Australian documentary makers are hoping to eventually get $18m (A$20m) per year for production and marketing from philanthropists and corporate donors thanks to the creation of the Australian Documentary Foundation.

Documentary Australia was launched tonight in Sydney and aims to educate the two sectors about each other through a comprehensive website, and act as a mechanism for documentary makers to get (deductible gift recipient) status and for donors to get tax deductions.

It will also approve projects on the basis of whether their subject, approach and outreach potential are appropriate for philanthropic support. Seventeen of the 21 documentaries submitted to date have been approved and are listed on the website.

They cover a range of issues and many are set abroad. One such project, for example, is about international war crimes tribunals and is to be directed by Daryl Dellora and produced by Sue Maslin (Japanese Story).

Philanthropy Australia, which is supporting Documentary Australia, estimates that there are about 1,500 trusts and foundations in Australia giving up to $500m to various causes in 2006.

Documentary Australia chair, Ian Darling, a film-maker himself, believes the new initiative will work because of the overlap between the subject matter of many documentaries- the environment, youth, AIDS, social welfare, the arts- and the interests of philanthropists.

'It is a no brainer,' he said. 'If Documentary Australia means more films get made, more philanthropists get a better return on their capital, and more charities raise the visibility of the causes they are supporting, ultimately we are going to have a happier, healthier society.'

Documentary Australia has three executive directors including the former head of documentary at Film Finance Corporation Australia, Susan MacKinnon.

Darling is also chair of the Sydney Theatre Company (STC). Cate Blanchett and husband Andrew Upton take over as artistic directors of the STC from the end of the year.