth National Library) in 1935, becoming an independent cultural organisation in 1984. On 3 October, Prime Minister Bob Hawke officially opened the NFSA's headquarters in Canberra.

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
National Film and Sound Archive logo
National Film and Sound Archive
Established5 April 1984
LocationMcCoy Circuit, Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Coordinates35°17′02″S 149°07′16″E / 35.283950°S 149.121075°E
TypeAudiovisual Archive
Collection size2.8 million works
CEOJan Müller
ChairpersonGabrielle Trainor
OwnerGovernment of Australia
Employees164 (at June 2017)[1]
Nearest parkingFree parking surrounding the building on Liversidge Street

History of the organisation

The work of the Archive can be officially dated to the establishment of the National Historical Film and Speaking Record Library (part of the then Commonwealth National Library) by a Cabinet decision on 11 December 1935.

After being part of the National Library of Australia, and its predecessors, for nearly 50 years, the National Film and Sound Archive was created as a separate Commonwealth collecting institution through an announcement in Parliament on 5 April 1984 that took immediate effect.[2] At that time, an Advisory Committee was established to guide the institution.

On 21 June 1999, the name was changed to ScreenSound Australia, the National Collection of Screen and Sound, and changed again in early 2000 to ScreenSound Australia, National Screen and Sound Archive. It reverted to its original name, National Film and Sound Archive, in December 2004.

Meanwhile, consequent on amendments to the Australian Film Commission Act which took effect on 1 July 2003, it ceased to be a semi-autonomous entity within the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts and became an integrated branch, later a division, of the Australian Film Commission, a funding and promotional body.

In 2007, the Liberal Government announced the creation of a new agency to be called Screen Australia which would incorporate the main functions of the Film Finance Corporation, the Australian Film Commission (including the Archive), and Film Australia. Following elections in November 2007, however, the new Labor Government implemented an election promise to allow the NFSA to become a statutory authority, similar to other major cultural institutions including the National Library of Australia, the National Gallery of Australia and the National Museum of Australia. The NFSA Act became law on 20 March 2008 and came into effect on 1 July 2008, with celebrations held that day.[3]

Inaugural Board

The Archive's first Board as a Statutory Authority comprised:[4]

  • Professor Chris Puplick AM (Chair)
  • Associate Professor Deb Verhoeven (Deputy Chair)
  • Professor Jill Matthews
  • Ms Grace Koch
  • Ms Catherine Robinson
  • Mr Andrew Pike OAM
  • Mr Philip Mortlock


  • Ms Gabrielle Trainor (Chair)
  • Mr Wayne Denning (Deputy Chair)
  • Ms Toni Cody
  • Mr Paul Neville
  • Mr Peter Rose
  • Ms Fiona Scott
  • Mr Kim Ledger
  • Ms Caroline Elliot


The National Collection includes more than 2.8 million items, encompassing sound, radio, television and film. In addition to discs, films, videos, audio tapes, phonograph cylinders and wire recordings, the Collection includes supporting documents and artefacts, such as personal papers and organisational records, photographs, posters, lobby cards, publicity, scripts, costumes, props, memorabilia and sound, video and film equipment.

Notable holdings include:

  • The Cinesound Movietone Australian Newsreel Collection, 1929–1975: comprehensive collection of 4,000 newsreel films and documentaries representing news stories covering all major events in Australian history, sport and entertainment from 1929 to 1975. Inscribed on the Australian Memory of the World Register in 2003.
  • The Story of the Kelly Gang, 1906: directed by Charles Tait, is the first full-length narrative feature film produced anywhere in the world, and was inscribed onto the International Memory of the World Register in 2007.
  • the earliest Australian sound recording, 'The Hen Convention', a novelty song by vocalist John James Villiers, with piano accompaniment, recorded by Thomas Rome in 1896.

A 2010 study compared the curatorial practices of accessioning and cataloging for NFSA collections and for YouTube with regard to access to older Australian television programs. It found the NFSA to be stronger in current affairs and older programs, and YouTube stronger in game shows, lifestyle programs, and "human interest" material (births, marriages, and deaths). YouTube cataloging was found to have fewer broken links than the NFSA collection, and YouTube metadata could be searched more intuitively. The NFSA was found to generally provide more useful reference information about production and broadcast dates.[5]

Special Collections

  • Film Australia Collection: contains a diverse range of more than 3,000 titles of Australian documentary and educational programs, spanning a century of Commonwealth documentary and docu-drama titles (1913–2008).
  • The Sounds of Australia is the NFSA's selection of sound recordings with cultural, historical and aesthetic significance and relevance, which inform or reflect life in Australia. It was established in 2007. Each year, the Australian public nominates new sounds to be added with final selections determined by a panel of industry experts.
  • NFSA Restores is the NFSA's program to digitise, restore and preserve, at the highest archival standards, classic and cult Australian films so they can be seen on the big screen in today's digital cinemas.
  • Oral History Collection
  • Non-Theatrical Lending Collection: Non-theatrical screenings take place on a non-commercial basis (no direct admission charge is levied) and are held by: educational, cultural, social and religious institutions; community groups; churches; film societies; government bodies; hospitals; libraries; museums and galleries.
  • Australian Jazz Archive

History of the building

National Film and Sound Archive viewed near McCoy Circuit
The National Film and Sound Archive fronts onto McCoy Circuit.

The building to which the Archive moved in 1984 was the home of the Australian Institute of Anatomy from 1931-84. Originally it held the anatomy collection of Sir Colin MacKenzie. This collection included the heart of the celebrated Australian racehorse Phar Lap.

The building is often classified as art deco, though its overall architectural style is technically "Late 20th Century Stripped Classical", the style of ancient Greece and Rome but simplified and modernised. It features a symmetrical façade, a horizontal skyline, classical columns and a central entrance. The decorative foyer features images of native flora, fauna and Aboriginal art and motifs. Face masks of well-known scientists from the late 19th century and early 20th century are featured on the foyer’s walls as a reminder of its previous incarnation as the Institute of Anatomy.

The building also features a landscaped courtyard, theatre and research centre. In 1999, the building was extended to accommodate the Archive's growth. The new wing’s design is in keeping with the Art Deco style of the main structure with details and finishes to match the original.


Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award

The Ken G Hall Film Preservation Award was established in 1995 as a tribute to producer/director Ken G Hall. It is presented in recognition of an individual, group, or organisation, for their outstanding contribution to the art of moving image and its preservation. It is presented to candidates where there is a significant link between their work and its impact or relationship to the Australian film industry. Examples of this contribution include technical innovation, scholarship in the field, involvement with the survival of film as an art form and as a cultural experience, advocacy, sponsorship and fundraising.

National Folk Recording Award

The NFSA National Folk Recording Award was established in 2001 to encourage and reward excellence in Australian folk music recording. Award entrants are selected from recordings submitted each year to the National Folk Festival in Canberra. The judging panel comprises representatives from the National Folk Festival, ABC Radio and the Archive.[6]

  • 2013 Not a Note Wasted by Luke R Davies and the Recycled String Band
  • 2012 Carried in Mind by Jeff Lang
  • 2011 Love and Sorrow by Kavisha Mazzella
  • 2010 A Voice that was Still by Chloe and Jason Roweth, with Jim McWhinnie
  • 2009 Urban Sea Shanties by Fred Smith and the Spooky Men's Chorale
  • 2008 The Next Turn by Trouble in the Kitchen
  • 2006 Diamond Wheel by Kate Fagan
  • 2005 Songs of the Wallaby Track by Dave de Hugard
  • 2003 Swapping Seasons by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
  • 2002 Bagarap Empires by Fred Smith[7]
  • 2001 Follow the Sun by Seaman Dan

Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage

The Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage[8] recognises the achievements of a person who has made a substantial contribution to the preservation, survival and recognition of sound heritage. It is named for Fanny Cochrane Smith, who features on the only known recording of Tasmanian Aboriginal songs and language.

  • 2012 Dr Ros Bandt
  • 2011 Bill Armstrong
  • 2010 Dr Karl Neuenfeldt

Orlando Short Film Award

The Orlando Short Film Award is an annual celebration of Australia’s best lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex short films. It recognises the nation’s cultural diversity and the role screen culture plays within the broader community.

  • 2012 Craig Boreham Writer and director of Drowning
  • 2011 Grant Scicluna Writer and director of Neon Skin

Award for an Emerging Cinematographer

First presented in 2010, the NFSA Australian Cinematographers Society John Leake OAM Award for an Emerging Cinematographer is designed to enable emerging cinematographers to develop their craft, and is presented annually at the Australian Cinematographers Society Awards. The Award is named in honour of Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS) co-founder and industry icon John Leake OAM ACS (1927–2009). The judging panel will comprise the Federal President of the Australian Cinematographers Society, the Chief Executive Officer of the National Film and Sound Archive, and two other executive members of the ACS.

  • 2013 Dale Bremner
  • 2012 Jimmy Ennett
  • 2011 Edward Goldner
  • 2010 Kirsty Stark

Preservation Award

The South East Asia Pacific Audiovisual Archives Association (SEAPAVAA) NFSA Preservation Awardrecognises the extraordinary efforts of individuals or organisations within the South East Asia and Pacific region in preserving or promoting audiovisual archiving in the region. It is presented at the annual SEAPAVAA conference.

  • 2012 Kae Ishihara


The following exhibitions have been developed by the NFSA:

  • The Art of Sound, in collaboration with regional art galleries
  • Starstruck: Australian Movie Portraits, in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery of Australia. The exhibition will be available in Canberra from 10 November 2017 – 4 March 2018, followed by an Australian tour.

See also


  1. ^ NFSA Annual report 2016-17 (Report). National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. October 2017. Archived from the original on 5 December 2017.
  2. ^ CA 4123: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 20 March 2014
  3. ^ Massola, James (2008) "Innovative film sets the scene for the Archive's new role", The Canberra Times, 2008-07-02, p. 7
  4. ^ NFSA Board Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ McKee, Alan (2011). "YouTube versus the National Film and Sound Archive: Which Is the More Useful Resource for Historians of Australian Television?". Television & New Media. 12 (2): 154.
  6. ^ NFSA 2008 National Folk Recording Award Archived 2 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Minion, Lynne (24 April 2009) "Uniting folk in triumph of voices", The Canberra Times, p. 5
  8. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine

External links

Coordinates: 35°16′59″S 149°07′16″E / 35.283°S 149.121°E

Acton, Australian Capital Territory

Acton (postcode: 2601) is a suburb of Canberra, ACT, Australia. Acton covers an area west of the CBD, bordered by Black Mountain to the west and Lake Burley Griffin in the south. The Australian National University campus covers most of the suburb, though also located in Acton is the National Film and Sound Archive, a branch of the CSIRO and the National Museum of Australia.

The population of Acton on census night 2016 was 2,086 people, mostly students living at the Australian National University.

Anzacs in Overalls

Anzacs in Overalls is a 1941 Australian documentary film directed by Ken G. Hall.

According to the National Film and Sound Archive it is:

A propaganda and morale boosting production from WW2 that looks at the way the industrial and agricultural sectors of Australia helped the war effort. It emphasizes and encourages, through a narrator, the efforts put into production for the war effort by the Australian people through sacrifice, ingenuity, etc. It parallels production scenes with scenes of the items being used in war. There are scenes from: factories/foudaries; aircraft production; engine production; an Australian designed tank; gun and artillery production; production of the Owen gun; Universal carrier and other vehicle production; ship building; munitions production; and agricultural and food production.

Australia Daze

Australia Daze is a 1988 Australian documentary film that takes a look at how various Australians spent Australia Day 1988.

Australian Institute of Anatomy

The Australian Institute of Anatomy was established in October 1931. Its functions included a natural history museum and research in human nutrition. The Institute was formally abolished in December 1985.

Australian Screen Online

Australian Screen Online (ASO) is an on-line database operated by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive. It provides information about and excerpts from a wide selection of Australian feature films, documentaries, television programs, newsreels, short films, animations, and home-movies. It also includes teachers' notes.

Blood Brothers (film series)

Blood Brothers is a 1993 four-part Australian documentary series that tells the stories of three different Aboriginal Australian men and an Aboriginal ceremony.

Eric Porter (filmmaker)

Eric Ernest Porter (June 19, 1911 — May 1, 1983) was an Australian filmmaker and animator who specialised in documentaries and commercials, but also made several features. He directed Australia's first animated feature, Marco Polo Junior Versus the Red Dragon (1972). That film's financial failure forced him to close his animation studio.Porter was made a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) with effect December 20, 1983 in the 1984 Australia Day Honours for "service to the film industry particularly in the field of animation".

Film Australia

Film Australia was a company established by the Government of Australia to produce films about Australia. Its mission 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.

The agency consolidated operations 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.

Giorgio Mangiamele

Giorgio Mangiamele (13 August 1926 – 13 May 2001) was an Italian/Australian photographer and filmmaker who made a unique contribution to the production of Australian art cinema in the 1950s and 1960s. His films included Il Contratto (or The Contract) (1953), The Spag (1962), Ninety Nine Per Cent (1963) and Clay (1965). Clay was selected for competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 1965.In 2011 the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia restored four of his most notable films and Ronin Films released them on DVD. Three of the films also screened at the 2011 Melbourne International Film Festival.

I'll Never Find Another You

"I'll Never Find Another You" is a 1964 single by The Seekers which reached No. 1 in the UK in February 1965. It was The Seekers' first UK-released single, and was the second-best selling single of 1965 in the UK. The song was also popular in the US, reaching peaks of No. 4 pop and No. 2 easy listening on the Billboard Hot 100 charts.The track was written and produced by Tom Springfield, who was also responsible for most of The Seekers' subsequent hits.

The tune received a 1967 US revival as a country music No. 1 by Sonny James. In 2006, it received yet another revival with a folk rock cover from guitarist Les Fradkin on his CD Jangleholic.

In July 2018, the song was featured in a Westpac bank TV advertisement in Australia, covered by Julia Jacklin.The song was added to the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia's Sounds of Australia registry in 2011.

Living Black

Living Black is a current affairs program aired on SBS, Australia, addressed primarily to the interests of Australia's indigenous community. Karla Grant has been executive producer of this program which she has developed since 2002. She has also been fronting the show since 2004.

Neptune's Daughter (1914 film)

Neptune's Daughter is a 1914 American silent fantasy film featuring the first collaboration between actress Annette Kellerman and director Herbert Brenon. It was based on Kellerman's idea of "a water fantasy movie with beautiful mermaids in King Neptune's garden together with a good love story." It was filmed by Universal on Bermuda in January and February, cost approximately $50,000, and grossed one million dollars at the box office. One reel of film footage is currently held in two archives, National Film and Sound Archive and Gosfilmofond of Russia.

Pandora Archive

PANDORA is the national web archive for the preservation of Australia's online publications. It was established by the National Library of Australia in 1996, and is now built in collaboration with Australian state libraries and cultural collecting organisations, including the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, the Australian War Memorial, and the National Film and Sound Archive.The name, PANDORA, is a bacronym that encapsulates its mission: Preserving and Accessing Networked Documentary Resources of Australia.

The PANDORA archive collects Australian web resources, preserves them, and makes them available for viewing. Access to the archive is made available to the public via the Pandora web site. Web sites are selected based on their cultural significance and research value. Each participating institution selects websites based on its own criteria relating to the overall mission of that institution.The provision for legal deposit of digital format publications was added to the Australian Copyright Act 1968 in 2016 so the National Library of Australia may copy Australian web sites without acquiring permission. They do notify publishers before copying a web site to the PANDORA archive, and may request publisher assistance if required.The archival management system called PANDAS (PANDORA Digital Archiving System) is used to add a title into PANDORA. This was developed and is maintained by the National Library of Australia. The latest version is PANDAS 3 which was deployed in mid-2007.

Reflections in Dark Glasses

Reflections in Dark Glasses is an Australian television film, or rather a television play, which aired in 1960. It aired as part of Shell Presents, which consisted of monthly presentations of stand-alone television dramas. It was written by Sydney writer James Workman, and is notable as an early example of Australian-written television drama. It was broadcast live in Sydney, then recorded and shown in Melbourne.Unlike some Australian television of the early 1960s, the program still exists, as a kinescope recording held by the National Film and Sound Archive.

Steve Dodd

Steve Dodd (1 June 1928 – 10 November 2014) was an Indigenous Australian actor, notable for playing indigenous characters across seven decades of Australian film. After beginning his working life as a stockman and rodeo rider, Dodd was given his first film roles by prominent Australian actor Chips Rafferty. His career was interrupted by six years in the Australian Army during the Korean War, and limited by typecasting.

Dodd performed in several major Australian movies, including Gallipoli and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, in which he played Tabidgi, the murdering uncle of the lead character. He also held minor parts in Australia-based international film productions including The Coca-Cola Kid, Quigley Down Under and The Matrix. He likewise appeared in minor roles in early Australian television series, such as Homicide and Rush, as well as later series including The Flying Doctors. In 2013, Dodd was honoured with the Jimmy Little Lifetime Achievement Award at the 19th Deadly Awards at the Sydney Opera House. He died in November 2014.

The Man from Hong Kong

The Man from Hong Kong (known in the U.S.A. as The Dragon Flies) is a 1975 action film that marked the first Australian-Hong Kong co-production filmed in both nations. It was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith and starred Jimmy Wang Yu and George Lazenby.

The film was later restored by the Australian National Film and Sound Archive.

The Queen in Australia

The Queen in Australia is a 1954 documentary about the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Australia in 1954. It was the first colour film made in Australia.It was released in the US by the Australian government information service.

The Siege of Pinchgut

The Siege of Pinchgut (released in the US as Four Desperate Men) is a 1959 British thriller filmed on location in Sydney, Australia and directed by Harry Watt. It was the last film produced by Ealing Studios, and was entered into the 9th Berlin International Film Festival where it was nominated for the Golden Bear Award.

Tribunal (TV series)

Tribunal is an Australian television series which aired in 1963 to early 1964 on Sydney station ATN-7. Actors played controversial historical figures such as Brutus, General Custer, Lizzie Borden and Richard III, who were interrogated about their actions by Alastair Duncan. Among the actors who played roles were Gordon Glenwright, Ron Haddrick, James Condon, Kerry Francis, Denys Burrows Keith Buckley, and Nigel Lovell, The series aired in time-slots ranging from 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Despite airing in an era where Australian television series were often wiped, many of the episodes are held by the National Film and Sound Archive.

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