From ASIO surveillance to rock 'n' roll

Media release: Wednesday, 26 August 2015

From ASIO surveillance films to early rock 'n' roll clips and historical ABC and SBS footage, the people of Australia now have easier access to the nation's heritage captured in Commonwealth film and sound records.

The National Archives of Australia today – at its Sydney repository – unveiled its new audio-visual archives management system (AVAMS) which enables easier public access to its collection of audio-visual records.

Films shared at the launch included a 1981 clip of Cambridge Footlights Revue young stars Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie for the SBS Scoop program (perhaps never aired). Also on view were an early ABC (colourised) Aunty Jack clip; film of the Maralinga atomic bomb blasts in South Australia; Australian Federal Police footage in the wake of Prime Minister Harold Holt's disappearance and the demolition of the Sydney GPO tower during World War II (showing a distinct lack of OH&S concerns).

Senator George Brandis, Attorney-General and Minister with responsibility for the National Archives, was represented at the event by Paul Fletcher, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communication.

'We have nearly 800,000 analogue and digital Commonwealth records in our audio-visual collection and we're delighted that we have found a way to ensure the public has easier access to them,' said Director-General David Fricker.

'With our extensive range of visual and audio footage, the collection helps us better understand the events that have shaped our nation in moving images and sound bites. Almost every aspect of Australian life is reflected in our collection.

'We hold a diverse range of material such as talks by prime ministers, speeches given in evidence by everyday people who have witnessed life-changing or nation changing events; film footage withheld from the public as part of the censorship programs and surveillance footage of those people deemed "persons of interest" by our national security agencies. Historic audio-visual material from the ABC and SBS collections also shines a light into our past.'

To manage its vast audio-visual collection, the National Archives of Australia has used a product Mediaflex which enables staff to enrich metadata about the complex records – and allows public searching by lists of credits and synopses, as well as titles. This has resulted in an immediate increase in the use of audio-visual material.

The new system provides 700 terabytes of digital storage. This increased capability and the capacity to import born-digital audio-visual records has placed the National Archives on a strong footing to accept the transfer of digital records from Commonwealth government agencies. As a result more audio-visual materials will be preserved and available for access.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0417 247 157 e

Twitter: naagovau

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016