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Our history

Women's Training Workshop, 1975

The origins of one of the best film schools in the world

The Australian Film Television and Radio School, in its successive metamorphoses, started life as the Film and Television School; FTS with the first intake of students into the ‘interim training group’ taking place in 1973 that included Gillian Armstrong and Phillip Noyce. In 1976 the School became known as the Australian Film Television School (AFTS) and was admitted as a full member of CILECT (Centre International de Liaison des Ecoles de Cinéma et de Télévision), the International Association of Film and Television Schools.

In 1986 AFTS became the Australian Film Television and Radio School; AFTRS and the foundation stone was laid for a new building in North Ryde in Sydney adjacent to Macquarie University. In 2008 the School relocated to a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility in Moore Park adjacent to Fox Studios – its current home today.

Our Milestones


The Royal Commission on the Moving Picture Industry (Section 96) recommended that chairs of cinematography and allied subjects be set up with Commonwealth funding.


Vincent Report: The Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television, chaired by Senator Victor Vincent made recommendations for development of Australian production and, in passing, ‘…. that young actors and producers of high promise and ability be given scholarships for overseas training (on condition that they return to Australia.)’


  • Working party formed to consider the establishment of Film and Television School (FTS)


  • PM John Gorton calls for a report on FTS
  • UNESCO recommendation for the establishment of FTS


  • Film Committee: Peter Coleman, Philip Adams, Barry Jones begin a tour of international film schools
  • UNESCO resolution passed
  • Film Committee calls for Interim Council
  • PM John Gorton accepts the recommendation
  • Interim Council appointed under Peter Coleman
  • First meeting of Interim Council


  • John Martin-Jones appointed Acting Executive Officer
  • Film Committee tours international film schools
  • FTS moves into first premises at Spring Street, Chatswood, Sydney
  • First report of Interim Council tabled


  • Relationship with CILECT (International Association of Film and Television Schools) begins
  • Second report of Interim Council tabled
  • PM John Gorton departs; future of FTS in doubt
  • Philip Adams resigns from Interim Council over continuing prevarication by Government on FTS


  • Third report of Interim Council tabled
  • Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts Peter Howson announces the establishment of FTS
  • Peter Coleman appointed Chair of FTS
  • Storry Walton appointed Interim Director of FTS
  • Labor Party elected into government


  • Interim training Scheme commences at Help Street, Chatswood
  • PM Gough Whitlam’s second reading speech
  • New Council members announced
  • First meeting of the Statutory Council under Chair Barry Jones
  • Jerzy Toeplitz appointed Foundation Director of FTS
  • Film and Television School Act passed by Parliament
  • Act given assent
  • Bill enacted to bring FTS into existence


  • Open Program (short course division) activities begin


  • First Indigenous training course [radio]
  • Inaugural intake for the three-year full-time program
  • FTS opened at Lyonpark Road North Ryde, by PM Gough Whitlam
  • Liberal/National Party government elected
  • John Morris appointed Acting Chair of FTS


  • FTS becomes Australian Film Television School (AFTS)
  • AFTS admitted as full member of CILECT
  • Training programs for women begin
  • PM Malcolm Fraser visits the School
  • Tom Jeffrey appointed Chair of AFTS Council


  • National Graduate Diploma scheme (NGDS) launched
  • Inaugural one-year screenwriting course commences
  • AFTS Victorian Office opens


  • First graduation from the full-time program
  • Full-time course accredited as Diploma of Arts (Film & Television)


  • AFTS Director Jerzy Toeplitz retires


  • NGDS accredited with Graduate Diploma in Media
  • New building promised by PM Malcolm Fraser
  • Storry Walton appointed Director of AFTS


  • Technical Trainee Scheme commences
  • First full-time radio course begins
  • New building design approved by Federal Cabinet


  • Open Program active nationally
  • David Ferguson appointed Chair of AFTS Council
  • AFTS hosts 21st CILECT Congress


  • Full-time program accredited with degree status: BA (Film & Television)
  • Specialist training commences in directing
  • On the job training scheme for women begins


  • New building construction begins
  • Joe Skrzynski appointed Chair of AFTS Council
  • Anne Deveson appointed Director of AFTS


  • AFTS becomes Australian Film Television and Radio School [AFTRS]
  • Foundation stone laid for new building in North Ryde


  • One-year specialist extension course begins
  • Industry Training Fund for Women (ITFW) established
  • Pilot two-year TV directing course begins
  • New building in North Ryde opened by PM Bob Hawke
  • Queensland office opens


  • John O’Hara appointed Director of AFTRS
  • AFTRS/TAIMA three-year video production course begins


  • Robin Hughes appointed Chair of AFTRS Council


  • ATSI strategy commences
  • Full-time Koori TV Course implemented
  • Federal review of AFTRS begins
  • Kenneth B Myer Trust established to fund annual scholarships for AFTRS


  • Lucienne Joy appointed Head of Radio
  • Federal review is positive


  • Composer in Residence Scheme initiated
  • Inaugural SummerSkill program held in Sydney


  • Rod Bishop appointed Director of AFTRS
  • Digital Training Centre opened by Senator Richard Alston


  • Postgraduate accreditation: Graduate Diploma, MA and MA [Hons]
  • Documentary Unit established
  • Annabelle Sheehan appointed Head of Teaching
  • Tristram Miall appointed Chair of AFTRS Council


  • SummerSkill program implemented nationally


  • Graduate Diploma in Television Producing (Non-Drama) offered for the first time
  • The Cyberport Research project, the first online course, launched


  • Daniel Gilbert appointed Chair of AFTRS Council
  • Annabelle Sheehan appointed Head of Film & Television
  • Steve Ahern appointed Head of Radio
  • SummerSkill program begins in Tasmania


  • Harvey, written/directed by Peter McDonald is the first AFTRS film to screen at SIGGRAPH


  • AFTRS Honorary degree is established with the inaugural recipients being Jan Chapman (producer), Don McAlpine (cinematographer), Freda Glynn (co-founder CAAMA),
  • Dojo, written/directed by Nicholas Price is the first AFTRS short film shot on High Definition
  • V. Myer one-year Indigenous Scholarship launched


  • AFTRS short Inja, written/directed by Steve Pasvolsky, nominated for an Academy Award®
  • Malcolm Long appointed as Director of AFTRS
  • Screen Composition established with Martin Armiger as Head of Department
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipients: John Maynard and John Seale


  • AFTRS student film Birthday Boy, written/directed by Sejong Park wins Best Short Animation at SIGGRAPH, a Dendy Award (Sydney Film Festival), an AFI Award, a BAFTA award and is nominated for an Academy Award®
  • Graham Thorburn appointed Head of Film, Television & Digital Media
  • Macquarie Bank Indigenous Scholarship for emerging indigenous filmmakers commences for a three-year period
  • AFTRS commences application process to become a Higher Education Provider
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: John Clark AM


  • Australian Government grants AFTRS permission to relocate to a central Sydney location
  • AFTRS approved as a Higher Education Provider, allows students to access FEE-HELP
  • The Centre for Screen Business (CSB) established, David Court appointed Head, officially launched by Minister for the Arts and Sport, Senator Rod Kemp
  • The Laboratory of Advanced Media Production established
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: Anthony Buckley


  • FOXTEL scholarship for Exceptional Talent established
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: Ben Gannon
  • AFTRS First Indigenous Fellow: Wayne Blair


  • Peter Ivany AM appointed Chair of AFTRS Council
  • AFTRS student film The Saviour, written/directed by Peter Templeman is nominated for an Academy Award®
  • Part-time Graduate Certificates are offered in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
  • Minister for the Arts and Sport George Brandis delivers keynote address at gala dinner
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: Dr. George Miller
  • Macquarie Bank Foundation funds Indigenous training courses for three years
  • Sandra Levy appointed CEO of AFTRS


  • AFTRS relocates from North Ryde to the Entertainment Quarter in Moore Park, adjacent to Fox Studios
  • New building officially opened in May by Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: Baz Luhrmann
  • Review of Award Course Program commences
  • Research & Education Division established. Professor Katherine Blashki appointed Director of Division
  • Friday On My Mind, a free weekly public program commences
  • Jeffrey Katzenberg visits the School


  • Michael Smellie appointed Chair of AFTRS Council
  • New award course program implemented – Foundation Diploma, Postgraduate Certificates, Postgraduate Diplomas, Master of Arts by Research
  • Mark Collier appointed as Director of Radio Division
  • The first issue of Lumina, the Australian Journal of Screen Arts and Business is published and distributed
  • AFTRS student film Dead Boring, written/directed by Dave Edwardz is the first 3D student film shot in the world
  • Major collaboration between AFTRS and the National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) on a feature-length film, Before the Rain, takes place
  • Official launch of Tjamu Tjamu ‘art wall’ by Jackie Kurltjunyintja Giles Tjapaljarri
  • Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts Peter Garrett delivers keynote address at graduation


  • Inaugural AFTRS Creative Fellowship awarded to Lynette Wallworth
  • The Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association (ASTRA) graduate program for Foundation Diploma graduates commences
  • Wim Wenders visits the School


  • Professor Catherine McConaghy appointed Director of Education Division
  • Three-year partnership with New York University, Tisch School of Arts commences
  • AFTRS Television Industry Research project commences
  • Neil Peplow appointed as Director of Screen Content Division
  • Creative Fellowships awarded to Angelica Mesiti and Christopher Frey
  • Redesigned Open Program implemented Liz Hughes appointed as Director of Division
  • Television Unit established to meet the skills and training requirements of the industry, focusing on non-fiction programs
  • Three students and the Head of Cinematography Kim Batterham participate in the Brother Win Cup International Originality Design contest – trekking across the Gobi desert in China
  • AFTRS Honorary Degree recipient: John Edwards
  • Minister for the Arts The Hon. Simon Crean delivers keynote address at graduation


  • Master of Screen Arts introduced
  • Friday on My Mind commences in Melbourne
  • Kim Williams AM provides The David & Joan Williams Documentary Fellowship provided to AFTRS to enable a masterclass by acclaimed international documentary-maker, Joe Berlinger
  • Cinéma des Antipodes, a free non-competitive program for the general public, at Cannes includes a dedicated session for AFTRS shorts comprised of Moth, co-written/directed by Meryl Tankard (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2010); Playground, written/directed by Ricardo Skaff (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2010); Emily, written/directed by Ben Matthews (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2010); Inferno, written/directed by Stephen McCallum (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2011); The Last Match, co-written/directed by Julian Shaw (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2011); The Love Song of Iskra Prufrock, written/directed by Lucy Gaffy (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2009)
  • Julianne Schultz AM FAHA appointed Chair of AFTRS Council
  • AFTRS student film Emily, written/directed by Ben Matthews (Graduate Diploma Directing, 2010) selected for 2012 Student Academy Award®
  • AFTRS ranked in industry bible The Hollywood Reporter‘s list of top 25 film schools in the world, the only Australian institution, of any kind, to make the list


  • The Minister for Communications The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull delivers keynote address at graduation
  • Creative Fellowships awarded to Carl Firth and Damian Power
  • Phil Noyce awarded AFTRS Honorary Degree


  • Ben Gibson appointed Director of Degree Programs
  • Martin Brown appointed Director of Specialist Program
  • Bachelor of Arts (Screen) developed
  • AFTRS alumnus Jane Campion heads up 2014 Cannes Jury
  • The Hollywood Reporter ranks AFTRS as #13 out of 20 top international film school in the world
  • AFTRS alumnus Patrick Clair wins an Emmy for the titles designs on True Detective
  • Creative Fellowships awarded to Amiel Courtin Wilson and Melissa Anastasi


  • First intake into the Bachelor of Arts (Screen)
  • Part-time and flexible Diplomas and Advanced Diplomas in the specialist craft areas commence
  • Del Kathyrn Barton and Sari Braithwaite awarded AFTRS Creative Fellowships
  • Rachel Perkins awarded Indigenous Creative Fellowship
  • Neil Peplow appointed CEO of AFTRS
  • The Hollywood Reporter ranks AFTRS as one of the best 15 international film schools in the world
  • Student film Kangaroo Guy wins Jury Prize at Montreal Film Festival.
  • AFTRS Indigenous is established, led by Head of Indigenous Kyas Sherriff


  • Alumna Margaret Sixel wins the Academy Award for Best Editing for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Alumnus David White wins the Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing for Mad Max: Fury Road
  • VR Noir: A Day Before the Night receives a Proto Award nomination for Most Innovative Work
  • YouTube Pop-up space held at AFTRS campus
  • Indigenous artwork Tjamu Tjamu, 2009 by Kurltjunyintja Giles Tjapaltjarri erected on AFTRS building
  • Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country wins the Venice Special Jury Prize


  • Alumnus Peter Grace wins the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing for Hacksaw Ridge
  • Web series What’s Your Flava? created by BA students is released
  • Virgin Australia Scholarship announced
  • Dr Ian Lang appointed as Director of Curriculum and Registrar
  • Dr Georgie McClean appointed as Head of Corporate Strategy and Governance
  • Head of Indigenous Kyas Sherriff appointed to Executive Team
  • Russel Howcroft appointed as Chair of AFTRS Council
  • Record number of Indigenous students enrolled
  • Bruce Pascoe appointed as inaugural Elder in Residence
  • Katrina Sedgwick appointed to AFTRS Council
  • Alumnus Phillip Noyce awarded the AACTA Longford Lyell Award
  • Annabelle Herd appointed to AFTRS Council
  • AFTRS launches Talent Camp in partnership with the Australian Writers’ Guild, Screen Australia and state and territory screen agencies


  • Alumnus Tony McNamara wins the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Favourite
  • Alumnus Tony McNamara receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Screenplay for The Favourite
  • Dr Nell Greenwood appointed as Director of Curriculum and Student Registrar
  • Peter Tonagh appointed to AFTRS Council
  • Bridgit Ikin awarded AFTRS Honorary Degree
  • Media Lab: a free teaching and learning resource is launched nationally
  • AFTRS and 72andSunny partners to create Storytellers Wanted campaign
  • Cameron Patrick appointed as Head of Music
  • AFTRS student film Dots by Eric Lenartowicz selected for the 71st Cannes Film Festival in the Cinéfondation section
  • The Greenhouse by Thomas Wilson-White screens at the Croisette as part of Cannes Film Festival
  • Shadows by Eugene Dyson and Hector Malot: The Last Day of the Year by Jacqueline Lentzou screens at the Short Film Corner at Cannes Film Festival
  • Peel by Jane Campion, Milk by Mairi Cameron, The Dam by Brendan McDonall, The Virgin by Jack Yabsley, Leg It by Rachel Mackey and Cattle by Kerinne Jenkins screen at the Cinema des Antipodes AFTRS showcase
  • White Paper No. 1 – VR Noir is published
  • White Paper No. 2 – Precipice Binaural is published
  • Rowan Woods and Tony Ayres win BAFTA awards for International Live Action for Nowhere Boys: Two Moons Rising
  • Krista Jordan appointed as Head of Animation
  • Alumnus Warwick Young awarded Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM)
  • Alumna Sue Maslin appointed as an Officer (OA) of the Order of Australia
  • Richard Welch appointed as Head of Documentary
  • Lumina podcast launched