AACTA Awards

AACTA Awards
Current: 10th AACTA Awards
AACTA Award statuette
Awarded for "To recognise and honour outstanding achievement in the Australian film and television industry."[1]
Country Australia
Presented by Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA)
First awarded Founded as the Australian Film Institute Awards (AFI Awards) 1958; 62 years ago (1958) (to honour achievements of 1957/1958)
Website http://www.aacta.org
Television/radio coverage
Network ABC (1977, 1980–83, 1986–87, 1989–90, 1993, 1995, 1997, 2003–04)
SBS (1998–2000)
Seven Network (1978, 2001, 2016–)
Nine Network (1976, 2005–12)
Ovation (2004)
Network Ten (1985, 2002, 2013–15)
Arena (2013–present)

The Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, known as the AACTA Awards, are presented annually by the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA). The awards recognise excellence in the film and television industry, both locally and internationally, including the producers, directors, actors, writers, and cinematographers. It is the most prestigious awards ceremony for the Australian film and television industry. They are generally considered to be the Australian counterpart of the Academy Awards for the U.S. and the BAFTA Awards for the U.K.

The awards, previously called Australian Film Institute Awards or AFI Awards, began in 1958, and involved 30 nominations across six categories. They expanded in 1986 to cover television as well as film. The AACTA Awards were instituted in 2011.[2][3] The AACTA International Awards, inaugurated on 27 January 2012, are presented every January in Los Angeles.[4]


1958–2010: AFI Awards

The awards were presented annually by the Australian Film Institute (AFI) as the Australian Film Institute Awards (more commonly known as the AFI Awards), "to recognise and honour outstanding achievement in the Australian film and television industry."[1] They were instituted in 1958, "as a way to improve the impoverished state of Australian cinema", and was part of the Melbourne International Film Festival (known then as the Melbourne Film Festival) until 1972.[5][6] The first AFI Awards ceremony consisted of seven fields: Documentary, Educational, Advertising, Experimental Film, Public Relations and Teaching, and an Open category for other films which didn't fit in the aforementioned categories.[2][5]

Between 1958–1980, submitted films were presented with a gold, silver or bronze prize, and in some circumstances, a Grand Prix award, which was the highest honour a film could receive.[7][8] Additionally, films were also presented with a gold or silver medallion for technical achievements, and films which didn't receive a prize were given a certificate of honourable mention.[9][10][11] From the awards inception to 1968, documentary and educational films were the only films submitted for awards due to few feature films produced in Australia, but in 1969, Jack and Jill: A Postscript became the first feature film to receive an award from the AFI, with a silver prize in the "Open" category, and is considered a winner in the Best Film category of the current awards.[9][12][13]

Up until 1970, prizes were handed out in recognition of the film and production, rather than achievements of individual filmmakers and crafts people. However, from 1971 special achievement awards were introduced to recognise actors, directors, screenwriters, musicians, editors and cinematographers in feature films, and from 1975, an additional cash prize was given per achievement.[14][15] In 1977 feature film categories became competitive, while non-feature films continued to be awarded the gold, silver and bronze prizes until 1981, when they also became competitive.[8][15][16]

In 1976 the awards were broadcast live on television for the first time on the Nine Network at the Hilton Hotel in Melbourne.[17] In 1986 television categories were introduced, presenting awards for mini-series and telefeatures before expanding to dramas, comedies and documentaries in the 1990s.[18][19][20]

2011–present: AACTA Awards

Actress Diana Glenn with an AACTA Award in 2012.

In June 2011, the AFI announced an industry consultation for an "Australian Academy".[21] The aim of the Academy is to create awareness for Australian film in local and international markets and to improve the way the AFI rewards practitioners with the formation of an "Honorary Council".[22] Of the announcement Damian Trewhella, CEO of the AFI said, "We thought a better way to engage with the industry would be to try and improve our professional membership structure...It's quite a big improvement on the way the AFI does things."[23] The consultation period ended in July 2011 and on 20 July it was announced that the AFI would go ahead with the Australian Academy with Trewhella stating that "[The AFI] envisage that this will lead to greater opportunities for those working in the industry, as well as greater audience recognition and connection with Australian screen content."[24]

The name of the new Academy was revealed on 18 August 2011 as the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA), with the awards renamed to the AACTA Awards.[25] Prior to this announcement, the awards date and location was changed to January 2012 at the Sydney Opera House in Sydney as opposed to Melbourne where it was held for the majority of the AFI Awards history.[26] The date change was made to align the awards with the international awards season.[26] When the Academy announced the dates for the inaugural awards season, they introduced awards which "recognise international excellence within the categories of best film, acting, writing and direction".[27] On 23 November 2011, it was announced that the first award to be handed out since the Academy's inception is the Longford Lyell Award, which was presented to Don McAlpine for his contribution to cinematography, at the inaugural awards luncheon.[28]

Rules and voting

To be eligible for nomination, a production must be an Australian production or program and, in the case of a film, cannot have been previously submitted for consideration; the material is sent to the AFI in DVD or video formats; for a feature film, it must have been publicly exhibited for seven consecutive days in at least two Australian states; for television and documentaries, the production must have been broadcast on television between the eligibility period.[29][30][31] The submission of a production is accompanied by an entry fee in Australian dollars, of up to A$1680 for feature films, $400 for documentaries, $330 for short film and animation and $1125 for television categories.[32]

At the time of the awards inception, a jury of five judges, composed of film critics and filmmakers, determined the winner of a production.[6] In 1976, the jury system was replaced by a peer voting process for feature films which would allow public members the right to vote, but only in the Best Film category.[33][34] The nominees and winners were later peer-voted by a jury which was made up of representatives from all industry crafts, including members of guilds, who have a "professional membership" with the AFI.[35][36]
When the AFI announced the launch of the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, it introduced the Chapters who vote through a two step voting process.[37] The fifteen Chapters consist of professionals from industry guilds and organisations including actors, producers, directors and screenwriters.[22][38] In round one of feature film voting, each chapter determines the nominees for their own respective category; in round two all members of the Academy can vote for the shortlisted nominees in each category to determine the winner.[39] All television and non-feature film awards, and feature film pre-selection are determined by juries.[39] Members of the Australian Film Institute are eligible to vote in the Best Short Fiction Film, Best Short Animation, and Audience Choice award categories only.[39] The votes are audited by accounting firm Ernst and Young from 2011.[40]


AACTA Awards Statuette on Red Carpet in 2014.

Throughout the history of the awards there have been several differently designed awards given to winners. Most notable ones given are: the "Kodak film award", a gold, silver or bronze medal, which was handed out from 1958–1975; the Grand Prix award which was a "bronze leaf shaped award mounted on a square wooden base", also presented between 1958 and 1975;[41] a statuette, made of acrylic on a silver metal base, handed out from 1979–2010; and a gold statuette, based on the Southern Cross constellation, which has been in use since 2012 for the 2011 AACTA Awards.

A medal was used between 1958 and 1975 as a gold, silver or bronze prize and depicted "three leaping jesters. Around left side, film strip with leaping jester in each frame. Around right side: THE KODAK FILM AWARD".[42][43] The medal, which was designed by Andor Mészáros, represents two elements of film-making: the leaping jesters represent what the audience sees on screen; the roll of film on the right symbolises the individual frames which capture the motion depicted.[42] It was designed in Melbourne, Victoria and minted by John Pinchas in London, in 1958.[42]

The statuette used between 1979 and 2010 is made of "four clear acrylic rectangular prisms on a silver metal base, green felt on bottom"; a plaque, which is attached to the base, has the "afi" insignia, with the words "Australian Film Institute" beneath it; a description of the award category, the recipient of the award, and the film title cascade below each other.[44] The statuette stands at 295mm in height, 70mm in width and 70mm in depth.[44]

When the Australian Film Institute launched the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts, it set out to create a new gold cast statuette.[45] The statuette, which will be handed out from 2012, for the inaugural AACTA Awards, had to "reflect the prestige and heritage of the Awards[...] but which was above all distinctly Australian", while incorporating the Southern Cross constellation and the human spirit.[45] After receiving submissions from Australian artists, with their interpretations of the design brief, a statuette designed by sculptor Ron Gomboc became the winning design.[45] The statuette, which has a 22 karat gold body, whose human form takes on the shape of the Southern Cross, on a tiger iron gemstone base, was designed over three months at Gomboc's home in Western Australia, before it was presented to the AFI board in June 2011.[45][46][47] Gomboc worked with stone artist, Richard Williamson, who cut and polished each individual gemstone base for the statuette, with each base representing "[...] the unique talent and contribution to the industry of every AACTA Award recipient."[45][46] When the statuette was unveiled at the launch of the Academy by Geoffrey Rush, he announced that a competition to name the award would commence, where people could log onto the Academy's Facebook page and post potential names on its wall.[48] In the media it was well received, with Gary Maddox from the Sydney Morning Herald comparing it to the previous statuette, stating that it, "looks less like a lethal doorstop and more like a stylised Oscar, possibly Oscar's flamboyant brother waving 'hi'".[49] The AACTA Award statuette remains the property of the Australian Film Institute, and is to remain with the winner and their heirs and descendants.[50] It cannot be sold to a third party and if it were to part from the winner or their heir and descendants, the Academy reserves the right to repurchase it for one dollar.[50] The award may, however, have its ownership transferred to a museum, gallery or other not-for-profit institution, at the AFI's discretion.[50]


The awards were first presented in 1958 during the Melbourne Film Festival at Melbourne University's Union Theatre.[6] Since its inception, the awards have been predominantly presented in Melbourne but the event has alternated in there and Sydney during the 1990s and 2000s (decade).[51] Awards are handed out over two separate events; the AACTA Awards Luncheon, a black tie event where accolades are given for achievements in non-feature and short films, film production (with the exception of the Best Film, Direction and Screenplay awards), non-drama related television programs and the Longford Lyell Award; the AACTA Awards Ceremony presents the awards in all other categories at a larger venue and is broadcast on television.[52][53] Awards were presented at the end of each calendar year (November or December) to celebrate film achievements of the corresponding year but beginning in 2012, the awards date was changed to January to celebrate films from the previous year.[26][21][54]

List of AACTA ceremonies

Award Categories

Hosts / television coverage

Criticisms and controversies

There have been controversial decisions of the Australian Film Institute Awards that have led to claims that it has broken its own rules by including an unscreened mini series in the 2005 awards judging:

The controversy is a blow for the institute, which after years of criticism this year revamped its awards in an effort to restore credibility. Producer John Edwards, who collected seven nominations for Foxtel's Love My Way, did not enter a second drama series, The Surgeon, because it missed the screening deadline. "If I'd known it was this flexible, of course I would have entered it," Edwards said. "Awards are useless if they break their own rules."[59]

AFIA has also been criticised for narrow selection of artists for award nominations and an unfair judging process.[60]

There has also been controversy over both the exclusion and inclusion of films that are technically Australian productions, but are made overseas, with foreign funding and/or foreign talent.

See also