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Documentary Development

This program seeks to provide practitioners with the opportunity to create appropriate written and/or visual materials to ensure that projects are as strong as possible when competing for production finance. Emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander producers are encouraged to apply.

What funding is available?

Any amount up to $30,000 will be available for one-off, feature-length documentaries; up to $30,000 for series; and up to $20,000 for television one-hour documentaries (other than in exceptional circumstances).

Funding is available for the further development of a treatment and/or script for one-off documentaries or documentary series, including, where appropriate,

  • script and project development
  • research
  • securing production financing.

Who can apply?

Applicants and their projects must meet the general eligibility requirements set out in Screen Australia’s Terms of Trade in addition to the following:


A sole applicant must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian, and have at least one ‘eligible documentary credit’ in the role of writer, producer or director.

The director (where attached) must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian.

In the case of teams:

  • In the case of co-writing teams, made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous writers, the original concept must come from the Indigenous writer. This must be shown in the application.
  • the producer or the director must have at least one eligible documentary credit.

To be an ‘eligible documentary credit’ under this program, a project must be a broadcast half hour or longer and have:

  • been broadcast by a recognised broadcaster or channel; or
  • had a commercial theatrical release; or
  • been invited to screen at IDFA, Hot Docs, or equivalent.

Note that credits must fall within the definition of ‘documentary’ set out here. Corporate, education, training, sports, news programs etc are not acceptable.

Where the request includes shooting material, a director must be attached.


  • Any application for further development funding after the first tranche will only be considered if the project has at least a letter of interest from a domestic broadcaster or recognised digital subscription platform, and such applications will be considered in the light of the advancement and the overall viability of the project.

Outstanding applicants or projects that emerge through the Indigenous Department’s Special Initiatives may be invited to apply to this program. This provides the opportunity for Indigenous practitioners to access single-project development funds even where minimum credit requirements are not satisfied.

What is the assessment process?

Applications are considered by Screen Australia executives, with industry specialists consulted as required.

Screen Australia will advise applicants in writing of the success or otherwise of their application. Where an application is declined, the applicant will be advised of the reason.

Assessment criteria

Funding decisions will be made against the following criteria:

  • distinctiveness of the idea and creative approach
  • quality of the proposal including script or treatment
  • the project’s potential to connect with its target audience
  • track record and capacity of the creative team
  • the appropriateness of the proposed development strategy and use of funds at this stage of development.

All of the above criteria are weighted equally.

Other factors, including availability of funds, diversity of slate and the gender diversity of the team may also influence Screen Australia’s funding decisions.

What is the application timing?

Applications are open all year round.

Turnaround time for decisions is approximately eight weeks.

Terms of funding

Funding through this program is provided as a grant.

If a project has received development funding from Screen Australia and proceeds to production investment with Screen Australia finance, the previous funding must be recognised in the production budget (as an above-the-line cost) and will become part of Screen Australia’s total investment in the project.

  • Where the project goes into production without Screen Australia funding, Screen Australia may require the producer to repay the development funding previously provided by Screen Australia in order to acquire any copyright interest held by Screen Australia.

See Terms of Trade for more information.