australianscreen is a first-rate educational website created by the Australian Film Comission, with material from the National Sound and Film Archive, the National Archives of Australia and others.

The site features contains information about, and in many cases excerpts from, a wide selection of Australian feature films, documentaries, television programmes, newsreels, short films, animations, and home-movies produced over the last 100 years, all freely available. It is searchable in a variety of forms, but the broad categories are Feature Films, Documentaries, Television programmes, Short films, Home movies, Newsreels, Advertisements, Other historical footage, Sponsored films, and Short features. Frustratingly, there seems to be no way of search on viewable material alone [correection, there’s something viewable for every title – see Comments], but there is plenty on offer, including MP4 files for download (subject to agreeing to their terms and conditions).

Story of the Kelly Gang

The Story of the kelly Gang, from

There is a lot of silent film on view, with helpful contextualising material. Among Feature Films, there are sequences from the world’s first narrative feature film The Story of the Kelly Gang (1906), and two other renowned Australian silents, The Sentimental Bloke (1919) and On Our Selection (1920). Among Documentaries there are such gems as Marvellous Melbourne: Queen City of the South (c.1910) and a Pathé documentary on the making of the newspaper The Sydney Morning Herald (1911). Look out also for Endurance (1933), the sound film version of the film originally shot by Frank Hurley of Ernest Shackleton’s 1914-1916 Trans-Antarctic expedition.


Darwin c.1926, from

And there’s more. The Newsreels section has extensive material from Australasian Gazette, dating from 1911 onwards. In Other historical footage, look out for Marius Sestier and Walter Barnett’s film of the Melbourne Cup horse race in 1896, one of the first films made in Australia, a parade of Australian troops going off to the Boer War in 1899, filmed by Frederick Wills and Henry Mobsby, and footage of Darwin in 1926 which includes sequences showing the Chinese community.

It’s a marvellous resource, oriented for schools use but of interest to anyone. It’s so clearly laid out and expressed. Go explore.

2 responses

  1. I’m glad you like the site and have enjoyed the early Australian silents and newsreels.
    With regard to searching only for viewable material – all material is viewable. Every single film title represented on the site has audiovisual excerpts from it – most feature films have 3 clips up to 3 minutes long. If you want to find out how to get a copy of the full title, you click on the ‘availability’ link jsut below the still photos on every title’ s page.

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