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Collections in Perth: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records


26. Transport

Western Australia, because of its geographical isolation, could be reached only by ship until the 1900s. Transport by rail was slow to be introduced to WA, a colony which, because of its small population, was comparatively poorer than most of the other Australian colonies and could not afford to build extensive railway infrastructure.

What little rail existed in WA was established and developed by the State Government and various private companies, such as the Midland Railway Company. Although the first length of track was a 12-mile line between Lockeville and Yoganup constructed in 1871 by the WA Timber Company, by 1885 only another 112 miles of line had been built. However, the discovery of gold in 1893 saw a sharp increase in railway line mileage from 203 miles to 1 434 miles in 1903. Economic restraint meant that a cheaper, narrow gauge track was built in WA, which caused difficulties when trains reached the South Australia border, where the track changed to the wider gauge used in other States.

The Commonwealth had minimal involvement in WA rail transport. It contributed to the development of a few major lines, most notably the Kalgoorlie, WA to Port Augusta, SA railway. Most record holdings on the development of that railway are held at the Adelaide Office of the National Archives (see Appendix 1 for information about the relevant records series), where the Australian National Railways Commission is located.

After Federation in 1901, the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for shipping and aviation matters.

Shipping

For many years the ports of Fremantle or Albany were the first Australian landfalls reached by vessels coming from Europe. The development of Fremantle Harbour around the end of the nineteenth century coincided with the gold rush, which led to a sharp increase in the Colony's population.

Fremantle figured prominently as a passenger port until the late 1960s when air travel started to dominate transport. Fremantle, like other Western Australian seaports, remains important for the export of mining and agricultural products and the import of manufactured goods.

The Agencies

The Commonwealth became involved in shipping matters early in the twentieth century when the Navigation Act 1912 was passed. Following the enactment of that legislation, branches of the Mercantile Marine Office were established at major Western Australian ports to supervise and record changes affecting crews, crew agreements, crew lists, crew members' personal particulars, the indenture of apprentices, details of shipmasters and ships' logs.

In the 1960s shipping and navigational matters began to merge when the Department of Shipping and Transport was established. This department was responsible, through its Marine Services Division, for the office of Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation. (See also the Lighthouses and Sea Navigation section.)

  • 1921–27: District Lighthouse Officer and Deputy Director of Navigation, WA (CA 7255)
  • 1922–61: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
  • 1927–63: Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, WA and Superintendent Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5268)
  • 1963–72: Department of Shipping and Transport, Regional Controller, WA (CA 1017)

The Records

ARTICLES OF AGREEMENT (ORIGINALS OF FORMS M&S-3 AND ENG.1.2.9), 1921–61
Perth
This series contains articles of agreement made between shipmasters and crews about employment conditions, disciplinary matters, provisions and load lines. A shipmaster recorded the conduct, character and qualifications of each crew member in the ship's log.
Series: PP174/2
Quantity: 7.74 metres
Recorded by: 1922–61: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1922–
Perth
The files in this series contain forms recording reports of, and inquiries into, deaths at sea of passengers or crew on ships en route to Australian ports, as required under the provisions of the Navigation Act 1912.
Series: PP411/1
Quantity: 1.08 metres
Recorded by: 1922-: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
SHIPS' ARTICLES AND AGREEMENTS AND ACCOUNTS OF CREWS, 1922–50
Perth
This series contains articles of agreement and contracts signed by crew for a particular voyage on a particular ship. Interfiled with each agreement are the ship's crew logs, which record when seamen began their service on the ship, their promotions, reversions and punishments, and incidents involving members of the crew.
Series: PP207/2
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1922–50: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
CERTIFICATES OF RELEASE ON TERMINATION OF SERVICE (FORM M&S-10 AND FORM M), 1922–61
Perth
This series contains certificates signed by seamen releasing their ship, its master and its owner from all claims or otherwise on termination of their service. The forms were signed by a shipmaster before a branch superintendent of the Mercantile Marine Office. Form M&S-10 was used for ships registered in Australia and Form M for British-registered ships.
Series: PP174/1
Quantity: 1.98 metres
Recorded by: 1922–61: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
REGISTERS OF DESERTERS, 1922–80
Perth
The registers in this series provide information about seamen reported as deserting their ships at WA ports, deaths and marriages at sea (1922–38), and seamen's discharges and effects (1931–63).
Series: PP174/3
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1922–80: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
DOCKING BOOKS, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, 1923–72
Perth
Registers held in this series contain information about the dry-docking of ships (mainly State Ships), and inspections and repairs carried out on those vessels.
Series: K1157
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1923–27: District Lighthouse Officer and Deputy Director of Navigation, WA (CA 7255); 1927–63: Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, WA, and Superintendent Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5268); 1963–72: Department of Shipping and Transport, Regional Controller, WA (CA 1017)
REGISTER OF CASUALTIES AFFECTING SHIPS, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, 1924–48
Perth
This series consists of a register detailing casualties affecting ships. These casualties included injuries to seamen, damage to ships, and damage to jetties and other vessels.
Series: K1160
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1924–27: District Lighthouse Officer and Deputy Director of Navigation, WA (CA 7255); 1927–48: Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, WA, and Superintendent Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5268)
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF COURTS OF MARINE INQUIRY, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, 1924–70
Perth
Registers in this series contain information about hearings held by courts of marine inquiry. Such information includes details about the location of the hearing, the ship's name, the parties involved in the hearing, and the constitution of the court and its decision.
Series: K1159
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1924–27: District Lighthouse Officer and Deputy Director of Navigation, WA (CA 7255); 1927–63: Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, WA, and Superintendent Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5268); 1963–70: Department of Shipping and Transport, Regional Controller, WA (CA 1017)
SEAMEN DISCHARGED, DEAD OR DESERTED, 1928–63
Perth
This series contains copies of returns for seamen discharged or reported dead or deserted for the WA ports of Fremantle, Bunbury, Busselton and Esperance.
Series: PP207/5
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1928–63: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
OFFICIAL LOG BOOKS – CAPE OTWAY (FORM M&S 16), 1932–59
Perth
This series contains the log books for the SS Cape Otway for 1932–59 (with the exception of logs for 1935–36 and 1949–51, which are missing).
Series: PP345/1
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1932–65: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
RETURNS RESPECTING SEAMEN ENGAGED – BUNBURY, 1944–61
Perth
This series contains copies of returns for seamen engaged at Bunbury, WA.
Series: PP207/4
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1944–61: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
SHIPS PLANS, ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1945–
Perth
This series contains plans and drawing of ships showing their conformity to standards set out in the Navigation Act 1912. The Department of Shipping and Transport and its predecessors had to approve ships' plans before they could be registered.
Series: K1254
Quantity: 2.52 metres
Recorded by: 1945–63: Deputy Director of Lighthouses and Navigation, WA, and Superintendent Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5268); 1963–72: Department of Shipping and Transport, Regional Controller, WA (CA 1017)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1955–64
Perth
Files in this series contain correspondence about reports of, and inquiries into, the deaths at sea of passengers or crew on ships en route to Australian ports.
Series: PP411/1
Quantity: 0.9 metres
Recorded by: 1955–64: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)
COURTS OF MARINE INQUIRY, PROCEEDINGS AND CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1956–70
Perth
This series contains courts of marine inquiry reports about accidents, incidents and other events, including shipwreck caused by storm, tempest or collision with rocks, reefs or other hazards of the sea.
Series: PP410/1
Quantity: 2.52 metres
Recorded by: 1956–70: Mercantile Marine Office, Fremantle, WA (CA 5604)

Civil aviation

By the end of World War I, the Commonwealth Government had begun to regard civil aviation as being increasingly important. In 1920 the Air Navigation Act was passed and for the next 19 years the Department of Defence administered the function through the Civil Aviation Board.

The Agencies

The Department of Civil Aviation was established in 1939 to administer civil aviation. The policy, planning, finance and development of civil aviation, however, continued to be controlled by the department's head office in Melbourne, with 'outstation' staff supervising air radio, flight control and maintenance. In 1947, the department's Western Australian office was substantially upgraded with the appointment of a Regional Director, Western Region.

The Airworthiness Section of the Department of Civil Aviation had been established in Western Australia by 1950. The section was responsible for investigating all technical aspects of air safety, including airworthiness, aircraft design standards, registration of aircraft, detection of aircraft defects, and the licensing of aircraft maintenance and flight personnel and organisations.

  • 1920–36: Civil Aviation Branch (also known as Officer-in-Charge), Government Aerodrome, Maylands, Perth (CA 6768)
  • 1936–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769)
  • 1943–88: Perth Airport (CA 4863)
  • 1947–73: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
  • 1950–: Airworthiness Section, Perth Airport, WA(CA 4804)
  • 1959–88: Jandakot Airport (CA 4864)

The Records

The Perth Office of the National Archives holds a substantial number of aviation records, although many more are located in the Canberra Office and in the Melbourne Office.

Other Commonwealth agencies also had responsibilities that overlapped the aviation function and consequently they created records about matters such as the purchase of land, runway and building construction, navigation equipment and safety, and environmental issues.

Staff records of the Australian National Airlines Commission, State Branch Office, WA, which was the forerunner of Australian Airlines and eventually merged with Qantas, date back to 1946.

AIRCRAFT HISTORY FILES, ALPHABETICAL BY MARKING (CALLSIGN) OF AIRCRAFT, 'VH' AND 'CVH' PREFIXES SERIES, 1923–
Perth
This series contains the history files of aircraft struck off the register while based in WA. The files contain a variety of documents, including applications for registration, registration renewals, airworthiness certificates, transfer-of-ownership papers, inspection certificates, surveyors' check lists, aircraft weight summaries, expiry notices, and applications for approval of engine modifications. The older files contain more detailed information than the later files. The earliest airworthiness certificates have a photograph of the aircraft attached.
Series: B2539
Quantity: 14.58 metres
Recorded by: 1923–36: Civil Aviation Branch (also known as Officer-in-Charge), Government Aerodrome, Maylands, Perth (CA 6768); 1936–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–73: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
NON–REGISTRY CORRESPONDENCE FILES: AERODROMES AND AIRPORTS, 1942–55
Perth
This series contains non-registry correspondence files from various aerodrome and airport locations in WA between 1942 and 1955. The records reveal the difficulties involved in developing civil aviation facilities between 1945 and the end of 1955.
Series: PP414/1
Quantity: 1.98 metres
Recorded by: 1942–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–55: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884 )
CORRESPONDENCE FILES: AIRPORT AND AERODROME POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1945–54
Perth
Files in this series deal with policy and the administration of airports, aerodromes and support facilities in WA.
Series: PP414/2
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1945–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–54: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
GOVERNMENT AERODROME FILES, ALPHABETICAL ORDER, 1945–62
Perth
This series contains general files on airport administration, maintenance and control.
Series: PP204/1
Quantity: 3.06 metres
Recorded by: 1945–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–62: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
1947–62: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth
Perth
Records in this series deal with policy on air safety incidents, flight crew licences, approved firms, buildings, acquisitions, search-and-rescue operations and associated procedures, and establishment matters
Series: PP180/1
Quantity: 7.2 metres
Recorded by: 1946–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–64: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
ADMINISTRATION FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1947–54
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on the administration of outstations, establishments and headquarters, and on employment conditions and technical data.
Series: PP204/2
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1945–47: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–62: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
POLICY, PROCEDURE, ADMINISTRATION, ORGANISATION AND ESTABLISHMENT FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1947–56
Perth
Records in this series deal with general policy matters, legal powers of airport managers, special and charter flight policies, and administrative instructions about Air Navigation Regulations. Other topics covered include the administration of outstations, Cocos (Keeling) Islands projects, air traffic control systems, proposed air services and the establishment of the Air Navigation and Safety Section.
Series: PP89/1
Quantity: 4.86 metres
Recorded by: 1947: Civil Aviation Board, Aircraft Inspector-in-Charge, Perth (CA 6769); 1947–56: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
POLICY AND ADMINISTRATION FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1948–60
Perth
Records in this series contain correspondence about air navigation orders, approved firms and organisations for testing, aircraft registration, flight radio operator history cards, policy on airway navigation facilities, aircraft operations and licences, aerial work, airline operation charters, pilot endorsements, aircraft licence renewals and flying school licences.
Series: PP141/1
Quantity: 4.5 metres
Recorded by: 1948–60: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
AERODROME RECORDS, 1950–67
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on the acquisition, cost and development of aerodrome sites in WA.
Series: PP361/1
Quantity: 8.28 metres
Recorded by: 1950–67: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
CORRESPONDENCE RECORDS: AIRPORT INSPECTION FILES, TWO NUMBER CLASSIFIED SERIES, 'AID' PREFIX, 1952–63
Perth
This series contains airport inspection files for airports and aerodromes in WA.
Series: PP361/3
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1952–63: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
CORRESPONDENCE RECORDS: PERTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TWO NUMBER CLASSIFIED SERIES, 1957–69
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on policy and decisions about the development, administration and operation of Perth International Airport.
Series: PP361/2
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1957–69: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, PERTH AIRPORT ADMINISTRATION, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1959–82
Perth
Series: PP989/1
Quantity: 0.72 metres
Recorded by: 1959–: Perth Airport (CA 4863)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, JANDAKOT AIRPORT (ADMINISTRATION), MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1963–88
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on the administration of Jandakot Airport, including reports, statistics, crowd control, emergency procedures, safety, security, fire services, fuelling facilities, aprons, aircraft parking and air pageants.
Series: K519
Quantity: 1.62 metres
Recorded by: 1963–: Jandakot Airport (CA 4864)
AIR SAFETY INVESTIGATION FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, ALPHABETICAL PREFIXES, 1963–
Perth
The files in this series contain information on air safety investigations, including the location, date and time of incident, type of aircraft, the pilot and/or aircraft owner, and a description of the incident.
Series: K160
Quantity: 12.06 metres
Recorded by: 1963–73: Department of Civil Aviation, Western Region, Perth (CA 2884)
AIRWORTHINESS CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1969–
Perth
The files in this series contain information about the airworthiness of aircraft at Jandakot Airport.
Series: K235
Quantity: 4.5 metres
Recorded by: 1969–: Airworthiness Section, Jandakot Airport, WA (CA 4803)

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