A gold Academy Award statue seen from the waist up, with a man clutching the handle of a sword

Australia's first Oscar

Australia's first Oscar

Awarded to Ken G Hall in 1943
 Beth Taylor

The NFSA holds Australia’s first ever Oscar which was awarded to Cinesound Review’s chief director Ken G Hall (1901–1994) in 1943 for Kokoda Front Line! (1942). Learn more about Australian films at the Oscars in our curated collection.

Kokoda Front Line!, also known as Cinesound Review No 568, is a powerful example of wartime propaganda and was filmed by cinematographer Damien Parer. Parer was sent to film the war by the Department of Information. The newsreel shows the gruelling conditions Australian troops experienced on the Kokoda track in the jungles of New Guinea during the Second World War.

The inscription on the Oscar reads: ‘To Kokoda Front Line! for its effectiveness in portraying simply yet forcefully the scene of war in New Guinea and for its moving presentation of the bravery and fortitude of our Australian comrades in arms.’

Kokoda Front Line! was one of four films that shared the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1943. According to Ray Edmondson, Curator Emeritus of the NFSA, it was the only newsreel to ever be awarded an Oscar.

In an oral history recorded in 1985, Hall recalls that being awarded the Oscar was a ‘great joy and delight to all my people and to me especially because I’d had a fair amount to do with it’.

At first Hall was sent an ersatz gunmetal Oscar because gold and metals were scarce during the war. Then in 1945 he was presented with the real Oscar, which is the one in the NFSA collection. Hall specified in his will that the Oscar should be archived as a tribute to Damien Parer – ‘to his bravery, skill and endurance … He made it possible.’ Parer was killed in action in 1944.

Hall is believed to have made two copies of the ersatz plaque in gun metal – one for Cinesound and one for Damien Parer. Both the State Library of NSW and the Australian War Memorial hold an ersatz Oscar in their collection.

Here is a clip of Hall on The Mike Walsh Show talking about the two Oscars:

This is a clip from The Mike Walsh Show: Episode 8045. Courtesy Mike Walsh AM, OBE Hayden Productions. NFSA title: 1244341.

Preserving the Oscar

We spoke with Belinda Hunt, Team Leader of Conservation and Collection at the NFSA, about the condition of the Oscar in 2020 and how it is stored at the NFSA:

Belinda Hunt, Team Leader of Conservation and Collection at the NFSA, talks about Australia's first Oscar, 2020

If anyone reading this has an Oscar lying around that they would like to donate to the NFSA we promise to take very good care of it!

See more about Kokoda Front Line! and other Australian Films at the Oscars.