Saturday 4 December 2021

Vale Helen Tully - A stalwart of film preservation and conservation passes

The sad news has just arrived that Helen Tully, one of the stalwart and longest serving staff members of the National Film & Sound Archive, has died after a long battle with cancer. Helen was one of eight people who took a voluntary redundancy from the NFSA back in mid-2019. At the time I wanted to publish a tribute to her on this blog and had assembled a small set of tributes to her and her work from Colleagues and friends. I’m publishing these tributes and some more thoughts and am happy to add to them if people so wish.

Quentin Turnour


Helen was one of the dynamos of the NFSA and also important in supporting Ken Berryman when he was running the OH program. She was essential to my initial involvement in the agency.


Ken Berryman


I worked with Helen Tully at the NFSA for circa 30 years and Quentin's description is spot on. She was quite fearless, a champion of the organisation, especially its state office roles and programs, and a huge support to me personally and professionally over all that time. I am really saddened to see her go...



Malcolm Smith


This is a real loss.


I worked with Helen (and Ken Berryman) for several years whilst I was at Foxtel up to 2013. She was my liaison person at the NFSA and we had a fair number of projects which we were collaborating on.


In my experience, she always had the right attitude to her job. She was professional, proactive, enthusiastic and really cared about the NFSA and the media community. She gave good, honest advice and worked towards solving the inevitable roadblocks, getting stuff done and to positive outcomes. She always did her cheerful best to deliver. It was a pleasure to deal with her, and with you Ken, and I know we achieved a lot together.


Martha Ansara


For me, Helen’s been one of those people who embodies the NFSA and with her departure it feels that there is no more NFSA rather than no more Helen. There are some people at an institution who really do carry the spirit of the place that much! It’s not all bricks and mortar and reels and rolls…. there’s that ineffable something that creates the culture without which the institution no longer feels alive. Rather, it merely functions: efficiently, dysfunctionally or however— but it’s not alive.

Dominic Case

One of the really good people at the NFSA and I have nothing but good memories of our dealings.

Ray Edmondson

I am very sad to know that we have lost Helen. She was one of the longest serving NFSA staff members, having joined it when it was still part of the National Library. A  cheerful, warm, efficient, no-nonsense person,  she was passionate about her work, about the institution and about those it existed to serve. Ken and Martha have said it well. It is people like Helen who make the institution, not the bricks and mortar and reels. Rest in peace.

Graham Shirley

As a footage research client of NFSA prior to 2005, I always appreciated Helen’s enthusiastic approach to best serving any new Australian documentary (and occasionally mini-series or feature) which used NFSA-held archival material. In that context, and when I worked with her at NFSA from 2006 to 2009, I was also aware of how enormously hard she worked at any given project, often working into the evening when others had gone home for the day. I remember, when I was working on my doco about Z Special Unit, how well she handled acquiring for the NFSA ‘new’ (actually 60 years old) footage from a Melbourne woman whose father had, during WW2, filmed ZSU training activities on Fraser Island. She also headed NFSA’s Melbourne-headquartered TV Unit, forging and maintaining, with members of her team excellent working relationships with TV networks when it came to NFSA’s ongoing acquisition of television archival material.

Trevor Graham

I was saddened to hear of the recent death of archivist and colleague Helen Tully. I have such fond memories of Helen in the Melbourne office of the NFSA. When Sharon Connolly and I produced our first film, Red Matildas, in what now seems like the dinosaur era in the early 80s, Helen was on of the first archivists we encountered at the NFSA. She had an incredible knowledge of the national collection then, which only grew over her many years at the archive. Helen was always supportive, charming and helpful to filmmakers like myself. Even after moving to Sydney my first port of inquiry would be to ring Helen for advice. RIP Helen Tully

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