by George Nott

Edwardian cat memes mark milestone for govCMS project

Nov 18, 2016
GovernmentGovernment ITInnovation

Turn of the century cat memes, deleted scenes from Muriel’s Wedding and Crocodile Dundee movie posters from around the world are among the curated collections now available online as a result of a govCMS overhaul of Australia’s National Film and Sound Archive (NFSA) website.

A Russian movie poster for Crocodile Dundee (1986) from the NFSA collection

The new NFSA site –, which launched earlier this week – has been heralded as the most culturally significant govCMS project to date by the Department of Finance, and marks the latest in a series of recent milestones for the government’s Drupal-based, cloud-hosted content management system.

The govCMS platform is now used by more than 50 agencies, a point passed in September, with 106 website currently live. A further 29 sites are in development.

govCMS was made available to all agencies in March last year. It is hosted by Acquia as part of a four year Department of Finance contract worth up to $24 million depending on how many agencies shift onto the platform.

Mid-range take-up projections made by the department in 2014 predicted around 60 websites would have on-boarded at this point in the project and 300 would be live by the fourth year.

govCMS posted last month that “consistent demand from federal, state and local government organisations has seen us exceed this by more than 70 per cent, with more sites due to go live before the end of the year”.

A spokesperson for the Department of Finance told CIO Australia: “Adoption has met the expectation set at the launch and is likely to exceed expectations given the recent acceleration in uptake. govCMS has quickly established a trusted reputation as an enterprise wide content management solution that is robust, scalable, reliable, cost effective and easy to implement.

Curly-haired Kidman

The NFSA’s new site is media rich, interactive and not a typical government site.

Users can view more than 50 curated collections – including a before-they-were-famous gallery of Aussie celebrities and photographs of the archive’s vintage sound equipment.

“For us media is central. That was the gauntlet that we threw the govCMS project. Our stories are not endless scrolls of words they are media, they’re images. We needed the site to talk and walk AV at every stage,” said NFSA CEO Michael Loebenstein (who is departing from the agency to return to his native Austria in January).

That requirement was “quite exciting”, Loebenstein says, for govCMS’ providers Acquia and Razorfish, who were keen to “see how flexible and agile that platform was”.

The NFSA project resulted in the addition of a module to the standard Drupal core, a custom JS layer and JS libraries not before used on government sites. A ‘media_oembed’ module was added to manage any external media – like Youtube videos and Soundcloud files – through the Drupal file system. At the front end, Magic360 was used for users to view objects in the collection from all angles along with players and animation engines.

As an open source project, any Drupal functionality developed by an agency through govCMS is immediately made available to all other agencies at no additional cost.

As with all departments and agencies, NFSA’s adoption of govCMS meant considerations like compliance with accessibility guidelines, security and responsiveness are solved out-of-the-box.

Deleted scenes from Muriel’s Wedding (1994) can be viewed on the new NFSA website

“It greatly alleviated the concerns and complexities, because the Department of Finance had gone the hard yards before with the devs on all of that,” added Loebenstein.

“NFSA’s new site demonstrates the versatility of govCMS for building elegant, media rich, and highly intuitive sites, and the archive gains the benefits of an accessible, scalable platform from which to develop creative, digital leadership.

Keep going

Of the approximately 1500 Australian Federal Government websites, around 9 per cent have adopted govCMS.

There had been fears about govCMS’s compatibility with GOV.AU, the single-view, all-government portal planned by the Digital Transformation Agency. Those fears were abated somewhat in April by a joint post by DTA chief digital officer Paul Shetler and the Government’s chief technology officer John Sheridan, which called the platforms “complementary products”.

govCMS was later chosen to underpin GOV.AU, as the platform used by agencies to author and prepare content for the site.
To agencies already migrating to govCMS John Sheridan wrote: “Keep going, because GOV.AU will be designed to use the content stored in govCMS, and govCMS will be a part of any end solution.”

The Department of Finance told CIO Australia that it was working with the DTA “to continue to support government agencies to consolidate and standardise websites” and that agencies using govCMS “are well positioned for future developments to GOV.AU”.

The best govCMS sites (selected by the Department of Finance)

  • For scale: The Department of Human Services site for the high volume of visitors. It is one of the largest government sites when measured by visits.
  • For interaction: The Department of Communications and the Arts govCMS site caters for innovative policy engagement and consultation with the community.
  • For experimentation: The Australian Taxation Office beta site provides a space to experiment and test user experience and demonstrate the function of future releases.
  • For cultural significance: The NFSA for the storage and presentation of large collections of images and information of cultural significance.
  • For consuming data and data visualisation: The Department of Environment’s innovative work and leadership in establishing data visualisation capabilities (currently in development).
  • For a critical event: The Victorian Department of Premier Cabinet as the first to deliver a critical event, the Victorian Budget, building on the data visualisation work being undertaken by the Department of Environment.