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Research Guides


Collections in Perth: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records


4. Colonial Administration

The Colony of Western Australia was officially founded on 18 June 1829 with the appointment of a governor and a number of government officials. In 1870, 12 candidates were elected to the first Legislative Council of Western Australia. Nineteen years later the Legislative Council passed legislation establishing a bicameral parliament, with the new chamber to be known as the Legislative Assembly. Sir John Forrest, who was later to serve in the first Federal ministry, became the first Premier of Western Australia.

The Agencies

The 1890s were a decade of rapid development in Western Australia. Debate over whether the colony should become part of the proposed Federation of Australia reached a peak with a last-minute, but successful, referendum in 1900. In April 1933, however, a referendum to secede was favoured by a two-to-one majority of Western Australians. Although WA did not secede, some Western Australians believe the debate about joining the Federation is still not over. Western Australian State parliamentarians regularly revive the issue.

The Agencies which created colonial records and whose records are in the Perth Office are:

  • 1829–1901: Colony of Western Australia (CO 7)
  • 1829–1980: Colonial Secretary's Office (from 1926, the Chief Secretary's Office), WA (CA 1256)
  • 1852–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414)
  • 1861–1908: Postmaster-General's Department (CA 1035)
  • 1887–1906: Patent Office, WA (CA 1257)
  • 1901–: State of Western Australia (CO 29)

The Records

The Perth Office of the National Archives holds many records that predate Federation. This came about principally because the transfer of State Government functions to the newly established Commonwealth agencies meant that Public Service officers (who had often performed the same function under State or colonial authority) had to take with them the records they required in order to continue their work. This administrative need varied among the agencies.

Some examples of colonial records are shown below. (See sections on Communications and Meteorology.)

METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS, SWAN RIVER SETTLEMENT, 1830–75
Perth
This series contains basic daily meteorological observations – eg temperature, barometric pressure, wind direction and climatic conditions prevailing in the Swan River Settlement (later known as Perth).
Series: PP430/1
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1852–75: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414)
LETTER BOOKS PERTH, FREMANTLE, 1850–1912
Perth
This series contains five volumes of correspondence about the general business of the Perth and Fremantle post offices.
Series: PP187/1
Quantity: 0.36 metres
DAILY RAINFALL RETURNS, RAINFALL AND RIVER OBSERVATIONS, METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS AND REGISTERS, 1852–1975
Perth
This series consists of daily rainfall observations made at various meteorological stations throughout WA. Details include rainfall during previous 24 hours, wind at 8.00 am (direction and force), amount of cloud cover, general state of weather and total rainfall in one month.
Series: PP647/1
Quantity: 11 metres
Recorded by: 1852–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), WA (CA 3992); 1955–75: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, WA (CA 2355)
REGISTERS OF METEOROLOGICAL OBSERVATIONS, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER WITHIN RECORDING STATION, 1852– (CONTENTS RANGE: 1830–)
Perth
This series contains registers showing meteorological observations taken at recording stations throughout WA. The registers are currently known as Forms A9 or A10. Details were recorded about temperature, wind speed and direction, cloud cover and type, visibility, rain and remarks. Observations were taken daily at different times.
Series: K994
Quantity: 6 metres
Recorded by: 1852–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, WA (CA 2355)
REGISTERS OF OFFICERS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1861–1908
Perth
This series comprises two leather-bound volumes containing information about the appointment of officers to the Postmaster-General's Department. Details include name, date and nature of first appointment, related salary and current appointment for each officer. Some dates of birth are also registered.
Series: K10
Quantity: 2 metres
Recorded by: 1861–1908: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
DUPLICATE INDEXES TO INVENTIONS AND PATENTS, NUMERICAL SERIES, 1876–1900
Perth
This series consists of five leather-bound volumes titled 'Index to Inventions, Patents'. Each page has three columns headed respectively 'Description of Invention', 'Name and Applicant or Patentee' and 'Number in Register'.
Series: K20
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1876–85: Colonial Secretary's Office, WA (CA 1256); 1886–1900: Patent Office, WA (CA 1257)
DUPLICATE REGISTERS OF PATENTS (WITH NAME INDEX TO 1897), 1876–1911
Perth
These registers record in detail the complete history of patents from the number allotted to them to their date of application in the pre-Federation period.
Series: K15
Quantity: 1 metres
Recorded by: 1876–86: Colonial Secretary's Office, WA (CA 1256); 1887–1906: Patent Office, WA (CA 1257); 1907–11: Trade Marks and Designs Sub-Office, WA (CA 903)
RAINFALL REGISTERS – WESTERN AUSTRALIA, 1876–1944
Perth
This series consists of three volumes showing daily and monthly rainfall reports received from recording stations in WA. Stations are in alphabetical order, with first pages numerically indexed to page numbers of volumes.
Series: PP430/5
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1876–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–44: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1883–1926 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1883–1938)
Perth
This series contains administrative and general correspondence files for all branches of the PMG. Matters covered include the inauguration and extension of letter deliveries, the acquisition of buildings and building sites, the erection of new buildings, the appropriation of reserves for Commonwealth public buildings and the erection of telephone and telegraph lines throughout the State.
Series: K1
Quantity: 10 metres
Recorded by: 1883–1926: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
DUPLICATE INDEX TO TRADEMARKS BY COMMODITY CLASSIFICATION, NUMERICAL SERIES, 1885–1906
Perth
This series consists of 12 volumes and that provide identification with the Administration of the Patent Office in the pre-Federation period. The trademark representations used are illustrative of the commercial marketing methods used in the Colony prior to Federation.
Series: K14
Quantity: 2 metres
Recorded by: 1885–86: Colonial Secretary's Office, WA (CA 1256); 1886–1906: Patent Office, WA (CA 1257)
SYNOPTIC WEATHER CHARTS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1896–1986
Perth
These charts show the isobaric weather pattern for Australia recorded at various intervals on each day of the month.
Series: K127
Quantity: 250 metres
Recorded by: 1896–1908: Government Astronomer, WA (CA 7414); 1908–55: Meteorology Branch (Bureau), Divisional Office, WA (CA 3992); 1955–: Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology, Regional Office, WA (CA 2355)

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