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Welcome to AFTRS’ living history

This is not a comprehensive history of the school, but a living archive to which we are adding regularly. Use the timeline at the top to navigate your way through more than half a century of excellence in screen and audio education and training.

1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2010 2020
The Vincent Report
29th October 1963

The Vincent Report

A Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television – chaired by Senator Victor Vincent – makes recommendations for the development of Australian production. The report suggests “young actors and producers of high promise and ability” be given scholarships for overseas training, but on the condition they return to Australia.1 

1 The Vincent Report, page 23, paragraph 91(50)
Interim Council
14th November 1969

Interim Council

The Film and Television Committee of the Australian Council of the Arts recommend the creation of a film school to the government, who accept the recommendations in full. In April, UNESCO’s Australian National Advisory Committee pass a resolution for a national film and television school.

One month later, in May, the Film Committee for the Australian Council for the Arts propose an Interim Council be set up, to oversee the early stages of the School’s establishment. Things move quickly: by November, the group are appointed and they hold their first meeting on 28 November.2 

2 AFTS Annual Report: 71/72-79/80, Appendix I
Research, Reports and Grants

Research, Reports and Grants

The Interim Council is led by John Martin-Jones, previously producer at the Commonwealth Film Unit, who serves as Executive Officer alongside Chairman Peter Coleman, and council members Barry O. Jones, Phillip Adams, Mrs. Dudley Erwin, Stanley Hawes, Sir Robert Madgwick and Sir Ian Wark (Hector Crawford and Leonard Maugher join in 1972). The Interim Council move into offices at Spring Street, Chatswood.

They embark on an intensive research phase, and council members visit 28 overseas film schools, consult 73 authorities, and accept 39 written submissions and 94 interviews3. From this they publish their first report in November 1970. It recommends a school be set up to “raise the standards of everyday production” to keep the local industry running, as well as develop the skills of local creatives who “would establish once again a film industry in Australia, with national recognition and international renown.”

That same month, Professor Jerzy Toeplitz – Director of the Polish Film School and Chairman of the International Federation of Film Archives – visits Australia to provide advice on the formation of a film school. 1970 also marks the first time creatives are awarded grants: as part of the Interim Council’s wider remit, it creates a grants-in-aid scheme and awards 29 grants to applicants seeking production or teaching experience in film and television overseas. 3,4

3 AFTS Annual Report: 71/72-79/80, Appendix A
4 AFTS Annual Report: 71/72-79/80, Appendix I, B, A
Funds for overseas training Grants-in-Aid begins
11th November 1970

Funds for overseas training

Designed for prospective teachers and people working in film and television, in the 1970/71 financial year, the Interim Council recommends six people receive grants, which the Government approves. In 1971/72, twenty-nine people are awarded grants.5

5 1971/72 Annual Report – pg 4, 12-14
Second report, Progress stalls Progress Stalls
March 1971

Second report, Progress stalls

The Interim Council publish their second report in March 1971. A key recommendation comes from Professor Jerzy Toeplitz, who says the school should be called The Australian Film and Television School (AFTS) and combine the functions of a university, a polytechnic, and an academy of fine arts.6 However, Prime Minister John Gorton departs that same month and progress from the government to establish the school is delayed on budgetary grounds.

Then Minister for the Arts Peter Howson requests a report on the possibility of an interim training scheme (the report is published in February 1972). Phillip Adams resigns from the Interim Council in protest.7

6 The Second Report section 2(g)
7 Storry fact-checking
Wider remit
September 1971

Wider remit

A statement to Parliament gives the Interim Council responsibility for the Experimental Film Fund, and the Film and Television Development Fund – both of which were previously with the Australian Council for the Arts.

The Experimental Film Fund is to discover and support new creative talent, and encourage experimentation in film and television through form, content or technique. Throughout 1972, grants are awarded to 45 people. The Film and Television Development Fund, meanwhile, seeks to support productions aimed at the general public.

In 1971/72, grants are awarded to thirty people, including early-career filmmakers Bruce Beresford and Peter Weir, and eighteen projects are completed.8

8 1971/72 Annual Report – pg 5-7, 15-21
First Students
January 1973

First Students

While preparations are being made to start the three-year course, 12 students take part in the one-year Interim Training Scheme with including: Gillian Armstrong, Phillip Noyce, Chris Noonan, Ross Hamilton, Alan Lowery, Robynne Murphy, John Papadopoulos, James Ricketson, Ronald Saunders, Graham Shirley, David Stocker and Wolfgang Kress (who did not complete).

Storry Walton is engaged as Director of the Interim Training Scheme and throughout the course all students create three films, accompanied by craft tuition and screen studies.

Open Program kicks off

Open Program kicks off

The School is structured into two parts: the Fulltime Program and the Open Program. The Open Program encompasses training activities outside of the three-year fulltime course, such as workshops, seminars, guest lectures, and research.

To help plan and implement the Open Program, a consultative panel is established with nearly 100 specialists across the country. Regional conferences take place in each state and territory in February 1974 and the first national conference takes place in Adelaide on 23-24 March with 12 delegates and six staff members.

Projects are split into one of two sectionsIndustry or Education – and early Industry priorities include: ‘Preparation for the Introduction of Colour Television’, ‘Sound Recording Workshops’, ‘Make-Up for Film and Television’, ‘Writing for Film and Television’, props, special effects, stunt work and more.

Meanwhile early Education goals focus on workshops for lecturers and tutors, overseas study, and bringing in an expert in children’s film and television.9

9 1973/74 Annual Report – pg 12 – 13
AFTS established AFTS Act
31st August 1973

AFTS established

Under the new Whitlam government, the Australian Film and Television School Act is passed and the school, known as the Australian Film and Television School (AFTS), is established. It is one of the first schools to offer television training in the full-time, three-year training course.

The first statutory AFTS Council meets in July 1973 with Barry O Jones as appointed Chairman, and Professor Jerzy Toeplitz takes up office as Director from 1 August 1973.

First Full-Time Intake First Full-Time Intake
14th April 1975

First Full-Time Intake

After a five-month recruitment period across the country, with tests and interviews, 25 students aged between 18 and 32 are selected for the inaugural full-time program, which begins in April.

The graduates of the 1975-78 program were: Ian Allen, Martha Ansara, Michael Brindley, Annmarie Chandler, Barbara Chobocky, Marcus Cole, Gillian Coote, Peter Gray, Alexander (Sandy) Gutman, Paul Harmon, Ken Kelso, Gillian Leahy, Peita Letchford, Shalagh McCarthy, Sophia Turkiewicz, John Tweg, Jekabs Zalkans, Gillian Burnett, Vaughan Davies, Gary Deacon, Rivka Hartman and Stephen Wallace.11

11 AFTS Annual Report: 71/72-79/80, Appendix 2
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