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Research Guides


Sound Recordings in the National Archives


3. Arts and Entertainment

The majority of sound records held by National Archives relate to arts and entertainment. The major creating agency of this material is the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), from 1983 the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The Head Office of the ABC is in Sydney, so a large quantity of ABC records is held in the Sydney Office of the National Archives. Much material created by State offices of the ABC is also held by the Sydney Office of the National Archives. 

This section lists series created by: 

  • the ABC, 
  • the Copyright Office, 
  • the Film Division, 
  • the Collector of Customs, Melbourne, 
  • the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 
  • the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), 
  • the National Archives of Australia, and
  • the Committee of Review of the Special Broadcasting Service. 

Australian Broadcasting Commission

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC), Head Office (CA 251) was established under the Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932

The Commission’s task was ‘to provide and broadcast from national broadcasting stations, adequate and comprehensive programmes’ and ‘to take in the interests of the community all such measures as… were conductive to the full development of suitable broadcasting programmes’.[34] The Commission was instructed and empowered to publish, on equal terms to other publishers, detailed information about its programs, to collect news, to encourage local talent and to seek to establish musical groups for the purpose of high quality broadcasts.[35] The Commission was a government-controlled body, closely modelled on the British Broadcasting Commission (BBC), responsible for broadcasting music, current affairs, religious, educational and other programs. 

Following an independent review of the Commission in 1979–81, the Australian Broadcasting Commission was abolished and replaced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (CA 3589) on 1 July 1983. 

Under the Australian Broadcasting Corporation Act 1983, the Corporation’s functions include the provision of innovative and comprehensive broadcasting and television services of a high standard involving programs that contribute to a sense of national identity; educate, inform and entertain; and reflect the cultural diversity of the Australian community. It is also responsible for the encouragement and promotion of the musical, dramatic and other performing arts in Australia, and the transmission of broadcasting and television programs to other nations. 

State branches of the Australian Broadcasting Commission were established in 1932. The Queensland Branch was responsible for regional offices in Rockhampton and Townsville as well as in Brisbane. The South Australian Branch was operationally responsible for the Northern Territory and the Broken Hill services until 1982 when the ABC Northern Territory Branch was established. A sound library was created in Adelaide in 1976, which combined the gramophone record library, the transcription library and the sound effects library. 

The ABC Document Archives is responsible for all paper records (and some audiovisual records) created by ABC federal and State offices. The Document Archives is the point of liaison between the ABC and the National Archives of Australia for the sentencing and transferral of records. Although primarily a program resource for the ABC, the Document Archives also provides a reference service for public researchers. 

The ABC Radio Archives controls all audio (and some paper) records created by ABC Radio. While primarily a program resource for ABC Radio program-makers, the Radio Archives also provides a reference service for public researchers. The Radio Archives is also the point of liaison between ABC Radio and the National Archives of Australia, mainly for records sentencing and transfer. 

The ABC Television Archives acts as a program resource for ABC Television. The Television Archives controls all audiovisual and some paper records produced by ABC Television. The Archives also selects programs for permanent retention according to the ABC Disposal Authority, and is the point of liaison between ABC Television and the National Archives. 

Record series created by the ABC are listed under the following sections: 

  • General; 
  • Entertainment; 
  • Interviews, Talks and Current Affairs; 
  • Literature; 
  • Music; and Sport. 


Some series are listed in several categories. Series listed in these sections, particularly those under ‘Interviews, Talks and Current Affairs’, often contain individual items on specific subjects. 

Some ABC series listed below include items relating to other subject categories used in this guide such Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People; Biography and Personal Papers; Commemorative and Historical Events; Health and Welfare; and Science. 

Continue ABC… 

Copyright Office 

The Commonwealth assumed responsibility for copyright matters in 1904. From 1907 copyright was administered by the Registrar of Copyright and the Copyright Office within the Patents Branch, which was also responsible for patents, trade marks and designs. From 1912 the Copyright Office operated as a separate entity, until 1930 when it became part of the Patent, Trade Marks, Designs and Copyright Office. 

After the proclamation of the Copyright Act 1968, registration of copyright was no longer provided under Commonwealth law and the Copyright Office was abolished. The associated functions of patents, trade marks and designs were then administered by the Patent, Trade Marks and Design Office. In 1992 this agency’s name was changed to the Australian Industrial Property Organisation (AIPO). Although AIPO did not have any copyright function, agencies previously responsible for the copyright function share its Commonwealth agency number (CA 555) because of the historical association between copyright, patents, trade marks and designs. In 1998, AIPO changed its name to IP Australia.

Film Division, Department of Information

The Department of Information was established in 1940, in order to centralise the direction and control of war-related information by the media. One of the agencies within the department was the Film Division, also known as the Commonwealth Film Unit, which coordinated government and commercial film interests and generally used the medium of film for national ends.

The Department of Information was abolished in 1950, and the functions performed by the Film Division were transferred to the newly created Australian News and Information Bureau. In 1972 the Department of the Media was created and was given responsibility for administering the Australian News and Information Bureau, including the Film Division. In 1973 the Film Division was renamed Film Australia, which became responsible for encouraging the development of film-making and the film industry through the Australian Film Commission.

Many series listed in this guide refer to the Film Australia Music Heritage Project. This project was a joint initiative between Australian Archives (now the National Archives), the National Film and Sound Archive (now ScreenSound Australia) and Film Australia undertaken in 1994. Much of the unique body of Australian musical composition amassed by Film Australia was transferred to the National Archives at this time to ensure both its proper preservation and its ready accessibility by the Australian public. The material includes original scores and supporting documentation as well as audio tapes.

SOUND RECORDINGS (MUSIC), 1946–68
Sydney
This series contains 78 rpm, 10" and 12" shellac discs from the transcription libraries of Chappell, Weinburger, Francis Day and Hunter, EMI, Boosey and Hawkes, Paxton Video Harmonic, Synchro and Bosworth. The condition of the bulk of these discs is poor.
Series: SP999/1
Quantity: 3.42 metres
Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–68 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670)
MASTER TAPES OF ORIGINAL SCORES (7" AND 5" TAPES), ALPHABETICAL, SERIES, 1946–88
Sydney
This series consists of master 1/4" tapes of original scores (5" mono masters and 7" stereo dubs), which are known as 'Film Australia Music Masters'. These tapes are a result of, and related to, series C4663, C4664 and C4666 (see pages 62–64) which were mixed down to 1/4" tape forming this series. This series was transferred to the Archives as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project. The collection is valuable as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition.
Series: C4765
Quantity: 17.28 metres
Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
The Jackaroo, 1960 C4765, FP1130
Mt Isa Copper – composer and conductor, Kurt Herweg, 1963 C4765, FP1534/1
The Water Dweller – composer, Arnold Butcher; conductor, Christopher Nicolls, 1967 C4765, FP19.017
Great Barrier Reef – composer, Don Burrows, 1967 C4765, FP19.023/2/1
Workout – composer and conductor, Les Dempsey, 1967 C4765, FP20.012
Sculpture in Australia – composer and conductor, Don Andrews, 1969 C4765, FP20.031
TAPES OF NON-ORIGINAL SCORES (10", 7" AND 5" TAPES), ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1946–88
Sydney
This series consists of 1/4" tapes of non-original scores (10", 7" and 5" tapes). These tapes are recordings of non-original music scores of films listed in series C4765 (see page 60). The tapes were separated into consignments according to the type of music and then format. The series contains popular and folk music, band and military music, classical music, and source music. It was transferred to the National Archives as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project.
Series: C4767
Quantity: 2.25 metres
Recorded by: Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
Belshazzer's Feast – Walton – R.C.M.S, Ad. Ph., Ad.h., L.P.O., SAR, roll 3, c1946 C4767, 6
Terra Australis – Clive Douglas, c1946 C4767, 23
Festival in Adelaide – selected items, c1946 C4767, FP1440
MASTER MUSIC GRAMOPHONE (ACETATE) RECORDINGS, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1946–88
Sydney
This series contains 26 gramophone discs that were cut to provide easier access to the original score collection when re-using the music for other films. It was transferred as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project. The collection is of value as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition.
Series: C4769
Quantity: 0.24 metres
Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
Tree Business (NAA: C4765, FP1828), c1964 C4769, 13CUT2
Aborigines of Australia (NAA: C4765, FP1527), c1961 C4769, 15CUT1
Kangaroos (NAA: C4765, FP21.021), c1967 C4769, 18CUT1
Roof Topics (NAA: C4765, FP23.039), c1969 C4769, 21CUT1
7" AND 5" DEMONSTRATION TAPES, ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1946–88
Sydney
This series consists of 7" and 5" demonstration tapes sent to Film Australia by various composers in the hope of gaining work. This series was transferred as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project.
Series: C4794
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
FILM AUSTRALIA ODDMENTS (5" TAPES), ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1946–88
Sydney
This series consists of seven 5" tapes with various titles. It was transferred to the Archives as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project and is of value as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition. Unfortunately, apart from a listing, no other information was received about these tapes.
Series: C4809
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1946–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
Unknown Land, Sketches, Buggy, c1960 C4809, NN
Namatjira, c1960 C4809, NN
Roof of Australia, c1960 C4809, NN
Hector and Millie – dubbing copy, c1970 C4809, NN
FA Christmas Carols, 1965–66 C4809, NN
ORIGINAL MUSIC MASTER 17.5 MM, 35 MM AND SPROCKETED MAGNETIC FILM, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1947–65
Sydney
This series is part of a collection of records of original music written for films produced at Film Australia and its predecessors from 1946 to 1988. The collection is unique as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition and is a part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project. This series is arranged by a single number. It consists of 1/2", 17.5 mm and 35mm sprocketed magnetic film from which the mono or stereo 1/4" master tapes were mixed and which are controlled as a separate series.
Series: C4663
Quantity: 5.04 metres
Recorded by: 1947–50 Film Division, Department of Information (CA 1670); 1950–65 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670)
This Land Australia – Antill, 1957 C4663, 806
Australia Now – Dreyfus, 1965 C4663, 1706
Canberra – Dreyfus, 1968 C4663, 1815
LOCATION (AUDIO) TAPES AND DOCUMENTATION, FILM PRODUCTIONS, 1960–
Sydney
This series consists of 1/4" location magnetic audio tapes of various lengths, mainly 600 and 900 feet, although there is also some support documentation and cassette and digital audio tapes. The tapes are mostly unedited sound recordings taken on site at film locations. There are also some pre-recorded sound effects and theme tapes. Some earlier tapes were recorded by, or in conjunction with, other agencies including the ABC, BBC, United Nations and radio stations 2SM and 2UE.
Series: C4290
Quantity: 176.76 metres
Recorded by: 1960–68 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973– Film Australia (CA 1669)
The Real Flying Doctors, 1990–91 C4290, B91–025
Australians at Their Best – from Workers to Warriors, 1992 C4290, C92–101
SAFETY RECORDINGS (10" TAPES), ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1965
Sydney
This series consists of six tapes (10" tapes). These tapes were made in 1965 during the changeover from ABC studios to the newer, multi-track studios. They are duplicates of recordings held in the mono collection (see C4765 on page 60) but are not edited, thereby providing a useful insight into recording practices of the day. This series was transferred to the Archives as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project for the Centenary of Cinema. The collection is of value as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition.
Series: C4768
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1965 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670)
Nullarbor Hideout, c1946 C4768, FP1715
Wagga Wagga ('Life in Australia'), c1946 C4768, FP1752
Geraldton, ('Life in Australia', roll 2), c1946 C4768, FP1814/1
FILMS OF ABORIGINAL CULTURE, ETHNOGRAPHIC FILMS, 1965–73
Sydney
Series: C1164
Quantity: 34.56 metres
Recorded by: 1965–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670)
Desert People – Pintubi Aboriginals in the Western Desert (video cassette), 1966 C1164, FP1825
Namatjira the Painter (video cassette), 1974 C1164, FP26022 part 1
Namatjira the Painter – revised version (video cassette), 1974 C1164, FP26022 part 2
ORIGINAL MUSIC MASTER 17.5 MM, 35 MM, 1/2" AND 1" SPROCKETED MAGNETIC FILM, TWO NUMBER SERIES, 196x5–78
Sydney
This series consists of 17.5 mm, 35mm, 1" and 2" sprocketed magnetic film from which the mono or stereo master tapes were mixed. The series is arranged by a two-number system with the first number representing a year and the second number being consecutive. The series is incomplete and is part of a collection of records consisting of original music written for films produced at Film Australia and its predecessors from 1946 to 1988. The collection is unique as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition and is a part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project.
Series: C4664
Quantity: 6.12 metres
Recorded by: 1965–73 Film Division, Australian News and Information Bureau (CA 1670); 1973–78 Film Australia (CA 1669)
The Water Dwellers – Butcher, 1967 C4664, 19.017
Australian Diary – titles – composer and conductor: Bob Young and Sven Libaek, 1967 C4664, 20.003
RECORDINGS OF AUSTRALIAN OPERA (7" TAPES), ALPHABETICAL SERIES WITH SINGLE NUMBER IMPOSED, 1976
Sydney
This series consists of 7" tapes containing recordings of Australian Opera. This series was transferred as part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project.
Series: C4802
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1976 Film Australia (CA 1669)
Lakme – Delibes – Australian Opera – dress rehearsal (tape 1), 1976 C4802, 1
Coo-ee – music rehearsal (master dub 1), 1976 C4802, P87.905
ORIGINAL MUSIC MASTER 35 MM AND 2" SPROCKETED MAGNETIC FILM, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1978–88
Sydney
This series consists of 35mm and 2" sprocketed magnetic film from which mono or stereo 1/4" master tapes were mixed. It is arranged by annual single numbers, but many of the recordings have decayed and have been destroyed. The series is part of a collection of records consisting of original music written for films produced at Film Australia and its predecessors from 1946 to 1988. The collection is unique as it constitutes a large body of Australian composition and is a part of the Film Australia Music Heritage Project.
Series: C4666
Quantity: 3.96 metres
Recorded by: 1978–88 Film Australia (CA 1669)
Capital Canberra – Brumby, 1980 C4666, 78.044
Kokos Pops – A History of Music – Calcraft, 1981 C4666, 80.048

Collector of Customs, Melbourne

From Federation, the Customs function was exercised by the Commonwealth through the Department of Trade and Customs. The functions of the Collector of Customs included the censorship of imported materials.

GRAMOPHONE DISCS, C1950–68
Sydney
This series is a collection of 12" gramophone discs with covers, imported mainly from the United States of America and England. It appears that these items were examined for censorship purposes.
Series: C4489
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1950–68 Collector of Customs, Melbourne (CA 789)
Rugby Songs Volume Three, sung by The Jock Strapp Ensemble, c1960 C4489, 15
The Best of Ruth Wallis, c1960 C4489, 32

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

'AUSTRALIAN FILM MUSIC', TAPE OF BACKGROUND MUSIC TO THE FILM THE WAR DEAD OF THE BRITISH COMMONWEALTH, 1962
Canberra
This series consists of a magnetic tape recording of classical music made by the London Office of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and sent to the ANZAC agency of the Commission in 1962. The tape was specifically made for the film The War Dead of the British Commonwealth (Australian version). (See series A5424, 'Films Illustrating the Work of the Imperial and the Commonwealth War Graves Commissions'.)
Series: A5423
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1962 Department of the Interior (II), ANZAC Agency for the Pacific Region, Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CA 31)

Special Broadcasting Service

The Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) commenced in 1978 under the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act 1977. The Act established a body with the functions of providing multilingual broadcasting services and broadcasting and television services for such special purposes as are prescribed.

SOUND RECORDING '3EA MELBOURNE – A PROFILE', 1980
Sydney
This single item series consists of an audio cassette giving information about radio station 3EA, the ethnic broadcasting station of SBS in Melbourne. The cassette contains information about the programs and languages broadcast by 3EA, and gives a brief history of the Special Broadcasting Service.
Series: C1535
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1980 Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), Radio 3EA (CA 2922)

National Archives of Australia

The following series of sound recordings were made or purchased by the National Archives or donated to it.

BBC STUDY TAPES, 1980–81
Sydney
These tapes were recorded by the BBC and are now owned and used by the National Archives for reference purposes.
Series: C5044
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1980–81 Australian Archives, New South Wales (CA 1726)
Dylan Thomas (1914–53), 1978 C5044, 18
Talks about Talking and the Infancy of Speech, 1971 C5044, 62
SOUND RECORDINGS DONATED TO AUSTRALIAN ARCHIVES, NEW SOUTH WALES, 1980–
Sydney
Series: C108
Quantity: 1.70 metres
Recorded by: 1980–98 Australian Archives, New South Wales (CA 1726); 1998– National Archives of Australia, Sydney (CA 8559)
Vic Patrick v Tod Morgan (boxing match) – 2UW Sydney, parts 1 and 3, c1940 C108, 2
Official Congress Record – XXIXth Eucharist Congress, Sydney – Ave Verurm Corpus, Tu Es Petrus, 1928 C108, ECI
'A History of British Music', parts 1 to 13, 1953–54 C108, LMZ569– LMZ585
SOUND RECORDINGS MADE BY AUSTRALIAN ARCHIVES, NSW BRANCH, 1980–
Sydney
This series consists of items recorded off-air by the NSW Office of the Archives on topics of relevance to the organisation. The recordings include parliamentary debates on legislation related to the Archives, freedom of information and copyright; sessions of conferences such as the International Association of Sound Archives; and material about events of national significance such as the 1983 Economic Summit.
Series: C1575
Quantity: 2.97 metres
Recorded by: 1980–98 Australian Archives, New South Wales (CA 1726); 1998– National Archives of Australia, Sydney (CA 8559)
History and Film Conference 1981, cassette 1, panel discussion – 'Film Archives', 1981 C1575, 1981/5
'The Law Report' – FOI (freedom of information) broadcast (on) ABC Radio, 1985 C1575, 1985/1
Sound recordings of the press conference held at Australian Archives, ACT, 1984 on the release of the 'Petrov Papers', 1984 C1575, tape 15
SOUND RECORDINGS PURCHASED BY AUSTRALIAN ARCHIVES, NEW SOUTH WALES, 1981–
Sydney
Series: C109
Quantity: 0.3 metres
Recorded by: 1981–98 Australian Archives, New South Wales (CA 1726); 1998– National Archives of Australia, Sydney (CA 8559)
A Tribute to Blue Hills, by Gwen Meredith (includes episodes 5577–80), c1965–92 C109, ISBN 0642129657

Committee of Review of the Special Broadcasting Service

The Committee of Review of the Special Broadcasting Service was established in December 1983 to examine the role of the Special Broadcasting Service.

AUDIO CASSETTE RECORDINGS, 1984
Sydney
These recordings relate to the review of the Special Broadcasting Service.
Series: C1035
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1984 Committee of Review of the Special Broadcasting Service (CA 4147)

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