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Research Guides


Collections in Perth: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records


5. Communications

In Western Australia, as elsewhere in Australia, the development of communications services parallelled the development of the State. For example, in 1840 the white population in WA numbered 2 311 and the State had five post offices. Fifty years later, just prior to the gold rush, the white population had grown to 46 290 and the State had 80 post offices and 2 961 miles of telegraph line. By 1900, the population had exploded to 179 708 and the State had 215 post offices and 6 052 miles of telegraph line.

After the Commonwealth took responsibility for communications, initial changes were gradual. In most country areas the local teacher, police officer or the general storekeeper continued to act as the postmaster. Communications infrastructure developed in response to World War I and World War II and as a result of growth in primary industries such as mining and agriculture.

Today agencies in the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts administer Commonwealth legislation controlling the print and electronic media, the publishing industry and the postal and telecommunications operations of Government (eg Australia Post). The portfolio also includes agencies that operate as Government broadcasting stations and those charged with regulating the broadcasting industry.

'Communication' was not used in the portfolio name before the 1970s although links between most of the agencies with communications functions were established when they were initially created. Until 1975 many of these agencies were under the control of the Postmaster-General's Department.

Postal, telegraph and telephone services

Image 1: Country post office, WA.

Image 1: Country post office, WA.
NAA: K1209, KELLERBERRIN 2
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The Agency

The Postmaster-General's Department (PMG) was one of the original Commonwealth departments created on 1 January 1901. Sir John Forrest, first Premier of Western Australia and a strong advocate of Federation, was the first Postmaster-General.

In accordance with the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 (UK), the six separate State post and telegraph departments were amalgamated into one department. By 1 December 1901, when the Commonwealth Post and Telegraph Act 1901 came into operation, the different pieces of legislation regulating postal and telegraphic services in the various States ceased to apply.

In the Administrative Arrangements Orders of 1 June 1906, the PMG dealt with postal, telegraph and telephone services, ocean mail services and cables, and meteorological observations. In many Western Australian country towns, postmasters continued to undertake meteorological duties until well into the 1950s.

The PMG took over responsibility for broadcasting matters (radio and later television and radio frequency management) from 1932. This arrangement continued for 40 years when these responsibilities were transferred to the Department of the Media.

In 1975 the Australian Postal Commission was established, trading under the name of Australia Post. The Postal Services Act 1975 set specific financial objectives for the commission, which enabled postal services to be operated on a business-oriented basis. The Australian Telecommunications Commission (Telecom) also commenced operations in 1975, taking over the telecommunications functions of the PMG.

  • 1841–1975: Postmaster General's Department (also known as the State Administration), WA (CA 1035)

The Records

The records of communications services in Western Australia are among the oldest and most valued held by the Perth Office of the National Archives. For many years, the Postmaster-General's Department stored records at the General Post Office (GPO) in Forrest Place, Perth before transferring them to the National Archives during the 1970s.

Until it closed in 1988 and subsequently transferred its collection to the National Archives, the Post and Telegraph Museum held thousands of historical items in a variety of formats, including files, plans and photographs.

ENTRY BOOK CONTAINING INWARD LETTERS FROM COLONIAL SECRETARY, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1850–55
Perth
This letterbook contains copies of letters, ordinances and regulations about the administration of the GPO. Attached to the back of the book are copies of directives issued by the Colonial Secretary between July 1850 and January 1851 about the GPO. Letters to and from early settlers and pioneers were also copied into this book.
Series: K5
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1850–55: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
REGISTERS OF OFFICERS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1861–1908
Perth
This series consists of two volumes dealing with the appointment of officers to the Postmaster-General's Department. Information recorded about each officer includes name, date and nature of first appointment, related salary and present appointment. Some dates of birth are also registered.
Series: K10
Quantity: 2 metres
Recorded by: 1861–1908: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
STAFF REGISTERS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1873–1916
Perth
This series comprises two volumes of staff registers that contain personal details about individual officers along with details of their service with the GPO. A section headed 'Irregularities' records misdemeanours committed, and punishments received, by individual officers. This series reveals personnel management in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Series: K11
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1861–1908: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS AND PHOTOGRAPHS, ALBANY POST OFFICE, WA, 1877–1938
Perth
Series: PP278/2
Quantity: 0.02 metres
Recorded by: 1877–1938: Postmaster-General's Department – the Old Albany Post Office, WA (CA 1035)
MISCELLANEOUS HISTORICAL MATERIAL – THE INTERCOLONIAL TELEGRAPH SYSTEM (PERTH–ALBANY–EUCLA–SOUTH AUSTRALIA), 1877–1959
Perth
This series is a compilation of historical material, collected and donated from various sources, about the colonial telegraph system between Perth and South Australia. The material ranges from the operational records of telegraph stations to correspondence between former telegraphists half a century after they had worked together at the Eucla Telegraph Station.
Series: K1202
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1877–1959: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, POSTMASTER-GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT, 1883–1926
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)
REGISTER OF INWARDS AND OUTWARDS REGISTERED MAIL, 1888–1905
Perth
Series: PP185/6
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1888–1905: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
(A) TELEPHONE TECHNICIANS LOG BOOK, 1895–96; (B) AUTHORIZATIONS TO COLLECT REGISTERED MAIL, 1952
Perth
This series consists of a register that began as a logbook for telephone technicians' reports at Albany Station (1895–96). It was subsequently used as a register of persons authorised to receive registered mail at the Kalgoorlie Post Office.
Series: PP185/15
Quantity: 0.02 metres
Recorded by: 1895–1952: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
ATTENDANCE BOOK (PMG), 1905–06
Perth
Series: PP185/16
Quantity: 0.02 metres
Recorded by: 1905–06: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
COPIES OF HEAD OFFICE CIRCULAR MEMORANDA, 1913–25
Perth
This series contains circulars issued from the Melbourne (head) office of the PMG Department. The memoranda are about amendments to instructions, variations in procedures, new awards and determinations, and new rules and regulations.
Series: PP44/1
Quantity: 7 metres
Recorded by: 1913–25: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
STATISTICAL REGISTERS OF POST OFFICE TRANSACTIONS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, ALPHABETICAL SUBDIVISIONS INTO DISTRICTS, 1921–
Perth
This series comprises statistical registers recording all aspects of business conducted by official, unofficial, money order and non-money order offices in WA.
Series: K434
Quantity: 6 metres
Recorded by: 1921–75: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
PHOTOGRAPHS RELATING TO THE OPENING OF THE GENERAL POST OFFICE, PERTH, 1923
Perth
This series consists of two photographs with the following captions: 'His Excellency the Rt Hon Lord Forster, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia who officially opened the General Post Office Building' and 'The Hon W G Gibson MHR (Postmaster General) who was at the official opening of the new General Post Office, Perth'.
Series: K1260
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1923: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
POLICY, PROCEDURE, ADMINISTRATION FILES, 'G' SERIES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1924–51
Perth
This series contains administrative and general correspondence files covering procedural instructions, policy changes, conferences, the acquisition of sites for postal purposes, the installation of additional telephone boxes and letter receivers, suggestions for the opening of country telephone exchanges (non-official offices), premise leasing, and buildings for post offices and telephone exchanges. Other matters dealt with include mail safety, the 1934 Royal Visit, PMG annual reports, instructions on postal activities during World War II, and reports of accidents involving agency personnel and members of the public.
Series: PP117/1
Quantity: 17 metres
Recorded by: 1924–51: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
REFERENCE MATERIAL OF HISTORICAL INTEREST, AUSTRALIA POST, 1925–67
Perth
This series contains historically valuable registers and publications. Items include a register of money order books (1937–55), a document register for 1925, a register for money order repayments (1948–66), a stock book (entertainment tax tickets, 1940–42) and a collection of publications and documents about the conversion to decimal currency (1966).
Series: K1062
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1925–67: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
PRINTING AND ISSUE OF TELEPHONE DIRECTORIES CORRESPONDENCE, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 'CB' PREFIX, 1930–60
Perth
This series consists of correspondence about the production of telephone directories. Matters covered include staffing, estimates, and restrictions on and costs associated with the printing, advertising and distribution of telephone directories.
Series: PP215/1
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1930–60: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
POSTMASTERS' DIARIES, ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY POST OFFICE, 1940–86
Perth
This series comprises diaries compiled by postmasters throughout WA. They are in a register-style format specifically designed for use as diaries. The diaries record routine daily events (eg staffing, leave, mail, visits, etc) as well as extraordinary events, mainly about weather conditions such as heavy rainfall, flooding, strong winds and fires.
Series: K715
Quantity: 5 metres
Recorded by: 1940–75: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 'TB' PREFIX, CIRCA 1942–65 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1928–74)
Perth
This series contains correspondence files dealing with operational and housekeeping matters for the Telephone Branch.
Series: K937
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: c1942–65: Postmaster-General's Department – Telephone Branch, WA (CA 1035)
COUNTRY EXCHANGES AND TELEPHONE OFFICES FILES, 1958–65
Perth
This series contains records about hours of attendance, inspections, after-hours' connections and telephone facilities, the reopening of offices in country exchanges.
Series: PP216/1
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1958–65: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
RECORDS OF THE COMMUNICATIONS AND BROADCASTING COMMITTEE OF THE VII BRITISH EMPIRE AND COMMONWEALTH GAMES 1962, 1959–62
Perth
This series contains a collection of committee minute books, correspondence, drawings, photographs, diagrams, and the summary report of the Organising Communications and Broadcasting Committee of the VII British Empire and Commonwealth Games held in Perth.
Series: PP529/1
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1959–62: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
APPLICATIONS FOR THE REGISTRATION OF BOOKS, NEWSPAPERS AND PERIODICALS FOR TRANSMISSION BY POST AND ASSOCIATED CORRESPONDENCE, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1964–65
Perth
This series contains files about applications for registration of books, periodicals and newspapers for transmission by post. A typical application form shows the names of the applicant and publication, the address of the publication's registered office and the names, addresses and occupations of proprietors, publishers and printers. Additional information includes the number of copies printed each issue, the intervals of publication, the prices charged, the sale venues and to whom publications are offered for sale. Three copies of the latest issue of the publication and one copy of the preceding issue are often attached to the form.
Series: PP217/1
Quantity: 3 metres
Recorded by: 1964–65: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
POST AND TELECOM MUSEUM COLLECTION, 1975–88 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1850–1988)
Perth
This series was compiled by the Historical Officer of the Post and Telecom Museum in WA to provide information on the postal and telecommunications service histories of particular Western Australian post offices. It is alphabetically arranged by post office name.
Series: K1209
Quantity: 5 metres
Recorded by: 1975: Postmaster-General's Department – Post and Telecom Museum Collection, WA (CA 1035)

Radio

The Agency

The Australian Broadcasting Commission Act 1932 was added to the Acts administered by the Postmaster-General's Department on 1 July 1932. The inaugural radio broadcast was made at 8.00 pm that day by Prime Minister Joseph Lyons.

The Western Australian Branch of the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) began radio transmission from its Wanneroo Road transmitter, after taking over the farmers' station 6WF. Regional offices of the ABC were established in Kalgoorlie (1936), Geraldton (1945), Albany (1960), Bunbury (1961) and Port Hedland (1962).

The Perth station initially ran its own programs, but by the end of 1933 it was receiving regular program relays from Melbourne and Sydney. One notable program, Kindergarten of the Air, started in Perth in 1942. Its success – in part due to the closure of many pre-schools and kindergartens during World War II – led to it being produced nationally.

  • 1932–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA (CA 2116)

The Records

The independent news service of the ABC is now more than 50 years old and records of particular interest include news transcripts and administration records. The Perth Office holds a number of radio scripts from the mid-1950s.

The following list gives some examples of the series held by the Perth Office.

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES (ALPHABETICAL SUFFIX FOR RADIO AND ALPHABETICAL SUFFIX WITH '24' PREFIX FOR TELEVISION), 1932–75
Perth
This series contains operational and housekeeping files for the radio and television branches of the ABC. The files document a range of activities administered by the ABC and include information on programs, transcriptions, light entertainment, public affairs, administration, finance, staffing, regional stations, publicity, sporting events and news.
Series: K261
Quantity: 44 metres
Recorded by: 1932–75: Australian Broadcasting Commission, WA Branch (CA 2116)
ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION BROADCASTS, MINUTES OF MEETINGS, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1933–
Perth
This series consists of minutes of meetings of the Advisory Committee on Educational Broadcasts on ABC radio and television.
Series: K787
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1933–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)
CORRESPONDENCE RECORDS, NEWS ADMINISTRATION, ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1947–85
Perth
Series: K358
Quantity: 12 metres
Recorded by: 1947–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)
RADIO NEWS BULLETINS, METROPOLITAN AND REGIONAL, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1947–
Perth
This series contains the texts of news bulletins broadcast from ABC radio stations in Perth and Western Australian regional centres, including Albany, Bunbury, Dalwallinu, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie and Wagin. Short-wave and special announcement broadcasts were included in the records
Series: K222
Quantity: 202 metres
Recorded by: 1947–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)
SCRIPTS AND NOTES FOR RADIO AND TELEVISION, CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, 1954–
Perth
This series consists of scripts, transcripts and notes for radio and television programs produced by the ABC. The scripts are divided into categories of programs – eg Let's Join InJunior EnglishCorrespondence SchoolPrimary Social StudiesStories for the JuniorFrench for Exam Classes,StorytimeHistory of DramaSing and PlaySecondary Economics and The National. It also contains transcripts of on-air interviews and notes for schools on educational programs.
Series: K529
Quantity: 7 metres
Recorded by: 1954–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES RELATING TO THE COMMONWEALTH AND TOKYO OLYMPIC GAMES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1962–64
Perth
This series contains correspondence records about ABC operations for the 1962 Commonwealth Games, held in Perth, and the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. Matters dealt with include minutes of planning committees, publicity, technical facilities, program planning, accommodation, transport and staffing.
Series: K475
Quantity: 2 metres
Recorded by: 1962–64: Australian Broadcasting Commission, WA Branch (CA 2116)

Broadcasting control and spectrum management

The Agencies

In 1949 the Chifley Government established the National Broadcasting Control Board. As well as regulating technical aspects of broadcasting such as operating power and frequencies, the board also ensured that commercial broadcasting and television stations provided adequate and comprehensive programs for the general public. The board also made recommendations about commercial broadcasting licences for radio and television stations and was required to hold public inquiries into licensing matters.

In Western Australia, the Engineering Division of the Postmaster-General's Department was responsible for technical duties in connection with broadcasting services. The Superintendent, Radio Branch acted as the National Broadcasting Control Board's representative and officers of that branch monitored broadcasts.

In 1961, the board's own officers took over administrative and monitoring duties in WA.

  • 1954–75: Postmaster-General's Department – Radio Frequency Management Division, WA (CA 1035)
  • 1961–77: Australian Broadcasting Control Board, WA (CA 4818)

The Records

REGISTERS OF RADIOCOMMUNICATIONS LICENCES, 1954–81
Perth
This series contains bound and unbound registers of licences issued by the Postmaster-General's Department in WA, for the various radio-communications installations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act 1905 and the Wireless Telegraphy Regulations Act 1970.
Series: K786
Quantity: 2 metres
Recorded by: 1954–75: Postmaster-General's Department – Radio Frequency Management Division, WA (CA 1035)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, ALPHABETICAL PREFIXES, 1961–93 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1949–93)
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on the function and operations of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and its predecessors. Matters dealt with include accommodation, accounts, administration, broadcasting, commercial broadcasting, film classification and production, inspections, programs, surveys and television.
Series: K308
Quantity: 3 metres
Recorded by: 1961–77: Australian Broadcasting Control Board, WA (CA 4818)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1967–79 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1926–87)
Perth
This series contains correspondence files on the administration and operation of the Radio Frequency Management Division.
Series: K714
Quantity: 5 metres
Recorded by: 1967–75: Postmaster-General's Department – Radio Frequency Management Division, WA (CA 1035)

Television

The Agency

The first television broadcast in Australia was made by the Sydney commercial station TCN-9 in September 1956. A month later, in Sydney on 5 November, Prime Minister R G Menzies introduced the Australian Broadcasting Commission's first television broadcast, while the first broadcast from ABC-Television's Melbourne television studios took place on 19 November, just in time to cover the XVI Olympic Games.

By mid-June 1960, ABC television services had commenced in the other Australian State capitals – Brisbane on 2 November 1959 and Adelaide, Perth and Hobart on 11 March, 7 May and 4 June 1960 respectively.

In the early days of television no facilities existed for relaying programs to the various States. Radio news bulletins were broadcast nationally 13 times a day through landlines, but television news had to be sent to the various capital cities by teleprinter, after which it was prepared and presented separately. Copies were made of filmed material and were then sent to each State. By 1962 the ABC had installed videotape recording equipment in its studios in each State capital, but film remained the dominant format for many more years.

  • 1932–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA (CA 2116)

The Records

CORRESPONDENCE RECORDS RELATING TO OPERATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE ABC, 1949–50
Perth
This series contains correspondence records about staff and technical and other operations and activities carried out on behalf of the ABC in WA.
Series: PP480/2
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1949–50: Postmaster-General's Department, WA (CA 1035)
SCRIPTS AND NOTES FOR RADIO AND TELEVISION, 1954–
Perth
This series contains scripts, transcripts and notes for radio and television programs produced by the ABC. The scripts are divided into categories of programs – eg Let's Join InJunior EnglishCorrespondence SchoolPrimary Social StudiesStories for the JuniorFrench for Exam Classes,StorytimeHistory of DramaSing and PlaySecondary Economics and The National. It includes transcripts of on-air interviews and notes for schools on education programs.
Series: K529
Quantity: 7 metres
Recorded by: 1954–83: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)
TELEVISION FILM, 16 METRES, BLACK-AND-WHITE, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, ALPHABETICAL PREFIX, 1961–74
Perth
This series consists of black-and-white television film footage of ABC sports programs showing interviews with prominent sports personalities, important events and items of general interest.
Series: PP657/1
Quantity: 2.88 metres
Recorded by: 1961–74: Australian Broadcasting Commission, WA (CA 2116)
TELEVISION NEWS AND CURRENT AFFAIRS BULLETINS AND SCRIPTS, METROPOLITAN AND REGIONAL, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1968–
Perth
This series contains the texts of daily television news bulletins and current affairs programs transmitted from ABC television stations in Perth and Western Australian regional centres.
Series: K223
Quantity: 22 metres
Recorded by: 1968–: Australian Broadcasting Commission (Corporation), WA Branch (CA 2116)

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