The collection of documents and artefacts held by the National Archives of Australia is extraordinarily rich and varied, encompassing material and recording history that predates the creation of the Archives and the nation itself.
The Commonwealth of Australia has been in existence for just on half the period of European settlement on this continent. Its formation, by agreement of the people of the six self-governing colonies, saw the transfer of many functions of government – and in many cases the colonial records relating to those functions – to a federal body.
This is why the Archives has a federal structure and a presence in all states and territories, increasingly reinforced as part of a strategy to co-locate its regional offices with their state or territory counterparts in 'one-stop shops'. It is also why the Archives is publishing a series of research guides relating to the former colonies, which from 1901 became states and territories.
Commonwealth Government Records about South Australia is an invaluable tool to help in the search and discovery of records that are specific to the state of South Australia. This guide is a marvellous introduction to the material that is available – a treasure trove not just for historians but for all the state's citizens. The comprehensive and intriguing table of contents will whet the appetite of not only those wishing to examine particular areas of interest, but the general reader.
As expected there are the records of colonial departments that transferred to the Commonwealth, such as customs, defence and immigration, but there is also a range of other records of particular national significance with South Australian locality. For instance, weapons research, rocket and nuclear testing, the operation of the Commonwealth Railways (later Australian National Railways) to the west, east and north of the state with Port Augusta as the railhead, and of course, the wine industry.
Our thanks and congratulations go to Sara King and all those involved in producing this invaluable research guide pointing to documents that tell us where we have been, where we are, and leading us to think about where we might go next.
John Bannon AO FASSA
Chairman, National Archives of Australia Advisory Council
5 June 2013