The Australian Film Institute was established in 1958 when the AFI held Australia’s first ever film excellence Awards – the AFI Awards – and since then has remained committed to connecting international audiences with great Australian film and television content.

The AFI is a not for profit, membership body, which encourages members of the public, screen enthusiasts and those studying and emerging in the industry to support its work in promoting great Australian screen content, practitioners and performers around the world.

Awarding screen excellence in Australia – A Brief History

The inaugural AFI Awards were held in 1958, when aside from a few overseas productions filmed in Australia, local production was limited to commercials and sponsored documentaries.

In these first AFI Awards, 30 entries were received across six categories. The following year the number doubled, and continued to steadily grow.

By the 1960s it had become clear that the AFI Awards were raising the standards of the Australian film industry by providing an incentive for filmmakers to achieve excellence and a means for them to receive public recognition.

The AFI was instrumental in the revival of the Australian film industry in the 1970’s, playing a central role in persuading the Gorton government to commit to the Experimental Film Fund, a film school and a corporation for feature investment, which allowed feature filmmaking in this country to become a legitimate and thriving industry.

In 1976, a special award for Best Film was created, and won by Fred Schepisi for The Devil’s Playground. This also marked the first year that the AFI Awards were televised to a national audience.

In 1986, television categories were included in the AFI Awards for the first time. The Television section has continued to expand and become an important feature of the Awards, with categories across drama, comedy and light entertainment.

In 2001 the AFI created two important roles for the organisation, that of AFI Patron (Dr George Miller) and AFI Ambassador (Cate Blanchett). With both screen industry luminaries on board, the AFI continued to increase recognition of the Australian screen industry on a global scale.

In 2005, the AFI Awards took a great step forward; with Russell Crowe secured as host and the Nine Network as broadcaster, the ceremony moved to a new dinner format attended by Australia’s biggest international stars. Geoffrey Rush took on the role of host for 2006 and 2007 and has been a champion for both the Awards and the organisation ever since.

Over the years, the AFI Awards also expanded to recognise special achievements via a slate of specific awards. From the prestigious Board-selected AFI Raymond Longford Award, to the Byron Kennedy Award, the AFI sought to acknowledge Australian practitioners across the entire career spectrum, working both locally and internationally.

Establishing an Australian Academy

Following the momentous 50th anniversary of the AFI in 2008, the most significant, positive change to happen in the history of the AFI was the establishment of the AFI’s industry engagement arm, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) in August 2011.

Australia’s highest screen accolades, formerly the AFI Awards, are now known as the AACTA Awards, which are a continuum of the proud heritage established by the AFI.

A list of AFI Award and AACTA Award winners and nominees can be found on the AACTA website.

Keep Connected

Today the AFI remains committed as always to connecting audiences around the world with Australia’s best practitioners, performers and productions. To learn more, and to connect with the AFI, see the membership section of the AFI site.

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