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Research Guides


Collections in Perth: A Guide to Commonwealth Government Records


7. Customs

After Federation, the Collector of Customs took over responsibility for activities performed in Western Australia since 1853 by the Colonial Office.

The customs and excise legislation that gave the Commonwealth Department of Trade and Customs its major powers was passed in October 1901. The Western Australian Government, however, argued that the State would be disadvantaged by the introduction of the free trade system. The Commonwealth addressed this concern by allowing WA to pay a sliding scale of duties for five years before the State became a full participant under the legislation.

During World War II, the department was required to administer regulations made under the National Security Act 1939. The department became responsible for matters such as tobacco, tea and other rationing; the wine industry; cargo requisitioning; and price regulation. It also participated in economic warfare – it seized enemy-owned vessels (eg the Remo), attempted to control trading in contraband goods and trading with the enemy, and was responsible for ships' stores and strategic war materials.

The Agency

In 1901, as well as the Customs Office at Fremantle, 16 other Customs offices were located along the Western Australian coast. With such wide coverage, it is not surprising that, for practical purposes, responsibility for the collection of customs and excise duties by the Department of Trade and Customs was linked to immigration and quarantine matters.

The Collector of Customs remained responsible for quarantine matters in WA until 1921, for commerce until 1925 and immigration until after World War II.

  • 1853–: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)

The Records

CASHBOOK OF ASSISTANT OR DEPUTY COMMISSARY GENERAL, COLONY OF WESTERN AUSTRALIA, 1853–58
Perth
This series consists of a cashbook, of value because it describes clearly the transactions dealt with and makes frequent reference to familiar Western Australian historical identities.
Series: PP203/5
Quantity: 0.3 metres
Recorded by: 1853–58: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
MERCHANT SHIPPING FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 'MS' PREFIX, 1853–1973
Perth
Files in this series contain information about the construction or importation of seagoing vessels registered at Western Australian ports. The files contain documents and titles to the vessels, survey reports, transfer documentation when vessels or partnerships were sold, and changes to the registered names of vessels.
Series: K1123
Quantity: 3 metres
Recorded by: 1853–1973: Collector of Customs – Registrar of Shipping, WA (CA 808)
LETTER BOOK NO. 5, 1877–91
Perth
This series consists of a leather-bound book with handwritten letters from the Collector of Customs, WA, generally to the Colonial Secretary or his deputy, about operational and administrative matters.
Series: PP203/11
Quantity: 0.06 metres
Recorded by: 1877–91: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
CASH BOOK, BUSSELTON, WA, 1896–1903
Perth
This series consists of the ledger maintained by the Sub-Collector of Customs, Busselton on the duties of his office. The cashbook entries show the change of Customs responsibilities from a colonial to a federal function on 1 October 1901.
Series: PP203/9
Quantity: 0.06 metres
Recorded by: 1896–1903: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
LETTER BOOKS, PORT OF GERALDTON, WA, 1897–1926
Perth
This series consists of three volumes of handwritten letters from the Collector of Customs, Geraldton, on the operations and administration of that office.
Series: PP203/8
Quantity: 0.3 metres
Recorded by: 1897–1926: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
SHIPPING REGISTERS, FREMANTLE, WA, CHRONOLOGICAL SERIES, 1898– (MICROFILM COPIES HELD IN ALL OFFICES OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES)
Perth
This series consists of registers recording the movement of ships through the Port of Fremantle. Information recorded includes the names of ships, their dates of arrival and departure, other ports called at, next ports of call and where their voyages were to end. Additional information about each ship includes a cargo summary, the names of agencies or owners, ship tonnage, port of registry, type of vessel, number of embarking/disembarking passengers and the shipmaster's name.
Series: K737
Quantity: 6 metres
Recorded by: 1898–: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
REGISTERS OF CORRESPONDENCE, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1901–42
Perth
This series consists of registers of information about immigrants rejected or landed on certificates, arrival of immigrants, exemption certificates, coloured persons leaving Australia, prohibited persons and seamen for the pearling industry.
Series: PP4/4
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1901–42: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
STATISTICAL REGISTERS OF BREWERS, DISTILLERS, TOBACCO GROWERS AND CIGARETTE MANUFACTURERS, 1901–55
Perth
Registers in this series provide information about licences issued to brewers, distillers, tobacco growers and cigarette manufacturers; quantities of materials received and used in various manufacturing processes; quantities of products made; and amounts of duty paid.
Series: PP79/1
Quantity: 4 metres
Recorded by: 1901–55: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1901–97
Perth
Series: K273
Quantity: 198 metres
Recorded by: 1901–11: Department of Home Affairs [I], Central Office (CA 8); 1911–32: Lands and Survey Branch, WA (CA 737); 1932–39: Property and Survey Branch, WA (CA 738); 1939–46: Works and Services Branch, WA (CA 971); 1946–52: Property and Survey Branch, WA (CA 4816); 1952–75: Chief Property Officer, Perth (CA 1065)
Fremantle – Customs House – site, 1946 K273, 1946/42
REGISTERS OF CERTIFICATES OF EXEMPTION FROM THE DICTATION TEST, 1904–28
Perth
This series contains personal details of aliens resident in, but absent from, Australia for specified temporary periods who were issued, after payment of a prescribed fee, with certificates exempting them from admission tests as defined under the Immigration Restriction Act 1910.
Series: PP363/1
Quantity: 0.54 metres
Recorded by: 1904–28: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
PEARLING REGISTER, ONSLOW, WA, 1905–58
Perth
This series consists of a single register recording the entry into Australia of aliens specifically for employment in the pearling industry. These people were indentured to nominated pearling masters. Information recorded about them includes their names, nationalities, permit numbers, dates of discharge from employment and general remarks.
Series: PP363/2
Quantity: 0.35 metres
Recorded by: 1905–58: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
REGISTERS OF LICENSED CARRIAGES AND LIGHTERS, 1908–37
Perth
These registers show details of licences issued to carriages and lighters permitting the conveyance of under bond (ie duty not paid) goods. Information includes the name of licensee, licence number, amount paid, number and date of warrant, and name and address of surety. For lighters, information includes the name and description of the vessel (eg its length, breadth, depth, tonnage and value), name and address of owner, licence number, date of issue, fee, warrant number, date of warrant and name and address of surety.
Series: PP126/1
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1908–37: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
INTELLIGENCE REPORTS (INTERNMENTS, REPATRIATIONS, AFFILIATIONS AND GENERAL INVESTIGATIONS), MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1915–20
Perth
Series: PP14/1
Quantity: 8 metres
Recorded by: 1915–19 : Headquarters, 5th Military District [I], Commonwealth Military Forces (CMF), WA (CA 4811); 1919–20: Investigation Branch, WA (CA 908)
Collector of Customs, 1915–20 PP14/1, 1/2/188
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1923–50 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1911–58)
Perth
Series: K1184
Quantity: 11.36 metres
Recorded by: 1923–50: Public Service Inspector, WA (CA 872)
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 1
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 2
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 3
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 4
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 5
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 6
Customs Department – personnel, 1924–51 37/25 PART 7
POLICY, PROCEDURE AND SPECIAL INSTRUCTIONS FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 'W' PREFIX, 1932–63
Perth
Series: PP176/1
Quantity: 1 metre
Recorded by: 1932–63: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
Security control of travellers, 1951–52 PP176/1, 52/C1601
Suspected smuggling of drugs at Derby, Darwin and north-west ports, 1955–56 PP176/1, 55/C3873
Confidential – visit of Soviet ships Zarya and Vityaz, 1956–60 PP176/1, 56/C2365
WARTIME FILES, 39/C AND 43/C SERIES, 1939–41
Perth
Records in this series deal with a range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/4
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1939–41: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
WARTIME FILES, 40/W SERIES, 1939–42
Perth
Records in this series deal with a range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/3
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1939–42: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
CONFIDENTIAL TELEGRAMS TO OR FROM COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS, 1939–45
Perth
The files in this series contain copies of confidential or decoded telegrams about Customs activities from August 1939 to August 1945. They are valuable because they illustrate departmental wartime activities that were generally not made known to the public.
Series: PP227/1
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1939–45: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
WARTIME FILES, 39/W SERIES, 1939–45
Perth
Records in this series deal with a wide range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/2
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1939–45: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
Personal property in Australia of former German consuls and their staff, 1939 PP227/2, 1939/W10
Censorship of diplomatic mail, 1939–41 PP227/2, 1939/W16 PART 2
Coordination of contraband control – ship navigation certificates, 1940–45 PP227/2, 1939/W32
WARTIME FILES, 40/C SERIES, 1940–45
Perth
Records in this series deal with a range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/5
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1940–45: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
General file – Remo – precautionary measures, security, detention, seizure, prize court and dispatch, 1940–41 PP227/5, 40/C/1497
WARTIME FILES, 41/C SERIES, 1940–47
Perth
Records in this series deal with a range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/6
Quantity: 0.36 metres
Recorded by: 1940–47: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
MISCELLANEOUS WARTIME FILES, 42/C SERIES, 1941–49
Perth
Records in this series deal with a range of departmental activities and functions during World War II.
Series: PP227/7
Quantity: 0.18 metres
Recorded by: 1941–49: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
Firearms – prohibited weapons seized by Customs and impressed by Department of Army, 1941–42 PP227/7,1942/C414
Transport of explosives under wartime conditions, 1942–43 PP227/7,1942/C352
Duty-free goods – United States consul (petrol and oils), 1942–49 PP227/7,1942/C1212
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 'W' PREFIX, 1964– (CONTENTS RANGE: 1909– )
Perth
Files in this series deal with the activities of the Australian Customs Service in WA, including the collection of customs and excise duties; the regulation of the import and export of drugs, precious metals and other commodities; the prevention of smuggling and the seizure and disposal of contraband; the detection and treatment of offenders; the administration of legislation about stills; and internal departmental functions such as staffing, administration and communication with head office.
Series: K272
Quantity: 44 metres
Recorded by: 1964–: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)
Verification of weight of imported cigars and cigarettes – established weights, 1939–85 K272,W1982/2466
Indecent and obscene articles – prohibited imports, 1961–79 K272, W1983/04705
PHOTOGRAPHS RELATING TO CUSTOMS ACTIVITIES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1989–98 (CONTENTS RANGE: 1864–1997)
Perth
This series consists of volumes containing black-and-white and colour photographs of Customs activities. The subjects photographed are diverse and range from old Customs buildings and sites to Customs staff and sniffer dogs in action.
Series: K1349
Quantity: 4 metres
Recorded by: 1989–98: Collector of Customs, WA (CA 808)

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