Audiovisual heritage: the Karri Forest

Caroline Ashworth
Thursday, 26 October 2023

Near the historic timber town of Pemberton, and on the land of the Bibulmun/Piblemen people, the Karri forest features one of the tallest hardwood trees in the world.

In 1961, it was documented in an episode of Australia Today by Film Australia.

Recently digitised to preserve it from deterioration, this gorgeous film explores the forest in all its distinctive beauty. We learn from Divisional Forest Officer, Pat MacNamara, that the hardwood forests of Western Australia are rare and require very specific conditions to survive.

The episode also takes a look at the youth camp that was established near the forest, where parties of school children spent their holidays learning about the local environment. Groups of 40 at a time stayed at the camp, and hundreds of groups were hosted each year.

Film Australia was established in 1945 to document Australian culture through films about Australian life.

This episode of Australia Today, an informational series produced by the organisation, was directed by Antonio (Tony) Colacino. Colacino was a former WWII fighter pilot from Naples. It was quite a coup for Film Australia to have Colacino working for them. He had been an experienced commercial director in Italy and was well known for his innovative cinematography.

Colacino became a mentor for many of the crew working with him at Film Australia. As well as Karri Forest some of the other titles that he directed for Film Australia included: Life in Australia: Geelong, Rooftopics, Icarus, The Rabies Threat, Parenting: Stress and the Child, Towards School, Step by Step and Child's Play (no, not the horror movie!). These titles are also available in National Archives' collection.

Colacino was also an amateur engineer, famous for constructing and deconstructing planes. He features in recently digitised segment of SBS's SCOOP (Significant Community Observations of People) from 1981.

These films were digitised as a part of the Defend the Past, Protect the Future Program to preserve at-risk formats, targeting tens of thousands of gems from our collection. The specialist audiovisual preservation team prioritise items from the National Archives collection based on their condition and the availability of playback equipment, known as technical obsolescence. National Archives' collection of films, video and audio records is the largest in Australia.

This project aims to preserve critical records from this audiovisual collection, along with other photographic, microform and paper at-risk formats. These activities underpin the core function of the Archives, which is to ensure the preservation of existing and future archival resources of the Commonwealth.