Film Australia (now Screen Australia) began in 1945, when the Australian National Film Board (ANFB) was established to produce documentary films. The following year, Stanley Hawes began work as its first producer in chief, remaining in that position until 1956. When the National Film Board became the Australian Commonwealth Film Unit (ACFU) that year, Hawes continued to oversee the new company's productions until 1969. The ACFU became Film Australia in 1973, a few years after Hawes retired. On 1 July 2008, Film Australia was merged with the Australian Film Commission (AFC) and Film Finance Corporation (FFC) to form Screen Australia. All assets and obligations of Film Australia were subsequently transferred to the new body.
Before becoming Screen Australia, Film Australia was one of the nation's leading producers of television documentaries and educational programs. Film Australia produced programs under the National Interest Program (NIP), an initiative of the Australian Government to devise, produce, distribute, and market productions that deal with matters of national interest or illustrate and interpret aspects of Australian life. Additional funding for a ten-part series on Australian history was provided by the government in 2005. Film Australia was the executive producer of these productions, drawing the creative and technical talent needed to produce them from Australia's independent documentary production industry. In addition to its own programs and productions, the company provided support to the Australian documentary sector through a range of services and facilities under its Community Service Obligations.
Over the years, the Film Australia Library built up a collection of more than 5000 titles and 150,000 photographs, reflecting a century of Australia's history. This unique archive of footage and stills is still available to the production industry through Screen Australia.
Film Australia Digital Learning was set up to initiate projects that targeted the developing market for educational resources, primarily for delivery online. It drew largely on the materials in the Film Australia Library, and created opportunities for documentary filmmakers and multimedia producers in education and new media production.
Another division, Film Australia Distribution, marketed both National Interest Program productions and independently produced documentaries to Australian and international broadcasters and to libraries, schools, universities, and community groups.
Film Australia Studios (now Screen Australia Studios) was established in Sydney. A purpose-built film and television production facility, it comprises screening venues, a sound stage, sound post-production facilities, a film laboratory, production offices, and editing and transfer suites. These are used by the organisation itself, by low-budget independent film and television producers, and by long-term tenants who operate production facilities and service companies.