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.
In 1945, the Australian National Film Board was established to produce documentary films. In 1956, the Board was renamed the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit. Stanley Hawes was the Producer-in-Chief from 1946 to 1969. In 1973, the Unit became Film Australia. That year it 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.
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. It has won many awards and is generally regarded as Australia's finest railway film.
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.
The operations of Film Finance Corporation Australia, Australian Film Commission, and Film Australia were merged as Screen Australia in July 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. However, the Australian Children's Television Foundation are now the distributors for Film Australia's children's catalogue, with the exception of Boffins, which is maintained by the NFSA.
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.
Film Australia’s Digital Resource Finder 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.
- "About Film Australia". Film Australia. Retrieved 2007-08-23.
- NFSA Digital Learning: Online Educational Resources of the Former Film Australia
- Judith Adamson (1991). A Film Australia miscellany. Lindfield, N.S.W. : Film Australia. ISBN.
- Brian McFarlane, Geoff Mayer, Ina Bertrand (Ed.) (1999). The Oxford companion to Australian film. Melbourne, Australia ; New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-553797-1.
- Albert Moran (1991). Projecting Australia : government film since 1945. Sydney : Currency Press. ISBN 0-86819-292-9.
- Moran, Albert (1987) 'Documentary Consensus: The Commonwealth Film Unit: 1954-1964' in O'Regan, T and Shoesmith, B (eds) History on/and/in Film, Perth, History & Film Association of Australia
- Film Australia Digital Learning Resource Finder
- Australian - Live Online Radio and TV
- Film Australia at the Internet Movie Database
- Australian Commonwealth Film Unit at the Internet Movie Database