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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
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Whitlam opens Lyonpark Road campus
22nd August 1975

Whitlam opens Lyonpark Road campus

The School moves to a new purpose-built studio centre at Lyonpark Road, North Ryde in August. Prime Minister Gough Whitlam speaks at the opening, saying, “It is a very great pleasure to come to this school to declare it open.” 

Research and Survey Unit (RSU) established
October 1975

Research and Survey Unit (RSU) established

In October 1975, the Research and Survey Unit is established under Julie James Bailey to serve both students and industry. It is the first of its kind at any film school in the world. Bailey has said of the Unit’s origins: “There was no historic data. It’s hard to imagine that in 1975 there was so little knowledge.”

The primary responsibilities of the RSU are: 

  • to provide research and data for policy making in the School 
  • organise courses based on production research methods, audience testing and the local/global industry structures 
  • Provide curriculum advice and background research.  

By 1976 the RSU would publish the first edition of the journal Media Information Australia, which is a research resource those interested in media.12

12 AFTS Annual Report: 80/81
CILECT Membership CILECT Membership

CILECT Membership

After gaining provisional membership in 1974, AFTS is admitted to full membership of Le Centre International de Liaison des Ecoles de Cinéma et de Télévision (CILECT), the International Association of Film and Television Schools.  

Changes to the Open Program
11th October 1976

Changes to the Open Program

A new training centre for the Open Program officially opens at 3 Lyon Park Road, near the school’s main premises. It boasts a black-and-white studio, a colour studio, two formal training rooms, and video editing and film editing rooms.

The Open Program no longer is split into Industry and Education sections either – all training is combined under the general Open (External) Program heading. 

New specialty workshops Produce, sound, camera, edit
April 1977

New specialty workshops

The third intake of fulltime students begin their study and for the first time, these 20 students are enrolled for their initial training into specialist workshops – production, sound, camera and editing (direction is available later in the course). This same year, four additional students begin the first one-year fulltime screenwriting course.1

1 1984/85 Handbook
22 students enter the industry First fulltime graduates
12th April 1978

22 students enter the industry

The first students of the Fulltime Program graduate on 12 April 197815 and include Diploma of Arts, Film and Television students Ian Allen, Martha Ansara, Michael Brindley, Annmarie Chandler, Barbara Chobocky, Marcus Cole, Gillian Coote, Peter Gray, Alexander (Sandy) Gutman, Paul Harmon, Kenneth Kelso, Gillian Leahy, Peita Letchford, Shalagh McCarthy, Sophia Turkiewicz, John Tweg, Jekabs Zalkans; Certificate of Proficiency, Film and Television (Writing) Gillian Burnett; and Certificate in Screenwriting graduates Vaughan Davies, Gary Deacon, Rivka Hartman and Stephen Wallace.15/16

15 1984/85 Handbook
16 1984/85 Handbook


Accreditation arrives Bachelor of Arts
August 1978

Accreditation arrives

The fulltime program is accredited by the Australian Territories Accreditation Committee for Advanced Education with the title ‘Diploma in Arts, Film and Television’.17

It is recommended for reaccreditation at a Bachelor of Arts, Film and Television degree level in 1984. When it does become a BA, it offers the following specialisations: Cinematography, Directing, Editing, Producing, Production Design, Scriptwriting and Sound.

Early graduates include: filmmaker Nicolette Freeman (1984), writer/director David Caesar (1986), cinematographer Jane Castle ACS (1986), writer/director Shirley Barrett (1987), writer/producer/director Kriv Stenders (1988), editor/writer Pip Karmel (1988), cinematographer Dion Beebe (1989) and writer/showrunner Belinda Chayko.18

17 1984/85 Handbook
18 AFTRS alumni website
Graduate Diploma in Media
September 1978

Graduate Diploma in Media

After a 1977 investigation into media education training, Council approve for a Graduate Diploma in Media to be designed in cooperation with tertiary education institutions to train teachers of media studies.

A pilot program with universities and colleges in Victoria and Western Australia is started in 1978, with New South Wales joining in 1979, South Australia in 1980 and Queensland in 1981. The course is the equivalent of one year of fulltime study but can be undertaken part time, between two and five years.

Students design their own study programs and take selected course units in one or more of the participating universities and colleges, together with workshops provided by the school. The Diploma is first accredited in August 1980 and by 1984 has already produced 53 graduates with another 310 enrolled.19

The last intake is in 1986 and the Diploma is phased out by 1992/93.

19 1984/85 Handbook
First Nations radio

First Nations radio

The School begins radio training programs for First Nations people in Perth, Hobart and Canberra following consultations with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in 1979. From 1981, the Open Program contributes to radio training courses for the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) in Alice Springs.20

20 AFTS Annual Report 1984/85
Armstrong’s Brilliant Career
16th May 1979

Armstrong’s Brilliant Career

The debut feature film of Gillian Armstrong – My Brilliant Career premieres at Cannes Film Festival In Competition for the Palme d’Or.21 It wins two BAFTA awards, six Australian Film Awards and marks the first feature-length film directed by a woman in Australia for almost 50 years.

Armstrong, who is one of the graduates of AFTRS Interim Training Scheme, goes on to direct feature films including Starstruck(1982), High Tide(1987), Mrs. Soffel(1984), Little Women(1994), Oscar and Lucinda (1997) and Charlotte Gray (2001), and the feature documentary Women He’s Undressed (2015).

Armstrong is the first president of the Australian Director’s Guild, was presented an ADG Outstanding Achievement Award in 2007, and is a Member of the Order of Australia for services to the local film industry.

21 https://www.newspapers.com/article/the-age/42267554/
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