The earliest motion pictures filmed in Australia

Listed below are motion pictures taken in the last years of the 19th century (i.e. before 1 January 1901) in any of the Australian colonies – New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, and Queensland.

Edison's kinetoscopes were exhibited in the country from the end of November 1894 (and continued to be on show even after projected motion pictures were intro­duced in August 1896), but no taking of motion pictures is known to have occurred until after the arrival of the Lumière representative, Marius Sestier, on 16 September 1896.

With current knowledge, the first motion picture successfully shot and produced in Australia was Passengers leaving s.s. Brighton at Manly, Sydney on Sunday afternoon, filmed by Sestier on 4 October 1896. There is good reason to think that his Patineur grotesque was shot even earlier, but (as yet) there is no evidence to support this.

For what came next see Australian films of the first decade of the 20th century.

Australian-made motion pictures of 1896 - 1900

N.B.: some of the information below is provisional, and requires further research.

Film title or description
[* = a copy of the film exists]
Date of
public showing
in Australia
Patineur grotesque * 1896 Marius Sestier 1897-06
Passengers leaving s.s. Brighton at Manly, Sydney on Sunday afternoon 1896-10-04 Marius Sestier 1896-10-27
NSW Horse Artillery at drill, Victoria Barracks, Sydney [1] 1896-10 ? Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
NSW Horse Artillery at drill, Victoria Barracks, Sydney [2] 1896-10 ? Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Derby Day (the Betting Ring) 1896-10-31 Marius Sestier  
Lady Brassey placing the Blue Ribbon on "Newhaven" 1896-10-31 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Arrival of train, Hill platform * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
The Lawn near the Band Stand * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
[On the lawn,] near the Grand Stand 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Arrival of H.E. Lord Brassey and suite * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-19
The saddling paddock * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Finish of Hurdle Race, Cup Day 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Weighing-out for the Cup
[Almost certainly confused with "Weighing-in for the Cup"]
1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Start of the Melbourne Cup Race
[Most likely no film of this]
1896-11-03 Marius Sestier  
Finish of the Melbourne Cup Race * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Weighing-in for the Cup * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier  
Afternoon tea under the awning 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
"Newhaven," his trainer, W. Hickenbotham, and jockey, Gardiner, after the race * 1896-11-03 Marius Sestier 1896-11-24
Sea and breakers, Coogee Bay, Sydney     1897-06-05
[General] Post Office, Sydney from George Street   Marius Sestier  
Operations at the Great Boulder mine, Kalgoorlie 1897-03-10 Marius Sestier ?  
The Block, Collins Street, Melbourne [eastwards from Elizabeth St] c.1897-03-10 Ernest J. Thwaites  
Prince's Bridge, Melbourne c.1897-03-10    
The traffic on Prince's Bridge, Melbourne 1897   <1897-07-14
Landing passengers from the steamer Gem at Port Melbourne [or Williamstown] c.1897-03-10    
Musical ride of the Rupertswood Battery of Victorian Horse Artillery 1897-03-12   <1897-07-14
New South Wales Lancers leaving Government House grounds, Sydney 1897-04-12 Henry J. Maguire ?  
Buckjumping contest at Rockhampton, Queensland 1897-05-06 G. W. Heller  
[3 films shot by Baker & Rouse, at Sydney] 1897-05-13    
Ada Delroy's Cobra de capello dance 1897-05 ?    
Fitzroy v. Essendon football match at Fitzroy, Melbourne 1897-05-29 Ernest J. Thwaites ? <1897-07-15
[Films shot in Australia] 1897 Auguste Plane and
Charles Lomet
Butchers' annual procession, Melbourne 1897-06-02   <1897-07-15
Sculling race at Prince's Bridge, Melbourne <1897-06-12    
Queen Victoria's jubilee celebrations in Melbourne 1897-06-22    
Lord Brassey inspecting troops and military review at Albert Park, Melbourne 1897-06-22   <1897-07-15
Chinese procession at Jubilee celebrations in Ballarat, Victoria 1897-06-22 Colonel Lumare ? Failed?
Street scene during Jubilee celebrations in Ballarat, Victoria 1897-06-22 Colonel Lumare ? Failed?
Polka quadrille by 8 little girls, at Government House <1897-06-26    
Buckjumper at Bairnsdale or Warrnambool 1897   <1897-07-14
The steamer Hygeia leaving Port Melbourne for Sorrento 1897   <1897-07-14
Corroboree of Murrumbidgee aboriginals 1897   <1897-07-15
Traffic on principal Melbourne streets 1897   <1897-07-15
[Melbourne?] zoological gardens 1897   <1897-07-15
Jubilee bicycle races 1897-07-03   <1897-07-15
Wood-chopping at the Metropole [Melbourne]   Joseph H. Perry  
Richard earning his breakfast in the morning   Joseph H. Perry
Salvation Army social work activities   Joseph H. Perry
Salvation Army Congress March [Melbourne]   Joseph H. Perry
Waltz at ball at Bathurst, New South Wales 1897-07-14 Georges Boivin Bogus?
Corner of Queen and Edward Streets, Brisbane 1897-08-25 Georges Boivin Failed?
Arrival of the Miowera 1897-08-31 Mark Blow 1897-09-13
Queen Street, Brisbane 1897-09-07 Georges Boivin Failed?
Fairfield [horse] jumping at Albury show [NSW] 1897-09-09    
Bourke and Swanston Streets, Melbourne 1897-09 Ernest J. Thwaites 1897-09-15
Maypole dance, Public Schools' sports carnival, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney 1897-09-18 Mark Blow 1897-09-25
[Naughty] Boy and cockatoo 1897 Ernest J. Thwaites ? 1897-10-02
Burning weeds at Auburn, Melbourne 1897 Ernest J. Thwaites ? 1897-10-02
Arrival of race train at Caulfield station 1897-10-16 Plane and Lomet ? <=1897-11-01
Start of the Caulfield Cup 1897-10-16 Plane and Lomet ? <=1897-11-01
Finish of the Caulfield Cup 1897-10-16 Plane and Lomet ? <=1897-11-01
The crowd on the lawn, Caulfield 1897-10-16 Plane and Lomet ? <=1897-11-01
The principal streets of Melbourne 1897 Plane and Lomet ?  
Finish of the Caulfield Cup 1897-10-16 Harvie & Thwaites 1897-10-16
Finish of the VRC Derby * 1897-10-30 Harvie & Thwaites 1897-10-30
Mrs Freeman Thomas and "Amberite" with the Derby blue ribbon * 1897-10-30 Albert J. Perier ?  
Finish of the Melbourne Cup 1897-11-02 Harvie & Thwaites 1897-11-02
The Melbourne Cup 1897-11-02 Albert J. Perier  
The Melbourne Cup [Possibly 2 versions] 1897-11-02 Mark Blow 1897-11-03
Arrival of special train at Flemington 1897-11-02 Mark Blow  
The Sydney Wheel Race 1897-11-06 Mark Blow 1897-11-06
The English cricket team at the Melbourne Cricket Ground 1897-11-09 "Lafayette"  
Prince Ranjitsinhji practising batting at the nets * 1897-11 "Lafayette"  
Prince Ranjitsinhji and Hayward batting at the wickets 1897-11-16 "Lafayette"
English cricket team leaving the field 1897-11 "Lafayette"
New South Wales cricket team leaving the field 1897-11 "Lafayette"
Breakers at Bondi or Bogey Hole, Coogee, Sydney 1897-12-10 Mark Blow 1897-12-11
S.s. Ophir leaving for England 1897-12-13 Mark Blow 1898-02-04
The Australians leaving the field at the first Test Match, Sydney 1897-12-17 Mark Blow  
Harry Trott and Archie Maclaren tossing the coin 1898-01-01    
Harry Trott batting 1898-01-01    
Hobart Regatta 1898-01-26 Colonel Lumare Advertising ploy?
Children leaving Fort Street School, Church Hill, Sydney 1898-02 Mark Blow 1898-02-08
Down the side of [R.M.S.] Ormuz in mid-ocean 1898 Mark Blow 1898-02-19
North Shore ferry landing passengers at Milson's Point, Sydney 1898-02-18 Mark Blow 1898-02-19
George Street at Redfern [now Central] railway station, Sydney 1898-02 Mark Blow 1898-02
Governor Brassey crossing Prince's Bridge, Melbourne 1898 Mark Blow  
George Street in front of the New Markets, Sydney 1898 Mark Blow  
Launceston Regatta 1898-02-23 Colonel Lumare Advertising ploy?
Arrival of the Northern Mail [train] at Strathfield, Sydney 1898-02 Mark Blow 1898-02-24
Bent Street tram terminus, Sydney 1898-02 Mark Blow 1898-02-24
Employees leaving Government Printing Office, Sydney 1898-02-24 Mark Blow 1898-02-25
Passengers leaving Redfern [now Central] railway station, Sydney 1898-02-25 Mark Blow 1898-02-26
English cricket team leaving the field, 5th test match
[Might be earlier film (above)]
1898-02   1898-03-15
East Sydney Rowing Club 1898-03-05 Mark Blow 1898-03-08
Mort's Dock [Sydney] employees going to the pay box 1898-03-19 Mark Blow 1898-03-22
Platelayers at work on tram-line, Elizabeth Street, Sydney 1898-03 Mark Blow 1898-03-26
The Divers [at Farmer's Baths, Sydney] 1898-04 Mark Blow 1898-04-21
Wreck of the Hereward, Maroubra Bay, Sydney 1898-05-06 Mark Blow 1898-05-09
Club swinging by Mr. Renshaw and pupils 1898-05 Mark Blow 1898-05
NSW troops marching past the Governor, Queen's Birthday 1898-05-24 Mark Blow 1898-05-25
The Governor driving to the opening of the NSW Parliament, Sydney 1898-06-21 Mark Blow 1898-06-23
Salvation Army work at Pakenham [Victoria] girls' reformatory 1898 Joseph H. Perry  
Grand National Hurdle Race, Flemington racecourse, Melbourne 1898-07-09 Harvie & Thwaites 1898-07-09
Grand National Steeplechase, Flemington racecourse, Melbourne 1898-07-16 Harvie & Thwaites ? 1898-07-16
Essendon v Melbourne football match at Melbourne Cricket Ground 1898-07-30 Stephen Bond ?  
Ditto winning the Caulfield Grand National Steeplechase, Melbourne 1898-08-13   1898-08-17
Essendon v Geelong football match at East Melbourne Cricket Ground 1898-08-13 Stephen Bond ? 1898-08-18
Murray Island: Fire Making * 1898-09-05 Alfred C. Haddon  
Malu-Bomai Ceremony at Kiam, Torres Strait * c.1898-09-06 Alfred C. Haddon  
Murray Island: Islanders Dancing in Dari Headdress [1] * c.1898-09-06 Alfred C. Haddon  
Murray Island: Islanders Dancing in Dari Headdress [2] * c.1898-09-06 Alfred C. Haddon  
Murray Island: Australian Aboriginals Dancing "Shake-a-Leg" on Beach * c.1898-09-06 Alfred C. Haddon  
2 films of the Public Schools' Carnival, Sydney 1898-09-16 Mark Blow 1898-09-17
Sydney Metropolitan Fire Brigade practice: a general turnout 1898-09-21 Mark Blow 1898-09-21
Sydney Metropolitan Fire Brigade practice: the gallop past 1898-09-21 Mark Blow 1898-09-21
Sydney Metropolitan Fire Brigade practice: arrival of the NSW Governor and suite 1898-09-21 Mark Blow 1898-09-22
Children playing on the sands at Manly [Beach], Sydney 1898-09 Mark Blow 1898-09-29
Arrival of the s.s. Manly at Manly 1898-09 Mark Blow 1898-09-29
Collins St, Melbourne from the front of a tram 1898-10   1898-11-03
The Lawn at Flemington on Melbourne Cup day 1898-11-01   1898-11
The Grafter winning the Melbourne Cup 1898-11-01    
Ferry passengers disembarking at Milson's Point, Sydney * 1899-03 Frederick C. Wills1  
Petersham railway station and arrival at Newtown, Sydney * 1899-03 Frederick C. Wills
North Shore horse ferry, Sydney 1899-03 Frederick C. Wills
Redfern [now Central] railway station, Sydney [1] 1899-03 Frederick C. Wills
Redfern [now Central] railway station, Sydney [2] 1899-03 Frederick C. Wills
General Booth boarding the R.M.S. Arcadia 1899-05-12 Joseph H. Perry
The R.M.S. Arcadia departing from Adelaide with General Booth and company 1899-05-12 Joseph H. Perry
Arrival of Lord Lamington for opening of Queensland Parliament * 1899-05-17 Frederick C. Wills
View in Queen St, Brisbane * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Roma Street station [Brisbane] * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Channel Rock lightship, North Queensland * 1899-07 Henry W. Mobsby1
Marray islanders' reception to Hon. J. F. G. Foxton * 1899-07 Henry W. Mobsby
Cairns railway * 1899-08-05 Henry W. Mobsby
Barron Falls [near Cairns] * 1899-08-05 Henry W. Mobsby
View from rear of train [Out-take] 1899 Henry W. Mobsby
Cattle at Queensland Government College [at Gatton] * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Building construction * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
View of scrub taken from train * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Dipping sheep * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Tallying sheep * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Cutting sugar cane * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Sugar mill Nambour showing cane arriving * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
S.s. Katoomba unloading * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Threshing wheat at Allora [1] * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Threshing wheat at Allora [2] * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Carting wheat from field * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Reaper and binder at work * 1899 Frederick C. Wills
Horses being harnessed 1899 Frederick C. Wills or
Henry W. Mobsby
Government party on board s.s. Lucinda, Brisbane River * 1899-10-14 Frederick C. Wills
Stack building [at Hermitage State Farm near Warwick] * 1899-10-19 Frederick C. Wills
Queensland Transvaal contingent marching in Queen St, Brisbane * 1899-10-28 Frederick C. Wills
Queensland Transvaal contingent in Domain, Brisbane * 1899-10-28 Frederick C. Wills
Loading horses at Pinkenba [Brisbane onto the s.s Cornwall] * 1899-10-31 Frederick C. Wills
Passion Films 1899 Joseph H. Perry  
Victoria's Second Contingent crossing Prince's Bridge     1900-01
Victorian Bushmen and Cameron's Scouts marching along St. Kilda Road, Melbourne 1900-03-10    
Soldiers of the Cross 1900-06 -
Joseph H. Perry 1900-09-13
Naval contingent leaving Melbourne for China 1900-07-31 Joseph H. Perry  

Motion pictures that (almost certainly) were not made in Australia

Film "title" What it (probably) was When advertised
Breaking down a wall in Sydney Lumière's Demolition of a wall 1897-06-08
Cyclists and equestrians, Macquarie-street, Sydney Lumière's Cyclists and equestrians, Hyde Park, London 1897-07-15
Unloading Robertson's J.B.D. Whisky, in Sydney Lumière film? 1897-07-15
Tigers in Adelaide zoo Lumière film 1897-07-15
Employees Leaving Dixon's Tobacco Factory in Sydney Lumière's Employees leaving Lumière's factory, Lyon 1897-07-15
On the swings in Melbourne Lumière's Swings 1897-07-15
Daylight Robbery in Sydney Lumière film 1897-07-15
Breaking down a shed in Sydney Lumière's Demolition of a wall 1897-08-05
Boxing contest in Melbourne Lumière film 1897-08-05
A game of bowls in Sydney Lumière film 1897-09-30

And what of Surprise party, Glebe Point, Sydney, advertised by Georges Boivin on 1897-07-16? As Boivin stayed in Glebe [Point] Road when in Sydney, did he really shoot a film there, or was this another retitled Lumière film?

References and notes

I thank Rob La Nauze for bringing some material to my attention and for discussions about the work of E. J. Thwaites and R. W. Harvie.

[1] The Wills and Mobsby films have been extensively researched by Chris Long, Pat Laughren, and others; see
Cinema Papers, December 1993, pp.32-37, 59-61: Chris Long and Pat Laughren, Surprising Survivals from Colonial Queensland; and
Pat Laughren and Chris Long, World’s First Government Film Production? The Significance of the Wills/Mobsby Collection of Queensland Film Actuality c.1899 in Ken Berryman (ed.), Screening the Past: Aspects of Early Australian Film (selected papers from the sixth Australian History and Film Conference and other sources), National Film and Sound Archive [of Australia], 1995.

Copyright © 2012 - 2019 Tony Martin-Jones Edition 3  (2019-08-11)