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BY ANNA YATES
Television Archivist Bronwyn Barnett’s career with the NFSA began in 2000 in the Canberra office in Client Access. She is now based in Melbourne with the Sound and Broadcast Division. Bronwyn’s role encompasses managing news and current affairs programs, regional broadcasters, TV acquisitions and curating television material for the NFSA website.
A move to Sydney in 2000, to accommodate her cameraman husband’s work on the Olympics, just six months after starting in Canberra, saw Bronwyn take up an administrative position for 12 months. Following that came the move to her now home, Melbourne. Bronwyn explains, ‘We had the opportunity to buy part of the house that my husband’s grandfather built and we’d always wanted to move to Melbourne, which is where he’s from originally. So we took a leap of faith!’
In Melbourne Bronwyn’s initial three-month contract involved cataloguing work and collection development. When the Film, TV and Sound branch was formed in 2006 Bronwyn began her current role.
Bronwyn started her career in her home town of Canberra at the city’s first commercial television station, CTC-7, fresh out of school in 1985. Starting with a variety of switchboard, admin and typing roles, she moved into production as a Producer/Director’s Assistant. Her very first production was a 12-part series presented by Bill Hunter on the history of film, TV, sound and radio in Australia. The Australian Image was actually a collaboration with the NFSA, making use of items in the collection, and remains in the NFSA collection today.
Multi-tasking was the name of the game in the early days of Canberra television and Bronwyn worked across news and current affairs, music and sports programs.
In 1988 at the age of 21, Bronwyn and her high school friend travelled overseas for 10 months, a trip they began planning while still at school. They visited the USA, Europe and Egypt. A love of all things 1950s - rock‘n’roll, rockabilly, movies and fashion - led them to Graceland in Memphis and then the town of Fairmount, Indiana, home of James Dean. Here they achieved minor celebrity status making the front page of the local newspaper (see below) and local residents soon sought them out to hear their exotic Aussie accents!
On her return to Australia, CTC immediately offered Bronwyn another role. This time there was no multi-tasking as staff and budgets had increased dramatically and she became vision switcher for the news.
When a new General Manager began at the station Bronwyn was appointed as his executive assistant and from there moved to programming, publicity and promotions. Promotional work included a trip with The Simpsons to Dubbo and an opportunity to meet the likes of Ita Buttrose, Jeannie Little and Florence Henderson – Mrs Carol Brady!
On leaving CTC in 1999 Bronwyn had a brief but complete departure from TV and worked in the Attorney-General’s Department before ultimately finding her way to the NFSA in 2000.
Bronwyn says one of the best parts of her job is looking through collections, particularly retrospective news collections, and finding significant stories to bring to life again online, in curated collections. Being married to a news cameraman has it's advantages too, 'Michael is very helpful in answering questions on early news gathering techniques and identifying news and studio cameras when we acquire photos of old television equipment'.
Bronwyn's favourites item is a silent piece of video footage showing CTC-7 General Manager, George Barlin and Chairman of the Board, Arthur Shakespeare walking through the bush to the site of Canberra’s first television studio and transmitter.
Although to the outsider this can simply look like ‘two blokes walking through the bush’, to her it signifies something much more. ‘For me that footage is really special. I was at the station for 14 years and it was a real family. People came and went but there was a real sense of pride and joy and ownership. The people who worked there are spread far and wide now but we’re still in touch. There was a real camaraderie there. It was such a great training ground. So that footage for me shows the start of something much more than just bricks and mortar.’