Forty years after the Governor-General dismissed the Whitlam Government, we look at the NFSA’s digital preservation work on the surviving original news film shot on the day by Channel 7 camera operator Bob Wilesmith. See also Part One: The Dismissal through the news camera lens.
Mystery of the missing films
Bob Wilesmith’s footage is significant because, as far as we are aware, it is the only original film of this historical event that still exists. The Channel 7 news bulletin in which it featured is sadly no longer in existence. And mystery surrounds the fate of both the film shot by Ron Ashmore for Channel 9 and the ABC’s footage.
Former ABC archivist Wendy Borchers relates in Aunty’s Jubilee: Celebrating 50 Years of ABC Television (by Tim Bowden with Wendy Borchers):
Next morning, as soon as I came in to work, I put in a telephone call to Frank Reid, the Film editor at the ABC’s Canberra studios. I asked him to please package up all original reversal film of coverage of the momentous events of 11 November 1975, especially at Parliament House, by camera crews attached to News and This Day Tonight, and dispatch the lot to the Sydney library so arrangements could be made to have prints struck and the original film preserved and archived as a matter of urgency.