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Research Guides

Collections in Melbourne: A Guide to Commonwealth Records

The Melbourne Collection: An Overview

The collection in Melbourne includes records of Commonwealth departments, statutory bodies, royal commissions, lighthouses, naval vessels, courts and tribunals. These records document a wide variety of Commonwealth government activities, including defence, migration, Aboriginal affairs, trade and veterans' affairs.

In addition, the Melbourne collection contains the personal papers of some significant persons who have been associated with the Commonwealth – such as Cabinet Ministers, Governors-General, Royal Commissioners and senior public servants. These records include the personal records of Lord Casey (CP 24) and Essington Lewis (CP 111).

Although the records mainly date from Federation, the collection does include a small quantity of nineteenth-century records. These records were inherited from the colonies when certain functions, such as customs, postal and telegraphic services, defence and Aboriginal affairs, passed to the Commonwealth at, or after, Federation. Holdings of colonial records include:

  • census returns for the Port Phillip district, 1836;
  • records of service for the Victorian volunteer force, 1863–84;
  • drawings of the Port Phillip defences, 1880–1912; and
  • records of the General Post Office, Melbourne (CA 1034) from 1846.

Image 2: Recruitment poster for the Australian Women’s Army Service, 1943. Headquarters, Australian Women’s Army Service (CA 7090).

Image 2: Recruitment poster for the Australian Women’s Army Service, 1943. Headquarters, Australian Women’s Army Service (CA 7090).
NAA: B5499, volume 10
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The collection in Melbourne is especially rich because the original seat of the Commonwealth government was located there. Even after the Commonwealth Parliament moved to Canberra in 1927, Melbourne remained a centre for federal government activity up until the 1960s. Several Commonwealth departments had their central offices in Melbourne and it was to the Melbourne office of the Archives that they transferred their records.

As a result, the collection in Melbourne reflects senior decision and policy making from the central offices of many departments of state. It includes records from:

  • the Postmaster-General's Department (CA 9) documenting the history and development of postal and telegraphic services and broadcasting in Australia;
  • the Department of Labour and National Service (CA 40) relating to the National Service Scheme;
  • the Department of Civil Aviation (CA 29) recording the development of aviation in Australia; and
  • the following departments relating to Australia's defence forces from Federation to World War II – Defence (I) (CA 6), Defence (II) (CA 19), Defence (III) (CA 46), Navy (CA 38), Army (CA 36) and Air (CA 35).

Due to the fact that a number of wartime agencies and departments were located in Melbourne, the collection also includes many World War II records. In addition to records from the Departments of Defence, Navy, Army and Air, there are records from:

  • the Department of Munitions (CA 39) and the Department of Aircraft Production (CA 41) relating to defence production;
  • the Department of War Organisation of Industry (CA 45) relating to the control of industry;
  • the Rationing Commission (CA 264);
  • departments that dealt with internees and prisoners of war held in Australia;
  • civilian service organisations including the Allied Works Council (CA 497), Civil Constructional Corps (CA 681) and Civil Aliens Corps (CA 680); and
  • the Australian Women's Army Service (CA 7090).

Other notable holdings include records relating to the administration of Aboriginal affairs in Victoria from 1860, records relating to customs dating from the mid-nineteenth century and meteorological records dating from 1840.


Chapter 1
The Melbourne Collection: An Overview