Defence was one of the first functions to be passed to the new Commonwealth Government in 1901 from the former colonies. When the Commonwealth assumed responsibility for national defence, it established the Department of Defence to coordinate all armed services.
The new department was primarily responsible for naval and military matters and the control of railway transport for defence. In the years that followed, administrative changes at times resulted in the creation of the related departments of Defence, Navy, Army and Air. Now, nearly 100 years later, the Department of Defence continues to play the major role in determining Australia's defence policy and strategy and in coordinating the activities of the Australian Army, the Royal Australian Navy and the Royal Australian Air Force.
The National Archives collection of defence-related records is vast, and most are in Canberra. The Archives, however, does not hold all the records on defence created by Commonwealth Governments. For example, the Australian War Memorial has operational records of war and the Department of Defence has records of service from World War II.
Defence records held in Western Australia are mainly administrative in nature. They deal with defence installations and establishments in WA, and administrative matters affecting the 5th Military District, WA, among other things. Few defence records held in the Perth Office predate World War II.
This chapter comprises two sections, one on defence operations records and the other on defence personnel records. Access to some of these records may be restricted for national security reasons or because they contain personally sensitive information.