Singer Kasey Chambers shot from the chest up looking directly at camera, one side of her body is partially obscured

Annual report 2017-18

Annual report 2017-18: About Us

About Us


The vision of the National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) is to be Australia’s ‘living’ archive – relevant, engaging and accessible to the world.


In accordance with the National Film and Sound Archive Act 2008 (the NFSA Act), our reason for being is to collect, preserve and share Australia’s national audiovisual collection and to make it available to audiences worldwide for enjoyment, learning, insight and creativity.


Committed        We care about what we do.

Authentic          We are sincere in our intentions and actions.

Ambitious         We strive for excellence through continual improvement and innovation.

Collaborative    We work together to achieve results.


The NFSA is the custodian of the national audiovisual collection. The collection houses items such as film (including volatile nitrate film), wax cylinders and antique disc formats, magnetic steel wire and tape used to record audio and later video, and examples of the machinery used to play back these recordings. The collection is constantly evolving; it ranges from the analogue era to the digital age and includes the latest digital files produced by today’s media creators and professionals. A large part of the collection is made up of documentation and artefacts, ranging from costumes and set pieces to posters, still photographs, scripts and oral history interviews with a range of people from the creative industries.

The national audiovisual collection represents the cultural diversity and breadth of experience of all Australians and is the most significant and engaging place for encounters with our memories, stories, creativity and imagination. Recorded sound and moving image are perhaps the most vivid forms of expression known to humanity. These technologies capture a living record of people, places, and events—a record of who we are and were, and of who we want to be.

The current size of the collection is approximately 2.9 million items and it is valued at over $247 million. We invest operational and capital funds along with management and staff expertise to ensure the collection is stored securely and preserved through conservation treatment and digitisation for ongoing accessibility for future generations.

Audiovisual recording formats are often physically fragile and quickly become obsolete as technology changes. Their preservation is a costly and highly-specialised field of heritage protection, and our techniques and approaches evolve along with the media and entertainment industries’ development. In a converged, digital environment collections are not preserved once and for all; they are being preserved through an ongoing process of format-shifting and data migration.


In planning for the future, we recognise a number of challenges that affect our environment and our work.

Digitise or perish

We are tasked with ensuring the long–term availability of the national audiovisual collection—an integral part of Australia’s cultural memory. Long-term availability means much more than just preserving collections in storage—it is to share and interpret the content so audiences can use, enjoy and be enriched by it.

Large–scale digitisation of cultural collections increases their discoverability. Case studies from overseas demonstrate that a significant equity injection into the sector is required to digitise a critical mass of film, broadcast and recorded sound. While we already undertake a significant amount of digitisation work on the national audiovisual collection, if large-scale digitisation is not addressed the majority of the collection will be rendered inaccessible in a digital environment.

Budget pressures

Having sufficient funds to adequately invest in critical digital infrastructure and programs that promote preserving and sharing the national audiovisual collection within a tight fiscal environment is a significant challenge for us. A key priority for the organisation is maximising our revenue base, both from government and private sources, and using our existing resources in the most efficient and effective manner possible.

Audience expectations

Over the past two decades we have witnessed a fundamental transformation of the technological, social and economic environment for audiovisual production, as well as increased appreciation of audiovisual media. Traditional business models cease or innovate, and new modes of engaging with audiovisual content emerge at an accelerated pace driven by the internet, social media and mobile technology. To foster a meaningful and participatory engagement with the national audiovisual collection for people in Australia and beyond, we need to embrace the notion of our audiences’ collective ownership of their national estate. In addition to granting access, we wish to share our collection and make it relevant for Australians—and international communities—from all walks of life, in metropolitan, regional, rural and remote areas.

Content regulation

The core functions of the NFSA involving the national audiovisual collection and related material must be undertaken in compliance with content regulation (covering copyright, technological protection measures and classification), which does not always recognise the activities of cultural institutions. One of our vital functions is to share the collection with the broader public, while working within the existing regulatory frameworks. Copyright is a significant challenge for us as custodian of the national audiovisual collection, because copyright in the majority of the audiovisual collection and related content is owned by third parties. This requires us and our clients to obtain licences from rights owners for many uses. We continue to pursue solutions through reliance on available exceptions, stakeholder relationships, process improvement and advocacy for reforming relevant regulation.


In our 2016–2020 Strategic Plan we set five strategic priorities to help us deliver against our purpose, to strive towards achieving our vision and to respond to the challenges of our current environment.

Our strategic priorities Outcome
Priority 1 A ’living’ archive – for everyone Australia’s national audiovisual collection is accessible to all for enjoyment, study, and cultural and creative re-use.
Priority 2 Collecting and preserving The national audiovisual collection is developed and preserved to the highest curatorial standards.
Priority 3 Developing leadership in the digital environment We will be a leader in the stewardship of Australia’s digital audiovisual collections, and collaborate across all tiers of government to advance the digitisation and discoverability of Australia’s audiovisual collection.
Priority 4 Indigenous connections We will work with Indigenous communities and partners to showcase Indigenous Australian stories and works, provide training opportunities in audiovisual conservation and ensure the appropriate management of Indigenous audiovisual collection materials.
Priority 5 Capability and maximising our resources We will be sustainable, work within our means and conduct our activities efficiently and in innovative ways, reaching more people.