Image 1: Collins Street, Melbourne, 1950. Australian National Travel Association (CA 7085).
NAA: M914, VICTORIA 6902
The National Archives of Australia ensures that full and accurate records documenting Commonwealth government activities are created and kept. From this massive body of information, the National Archives selects, cares for and makes available to all, those records of continuing value. This collection constitutes the archives of the Commonwealth Government – a vast and rich resource for the study of Australian history, Australian society and the Australian people.
The collection spans almost 200 years of Australian history. The main focus of the collection is material that documents Federal government activities since Federation in 1901. There are also significant holdings of nineteenth-century records which relate to functions transferred by the colonies to the Commonwealth government at the time of Federation and subsequently. The records described in this guide are a small but significant part of the collection.
Access to the National Archives' collection is provided free of charge in public reading rooms located in each capital city. Researchers are assisted by specialist reference staff and are provided with reference tools to help them identify and use the records in the collection. These reference tools include the RecordSearch and PhotoSearch databases, guides, publications and fact sheets. Researchers unable to visit a reading room may seek information and assistance by telephone, mail, facsimile or email.
RecordSearch and PhotoSearch provide information about agencies, persons and series as well as descriptions of over three million individual items. These databases are available for online searching in reading rooms located in all offices of the National Archives, at the Australian War Memorial and on the National Archives' website at www.naa.gov.au.
The National Archives' website provides further information about the Archives, its collection and the services it offers. The site contains descriptions of some of the most frequently used records in the collection and includes images of some original documents and photographs. A visit to the site will help you determine whether the Archives holds records relevant to your research. Fact sheets on various topics are also available on the Archives' website.
This guide provides a portable and accessible overview to the National Archives' collection in our Melbourne office. Estimated at approximately 54 shelf kilometres, this large collection contains a wealth of diverse records covering the last 150 years and should appeal to a wide range of researchers including family historians and academics.
Most of the records described in the guide were created before 1 January 1971. This is because, under the provisions of the Archives Act 1983, most Commonwealth records only become available for research when they reach 30 years of age.
The guide is divided into two chapters.
Chapter 1 gives a brief overview of the collection in the Melbourne office and describes three significant record groups: special format records (maps, film, photographs, posters, plans, drawings and microform), records of genealogical value and personal records.
Chapter 2 is divided into subject areas – eg transport, defence – which reflect the major functions and activities carried out by Commonwealth agencies from Federation to the present day. Each entry consists of a brief administrative history of the government activity and a summary of the records held in the collection in Melbourne which relate to that activity. Additional sources of information and related records held by other institutions are included where relevant.
The information in this guide has largely been compiled from the RecordSearch database. The database describes groups of related record items, known as record series, and the government agencies that created them. In addition, RecordSearch contains details of some individual record items that can be searched by title keyword, by date range and by series number. Researchers should consult this database for more information about a subject area or group of records that is of interest to them but should note that only 10% of the Archives' collection is listed at item level on RecordSearch.
Throughout the guide the unique agency control numbers known as 'CA' (Commonwealth Agency) numbers have been provided for each agency – for example, CA 12 is the Commonwealth Agency number for the Department of the Prime Minister. Also shown are 'CP' (Commonwealth Person) numbers for people whose records are held by the Archives – for example, CP 24 is the CP number for Richard Gardiner Casey. These numbers can be used to retrieve further information from RecordSearch about agencies, persons and their records.
This guide provides an overview of agencies whose records are held in the Melbourne office. Please note that most but not all series created by these agencies are held in Melbourne. For example, of the 156 series recorded by the Department of Supply and Development [I] (CA 33), 142 series are held in the Melbourne office and the remaining 14 series are held in Canberra. Researchers are advised to use RecordSearch to confirm series locations.
To identify the specific records created by the agencies listed in this guide it is best to start with the RecordSearch database. Look for the RecordSearch button on the home page of the National Archives' website www.naa.gov.au. The site provides access to an online tutorial and provides detailed information about the database as well how to begin your search. To use RecordSearch most effectively in conjunction with this guide, researchers should search for record series by using the relevant CA (or CP) numbers. This will give you a list of the series the agency/person created and you can find details about the contents of each series by searching using the series numbers. You can also use the database to search for items belonging to a specified series. This process is outlined below.
If, for example, you are interested in researching the establishment of the Lake Tyers Aboriginal Reserve in 1865, you might first consult this guide to find out which
government agencies administered the reserve. In Chapter 2, under the heading 'Aboriginal affairs' two agencies are listed. You decide that you want to see whether the Central Board Appointed to Watch Over the Interests of the Aborigines (CA 2012) had a role in administering the reserve. You should use RecordSearch to find items created by this agency that may contain information about your research topic. By using the CA number, you can work through the system of control from agency to series to items. The following steps outline how a researcher would do that search. (Please note that these instructions are designed for use by researchers using remote access to RecordSearch. If you are in one of the Archives' reading rooms, ask the staff to take you though the steps.)
Once you have located an item in the Archives, you can visit a reading room to view the item or follow the prompts to request a quote for a copy of the record.
Note that not all individual items have been entered into RecordSearch yet. If not all available items for a series are listed on the database, you will need to search the printed item lists. The printed lists for the records described in this guide are available only in our Melbourne reading room.
Once you have identified the records you wish to see, you can examine them in the Melbourne reading room at Level 2, Casselden Place, 2 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. If you are located outside Melbourne, you can write or email to ask for a quote for copying the record. All initial reference requests should be directed to:
National Reference Service
PO Box 7425
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610
Tel: 1300 886 881
Fax: 1300 886 882
If the items you request have not yet been examined for potential sensitivities it may take a little time to make the record or the photocopy available to you. We will let you know if this is the case, but you can check for yourself by looking for the 'Access Status' field on the item display screen.
Before you visit, we also suggest that you look at our fact sheets and guides which are available in our reading rooms and at our website (www.naa.gov.au). These are a way of understanding the services we provide and making the most of your visit.
No charges apply to the services described above unless copies of records are requested. Copy charges are set out in Fact Sheet 51.
The correct citation of archival records is important both when requesting them from the National Archives and when referring to them in written or published works. Using proper citations will not only help Archives' staff to locate records more readily, but will also help other researchers find cited material. The correct form of citation for records held by the Archives is as follows: the name National Archives of Australia followed by a colon, the series number followed by a comma, and then the item number. An example is:
National Archives of Australia: B356, 3
The name National Archives of Australia may be abbreviated to 'NAA' provided the full name has been used in the first citation. National Archives' Fact Sheet 7 provides further information on citing records.