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Research Guides

Malcolm Fraser: Guide to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers


Image 1: Malcolm Fraser, 1978

Image 1: Malcolm Fraser, 1978
NAA: A6180, 6/1/78/2
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This guide to the archives of former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has been jointly produced by the National Archives of Australia and the University of Melbourne Archives (UMA). It will assist researchers in finding records relating to both Malcolm and Tamie Fraser in the National Archives, UMA and other collections.

It is the sixth volume to be published in the National Archives' Guides to Archives of Australia's Prime Ministers series and is a companion publication to the Australia's Prime Ministers website (

Malcolm Fraser

Malcolm Fraser was Australia's twenty-second Prime Minister, serving from 1975 until 1983. He began his term as caretaker Prime Minister on 11 November 1975, after Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam's Labor government.

The Fraser Coalition government was returned with the largest landslide of any federal election a month later, and remained in office until 1983. Despite this electoral success, the constitutional crisis of 1975 left a legacy of controversy that marred Fraser's prime ministership.

Fraser had an important influence on the changing relations of countries within the Commonwealth of Nations, and on shaping Australia's relations with the countries of East and South-East Asia. Although economic rationalism was introduced in policy debate during Fraser's term of office, his government reflected more traditional principles in financial management and fiscal policy.

Before becoming Prime Minister, Fraser had spent 10 years as a backbencher in the government of Robert Menzies. He then became Minister for the Army in 1966, under Harold Holt, and was also a minister in the governments of John Gorton and William McMahon.

Tamie Fraser

Image 2: Malcolm and Tamie Fraser at a political event, c. 1958

Image 2: Malcolm and Tamie Fraser at a political event, c. 1958
UMA, 2007.0053, BWP/24519
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Tamara (Tamie) Fraser grew up in western Victoria, where her family had a grazing property. The couple married in 1956, and by the time Fraser became Prime Minister in 1975, they had four children aged between nine and 17 years.

Tamie Fraser undertook a number of political roles during her husband's prime ministership. When Malcolm was ill during the crucial election campaign in December 1975 after the dismissal of the Whitlam government, she deputised for him.

Although Tamie claimed she hated electioneering work, she was good at it and was regarded by Liberal Party campaign managers as an asset. Commenting on her role to an Age newspaper reporter on 5 December 1975, she said: 'The hardest thing to take is that you are public property'. She nevertheless played a prominent role in the 1975, 1977, 1980 and 1983 federal election campaigns.

National Archives of Australia

The National Archives preserves and cares for a diverse archival collection documenting the relationship between the Australian Government and the Australian population – a rich resource for the study of Australian history, society and people.

The collection spans almost 200 years of Australian history. Its main focus is material documenting federal government activities since Federation in 1901. However, the National Archives has significant holdings of nineteenth-century records relating to functions transferred by the colonies to the federal government at the time of Federation.

The National Archives also has a rich collection of records created by Australia's prime ministers, ministers, leaders of the Opposition and shadow ministers. Further information about these is available on the National Archives' website and RecordSearch collection database (

In addition, the Australia's Prime Ministers website, managed by the National Archives, has a wealth of information about Australia's prime ministers and their spouses (

University of Melbourne Archives

The UMA was established in 1960 to collect and preserve the records of the University of Melbourne, as well as the records of Victorian businesses for the purpose of historical research. In the early 1970s, the UMA broadened its collecting scope to include the archives of trade union and other labour-related bodies, professional associations, and community, women's, peace and political organisations. Complementing these organisational collections are the personal papers of individuals prominent within these organisations and fields.

The UMA now holds more than 18 kilometres of records, dating as far back as the 1790s and reflecting a broad range of endeavour within the state. The collections are generally available for research by academics and the public. The UMA website allows researchers to search all of the collections, and view finding aids and digital images of collection items (lib.unimelb.

The UMA is also recognised for its Malcolm Fraser Collection, which amounts to around 120 metres of personal and political records. The Malcolm Fraser Collection website contains photographs, speeches, articles, digitised documents, timelines and other information relating to Fraser and the UMA collection (

Records in two locations

In 2004, Fraser designated the University of Melbourne as the official custodian of his personal papers. Records that are designated as Commonwealth under the Archives Act 1983 remain at the National Archives. The two collections are thus complementary – with the National Archives collection focused on Fraser's ministerial and prime ministerial functions, and the UMA collection on his pre and post- parliamentary career and his time in opposition – although there is integration between the two.

Structure of this guide

Image 3: Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser at the Dispatch Boxes during Question Time, Parliament House, Canberra, 1979

Image 3: Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser at the Dispatch Boxes during Question Time, Parliament House, Canberra, 1979
NAA: A8746, KN5/6/79/11
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This guide is divided into two major parts, the first relating to Malcolm Fraser and the second to Tamie Fraser. Each contains a short biography written by journalist Margaret Simons, and is followed by descriptions of relevant archival records prepared by the authors – Elizabeth Masters and Katie Wood – and other contributors.

First listed are records in the National Archives collection, then those in the UMA collection and finally those in other institutions, including the National Library of Australia, museums, state archives, university archives and other collecting organisations.

The archival records of Fraser include official Commonwealth government records, correspondence and private papers. Records about him include photographs, memorabilia, oral histories, films and other audiovisual material.

This guide does not include listings of all extant archival records on Malcolm and Tamie Fraser. The National Archives collection alone contains more than 370 shelf kilometres of records, and therefore only a proportion of those likely to be of interest to readers have been identified and included. The guide is intended to direct researchers towards the types of series and documents where they might find relevant items.

Record descriptions

Each entry in the National Archives section of this guide describes a group of records maintained together as a series. A series consists of items, which are often individual files (or sometimes volumes, sets of cards or photographs, for example), received into custody by the National Archives from a creating government agency or person. Series usually consist of many items, but occasionally they may consist of just a few or even a single item.

The description for each series gives its content and function. The entry may conclude with a select list of items from the series. In some instances, particular series have been found to contain relevant material on multiple aspects of Fraser's career and have been referred to more than once.

Entries in the UMA section of this guide cite the UMA reference number, the item and box number where relevant, and a description of the item.

Sample descriptions of National Archives and UMA records appear below.

Sample description of National Archives of Australia entries

[2] This series comprises Cabinet submissions received in the Cabinet Office during the Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Fraser Ministries – from 23 December 1975 to 4 February 1983 – and decisions made by Cabinet in response.
Series: [3] A12909
Quantity: [4] 51 metres (Canberra)
Recorded by: [5] 1975–83: Cabinet Office (CA 1472)
[6] Implementation of party policy on Aboriginal Land Rights, 1976
[7] In April and May 1976, Cabinet decided the Commonwealth would have paramount control over Aboriginal land rights in the Northern Territory but would work with the NT Legislative Assembly to achieve its policy aims.
A12909, 265


[1] This line gives the series title and date range of the records that make up the series. The series number is shown below in [3]. A series is the organisational arrangement used by the National Archives to control and manage records. It may contain one or more items. Some series may contain hundreds or thousands of items.

[2] This paragraph gives a brief description of the record series.

[3] This is the series number attributed to the records that make up the series.

[4] This line shows the total volume of records in the series. In some cases only a few items within a series will relate to the topic, but in other instances the entire series will be devoted to it. The location of the National Archives' office where the series is held is also shown.

[5] This entry shows the agency or person that created the series, and the date range when the series was created or recorded. The CA (Commonwealth Agency) and CP (Commonwealth Person) numbers are unique identifiers allocated by the National Archives to each agency or person. This number can be used to retrieve more information about the agency or person and the records they created from the National Archives' RecordSearch collection database.

[6] This entry shows the title given to an item within the series. The title is usually applied by the person or agency creating the record. The date of the item contents is included at the end of the title. The item's series number and identifying number appear on the right-hand side. These numbers must be quoted when requesting a copy of, or access to, a record.

[7] Where included, this paragraph provides further information on the item.

Sample description of University of Melbourne Archives entries

[2] This series comprises miscellaneous correspondence maintained by Fraser during his second term as Minister for Education and Science, and ceases shortly before he became Leader of the Opposition. It covers a range of subjects including the Little Red Schoolbook, the Protection Commission, education and abortion.
Series: [3] 2006.0001
Quantity: [4] 1 metre
[5] Mr Fraser – personal correspondence, 13 October 1944 – 18 December 1974
[6] Correspondence from Victorian MLA Ian Smith to Senator Don Jessop seeking support for Fraser's leadership bid, 20 November 1974.
item 25 part 1, box 4


[1] This information gives the collection title and reference number (below in [3]) for the particular set of records. The UMA Malcolm Fraser Collection includes private papers that were originally organised by, and held at, the National Archives. Where this is the case, the UMA has retained the order of the documents originally imposed by the National Archives, but has given each former series a distinct reference number. Material that was received from Fraser has been ordered according to the UMA's standards. The size of the sets of records varies from one item to thousands.

[2] This paragraph gives a brief overview of the record set.

[3] This is the reference number (series) for a particular set of records.

[4] This line shows the total volume of records in the set. In some cases only a few items within a set will relate to the topic, but in other instances the entire set will be devoted to it.

[5] This line shows the title and date range of an item within a set. On the right is the item number and the box number, if relevant. The item numbering is not uniform among different sets of records. The UMA has sought to retain the original number of the item where the material was transferred from the National Archives or Fraser's office. When identifying material, the specific format of each item number should be observed.

[6] Where included, this paragraph provides further information on the item.

Accessing records

National Archives of Australia

Access to records in the National Archives is open to all, subject to provisions of the Archives Act.

The National Archives records described in this guide are listed in the RecordSearch collection database. It is accessible online ( and in all National Archives reading rooms in capital cities. Indexes and inventories of records, providing item lists for some series, are also available in National Archives reading rooms.

To view original records listed in this guide, a researcher will need to visit the National Archives reading room in the location where the records are held. However, much research can be undertaken online by using RecordSearch, where many digitised records can be viewed and requests to view other records can be submitted.

Access to archival records is governed by the Archives Act, which gives a right of access to most Commonwealth government records once they reach the open period. The open period was reduced from 30 to 20 years following amendments to the Act in 2010. This change to the open period took effect in January 2011 and is being phased in over 10 years.

Records in the open period are available for public access unless they contain information that falls into certain exemption categories defined in section 33 of the Archives Act. Before the National Archives releases records for public access, they are examined to ensure they do not contain exempt information. Most records (98 per cent) are wholly released for public access, while 1.75 per cent are released with some exempt information deleted. The information withheld from public access falls into two broad areas: sensitive personal information, and information about the security of the Commonwealth and its residents.

Most access examination is completed within a month but it may take up to 90 days to examine some files as consultation with other government agencies is often required. The National Archives will inform researchers if delays are expected.

More information on accessing records is available in Fact sheet 10 – Access to records under the Archives Act, and Fact sheet 11 – Viewing records in the reading room, available at

University of Melbourne Archives

Access to the records and reference service at the UMA is available to all researchers, not just university students and staff. Some material is restricted and the condition under which it is restricted varies. Some may be viewed once the researcher has sought permission, others are under embargo for a specified period of time. To inquire about access to restricted collections, contact the UMA reference service.

Most of the Malcolm Fraser Collection at the UMA is listed on the online database. For specific requests, it is necessary to include the reference number as well as the item and box number.

Other institutions

Inquiries about gaining access to records held by institutions other than the National Archives and the UMA should be directed to the institution concerned.

Citing the records

Image 4: Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on a visit to the Torres Strait Islands, 1976

Image 4: Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser on a visit to the Torres Strait Islands, 1976
NAA: A8281, 25/11/76/51
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The correct citation of archival records is important, both when requesting the records and when referring to them in published works. Using proper citations will help staff locate records more readily and will assist other researchers to find the material.

The correct form of citation for records held by the National Archives is: 'National Archives of Australia' followed by a colon and a space, the series number followed by a comma and a space, and then the item control symbol. An example is: National Archives of Australia: A2443, 3.

'National Archives of Australia' may be abbreviated to 'NAA', provided the full name has been used in the first citation. Further details about correctly citing records from the National Archives collection are available in Fact sheet 7 – Citing archival records, available at

The correct form of citation for records held by the UMA is: 'University of Melbourne Archives', followed by the collection name, accession number, item and box number, and a description of the item. For example: University of Melbourne Archives, Malcolm Fraser Collection, 2006.0017, item 25 part 1, box 4, letter from Ian Smith to Don Jessop, 20 November 1974. 'University of Melbourne Archives' may be abbreviated to 'UMA'.

Correct citations for other institutions should be checked with the relevant institution.