National Film and Sound Archive

The National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA), known as ScreenSound Australia from 1999 to 2004, is Australia's audiovisual archive, responsible for developing, preserving, maintaining, promoting, and providing access to a national collection of film, television, sound, radio, video games, new media, and related documents and artefacts. 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.

National Film and Sound Archive of Australia
Established5 April 1984 (1984-04-05)
LocationMcCoy Circuit, Acton, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
Coordinates35°17′02″S 149°07′16″E / 35.283950°S 149.121075°E / -35.283950; 149.121075
TypeAudiovisual Archive
Collection size3 million works
CEOPatrick McIntyre
ChairpersonCaroline Elliot
OwnerGovernment of Australia
Employees162 (as of June 2019)[1]
Nearest parkingFree parking surrounding the building on Liversedge Street

The NFSA collection first started 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.

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, precursor to the National Library of Australia) by a Cabinet decision on 11 December 1935.[citation needed]

After being part of the National Library of Australia (NLA) 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

In 2000, Screensound joined the PANDORA Archive, the web archiving project started by the NLA in 1996, as a collaborating partner.[3]

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.[citation needed]

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.[4]

Inaugural board


The archive's first board as a statutory authority comprised:[5]

History of the building

NFSA building, fronting onto McCoy Circuit

The building to which the Archive moved in 1984 was the home of the Australian Institute of Anatomy from 1931 to 1984. Originally it held the anatomy collection of Sir Colin MacKenzie.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

The building also features a landscaped courtyard and theatre. 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 look.[citation needed]

Governance and people




NFSA is governed by a board, as a statutory body. As of June 2024 the board members are:[6]

  • Caroline Elliott (chair)
  • Annette Shun Wah (deputy chair)
  • Richard Bell
  • Kylie Bracknell
  • Lucinda Brogden
  • Alison Cameron
  • Judith Donnelly
  • Sachin Job
  • Stephen Peach



Day-to-day management and strategic planning is performed by the CEO. Past and present CEOs include:



The NFSA collection includes more than three million items, encompassing sound recordings, radio, television, film, video games and new media. 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.[citation needed]

Notable holdings include:[citation needed]

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.[16]

The NFSA announced plans to collect Australian-developed video games as part of its collection starting in 2019, with new titles to be added on an annual basis.[17]

Special collections

  • The 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).
  • Sounds of Australia (formerly the National Registry of Recorded Sound) 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.[18][19]
  • 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.
  • The Oral History Collection houses oral history recordings.[20]
  • The Non-Theatrical Lending Collection includes non-theatrical screenings, which take place on a non-commercial basis and are held by educational, cultural, social and religious institutions; community groups; churches; film societies; government bodies; hospitals; libraries; museums and galleries.[citation needed]
  • The Australian Jazz Archive, established in 1997,[21] was developed in partnership with state-based volunteer jazz archives. It includes published and unpublished recordings of Australian jazz bands and musicians, as well as personal collections, and covers Australian jazz since 1920.[20]



Films are digitised as part of their preservation strategy, so that the original does not need to be seen as often. The oldest films in the collection, some over 100 years old and those made up until the 1950s, were made on nitrate cellulose film, of which NFSA holds around 10,000 cans. This type of film has a distinctive visual impact, being "very bright and colourful, dazzling..."; however, it also carries a high fire risk, and, if not properly stored, can deteriorate and become brittle. It needs to be kept cold and dry, but not too dry. Curator Jeff Wray believes that it is important to keep the original despite digitisation — "it has a great amount of information, a colour story, a technology story". Among other films made on nitrate cellulose, there is film of the Bodyline cricket series in the 1930s, and the first feature film ever made, The Story of the Kelly Gang, released in 1906. In May 2024, the federal government's budget allocated A$9.3 million towards the preservation of these films.[22]

Australian Screen Online


Australian Screen Online (ASO), also known as Australian Screen or australianscreen, is an online database operated by the NFSA. It has both a promotional and educational function, providing free worldwide online access to information about Australian cinema and the television industry in Australia.[23]

ASO provides information about and excerpts from a wide selection of Australian feature films, documentaries, television programs, newsreels, short films, animations, and home movies, provided by a collaboration of the NFSA with the National Archives of Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, SBS, and the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS).[23] The educational content is designed for teachers and students, and includes a collection of film clips accompanied by teachers' notes and curators' notes written by experts.[24]

Since the initial launch of the website on 18 July 2007, with more than 1500 Australian film and TV clips,[25] it has won numerous awards as an educational resource and for its website design.[23] The website was revamped and re-launched in 2009, including new features such as exclusive interviews with filmmakers, a news section, forums, games, detailed profiles of producers, directors, screenwriters, film score composers and actors. At the time, it reported about 90,000 visitors per month to the website, with 25 per cent coming from outside Australia.[26]



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.[27]

  • 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
  • 2004 The Fig Tree, a musical companion to Arnold Zable's book produced by The Boite
  • 2003 Swapping Seasons by Kate Burke and Ruth Hazleton
  • 2002 Bagarap Empires by Fred Smith[28]
  • 2001 Follow the Sun by Seaman Dan

Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage


The Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage[29] 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 Ros Bandt
  • 2011 Bill Armstrong
  • 2010 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 (1927–2009). The judging panel comprises 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 Award recognises 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:

From August 2018, the NFSA re-opened its exhibition gallery to present temporary exhibitions, including:

In 2023, to mark the centenary of radio in Australia, the NFSA published a digital exhibition, Radio 100.[32]

See also



  1. ^ NFSA Annual report 2018-19 (Report).
  2. ^ CA 4123: National Film and Sound Archive of Australia, Central Office, National Archives of Australia, retrieved 20 March 2014
  3. ^ Webb, Colin (December 2000). "Because It Belongs to All of Us: National Arrangements for Digital Preservation in Australian Libraries, Australian Academic & Research Libraries". Australian Academic and Research Libraries. 31 (4): 154–172. doi:10.1080/00048623.2000.10755132. ISSN 1839-471X. Published online: 28 Oct 2013 [Routledge]
  4. ^ Massola, James (2008) "Innovative film sets the scene for the Archive's new role", The Canberra Times, 2008-07-02, p. 7
  5. ^ NFSA Board Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive of Australia". NFSA Board. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  7. ^ "Search for new CEO at the NFSA". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. 14 November 2016. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  8. ^ "Appointment of Jan Müller as National Film and Sound Archive CEO and Board Reappointments". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. 4 July 2017. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  9. ^ "National Film and Sound Archive of Australia". NFSA CEO resigns. 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  10. ^ a b "Patrick McIntyre appointed NFSA CEO". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  11. ^ McIntyre, Patrick. "Meet Patrick McIntyre, the NFSA's new CEO". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (Interview). Interviewed by Gage, Nicola. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  12. ^ "NFSA CEO update 2024" (video). May 2024.
  13. ^ "The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906)". Memory of the World. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 2 October 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  14. ^ "The Hen Convention"
  15. ^ Patineur Grotesque
  16. ^ 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. doi:10.1177/1527476410365707. S2CID 129038625.
  17. ^ Reilly, Luke (26 September 2019). "National Film and Sound Archive of Australia to Collect, Preserve Aussie Video Games". IGN. Retrieved 26 September 2019.
  18. ^ "Sounds of Australia". Australian Screen Online. 11 November 1975. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  19. ^ "The complete Sounds of Australia list". National Film and Sound Archive. 28 October 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  20. ^ a b "National Film and Sound Archive". Museum Metadata Exchange. 23 January 2018. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  21. ^ Davies, Matthew. "Australian Jazz Archive". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  22. ^ Doran, Matthew (1 June 2024). "Millions to protect some of Australia's most fragile and flammable film treasures". ABC News. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  23. ^ a b c "About ASO". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  24. ^ "Education". Australian Screen. National Film and Sound Archive. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  25. ^ Brown, Bryan (18 July 2007). "Australian Screen Online". ABC Radio National (RN Breakfast) (Interview). Interviewed by Kelly, Fran. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  26. ^ "Australian Screen Online is Reborn". ArtsHub Australia. 23 November 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2020.
  27. ^ NFSA 2008 National Folk Recording Award Archived 2 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ Minion, Lynne (24 April 2009) "Uniting folk in triumph of voices", The Canberra Times, p. 5
  29. ^ National Film and Sound Archive: Cochrane-Smith Award for Sound Heritage Archived 24 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Starstruck Australian Movie Portraits". Starstruck Australian Movie Portraits. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  31. ^ "Mervyn Bishop: Australian Photojournalist NFSA exhibition". National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. 12 August 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2024.
  32. ^ "Radio 100". NFSA.

35°16′59″S 149°07′16″E / 35.283°S 149.121°E / -35.283; 149.121