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Research Guides

Safe Haven: Records of the Jewish Experience in Australia


The National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia ensures that full and accurate records documenting Commonwealth Government activities are created and kept. From this massive body of information, the Archives selects, cares for and makes available to all those records of continuing value. This collection constitutes the archives of the Commonwealth Government – a vast and rich resource for the study of Australian history, Australian society and the Australian people.

The collection spans almost 200 years of Australian history. The main focus of the collection is material which documents Federal Government activities since Federation in 1901. There are also significant holdings of nineteenth-century records which relate to functions transferred by the colonies to the Commonwealth Government at the time of Federation and subsequently. The records described in this guide are a small but significant part of the collection.

Access to the National Archives collection is provided free of charge in public reading rooms located in each capital city. Researchers are assisted by specialist reference staff and are provided with reference tools to help them identify and use the records in the collection. These reference tools include the RecordSearch and PhotoSearch databases,guides, publications and fact sheets. Researchers unable to visit a reading room may seek information and help by telephone, mail, facsimile or email.

RecordSearch and PhotoSearch provide information about agencies, persons and series as well as descriptions of over two million individual records. They are available for online searching in reading rooms located in all offices of the National Archives, at the Australian War Memorial and on the National Archives website.

The National Archives website provides more information about the Archives, its collection and the services it offers. A visit to the site will help you determine whether the Archives holds records relevant to your research. Fact sheets on various topics are also available on the Archives website.

Using this guide

The aim of this guide is to describe and facilitate access to records in the National Archives which relate to Jewish people in Australia. The guide brings together descriptions of records which deal with a wide range of topics, including immigration, naturalisation, the position of Jews in Australia during periods of war, the participation of Jews in public life and the armed forces, antisemitism, Zionism and Australian responses to the Holocaust.

The guide aims at comprehensiveness. However, given that the collection of the National Archives runs to an estimated 500 shelf kilometres of records, clearly only a proportion of records of possible Jewish interest could be located and identified. Accordingly, the search has targeted the most likely sources of relevant material.

The guide is divided into an introduction, a prefatory essay and seven subsequent chapters.

The Introduction provides general information about the National Archives. The essay (Chapter 1) provides an overview of two hundred years of Australian Jewish history, focusing, in particular, on the key themes of communal decline and assimilation, and revitalisation through successive waves of immigration.

Chapters 2 and 3 examine Jewish immigration in detail. Chapter 2 encompasses an historical summary of Government policy regarding the entry of Jews into Australia and summarises major archival sources on immigration policy (specifically from 1920 to the 1960s), and on such important sub-topics as the work of the Australian Jewish Welfare Society, the outcomes of the Evian Conference, Jewish child migration, and land settlement proposals such as the Kimberley Scheme. Chapter 3 summarises holdings of migrant selection records and case files. Chapter 4 provides a summary of relevant naturalisation records.

Chapter 5 examines the status of Jews as 'enemy aliens' in time of war, and summarises records of wartime internment (with particular reference to the Dunera affair).

Chapter 6 focuses on records relating to Australian Jewish achievers – individuals who have gained prominence in politics, the arts or other public domains. This chapter also examines Jewish congregations and other communal institutions, the Jewish press, antisemitism and the role of Jews in Australian Communism.

Chapter 7 looks at the participation of Jews in the Australian Armed Services, specifically during the Boer War, World War I and World War II.

Chapter 8 summarises the evolution of political Zionism in Australia, and cites records dealing with Australian responses to European antisemitism and the Holocaust, and Australia's relations with Palestine (under the British mandate) and the State of Israel.

As additional aids to researchers, the guide includes several Appendixes – including other sources of Jewish records in Australia, a select bibliography and information about Jewish research sites on the Internet (Appendix 3).

Record descriptions

Each entry in the guide describes a group of records which have been maintained together as a series. A series is made up of items, which are often individual files (sometimes volumes, sets of cards, photographs, etc) that were received into custody by the National Archives from the creating agency or person. Series usually consist of many items, but occasionally consist of just a few or even a single item.

The description for each series describes its content and function. The entry concludes with a listing of selected items from the series. In many instances, particular series have been found to contain relevant material on multiple aspects of the Jewish experience, and have been referred to several times. The full description of each series is given only on its first appearance. As a general rule, this guide identifies rather than analyses the records. Researchers should make their own assessment of the information content and value of any item.

More detailed information about the series, agencies and items described is available on the Archives database, which is available for online searching in each of the Archives reading rooms, at the Australian War Memorial and on the Archives website.

To fully understand a record it is helpful to know certain things about it in addition to its contents. It helps to know who created the record, when it was created and what other related records exist. This information provides the context of the record, which helps researchers interpret what the record is really about, determine its relevance, and decide how accurate or complete it might be. The National Archives documents this contextual information for each record in the collection using the Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) System.

2 Canberra

This series consists of nominal rolls of naval personnel.
Series: A9951
Quantity: 5.04 metres
Recorded by:1949–69: Navy Office (IV), Department of the Navy(CA 12)

4 Nominal roll – RAN. Duplicate 1–100, 1949 A9951, 74
5 This volume includes details of the individual’s birth date, rank, order number, date mobilised, home address, next of kin, etc.  


  1. This information gives the series title and the date range of the records which make up the series. The series number is shown on the right-hand side.
  2. This shows the location of the series (ie the office of the National Archives where it is held) is also shown.
  3. This gives a brief overview of the contents of the series, the series number, the total volume of records in the series (In some cases only several items within a series will relate to the topic, but in other instances the entire series will be devoted to it), the department or agency which created the series, and the period during which this department or agency was in existence. The 'CA' (Commonwealth Agency) number is a unique identifier allocated by the Archives to each agency. This number can be used to retrieve more information about the agency and the records it created from RecordSearch.
  4. This shows the title given to an item from this series by the creating agency. Sometimes additional information appears in square brackets. This indicates information that has been added by the Archives to clarify the meaning of the title. The dates of the earliest and latest document on the file are also shown. The item’s series number and identifying number appear on the right-hand side. These numbers must be quoted if a copy of the record or access to it is requested.
  5. Where included, this describes the main contents of each item. Note that it does not describe every document on the file. Because of the number of records listed in this guide, contents description has had to be limited. However, where possible, an attempt has been made to describe those items assessed as having special significance.

Access to the records

Many of the series described in this guide are listed in the Archives database which is available in each of the reading rooms and on the Archives website. Indexes and inventories – available in reading rooms – may also be useful. Reference staff can sssist researchers to use these lists.

Not all items are available immediately for public access. Some may first require examination to ensure they do not contain information which remains sensitive (eg personal details). If individual items within a series have not been examined, researchers apply for access to them and there may be a delay while the material is examined. If items are withheld from public access following this examination, reference staff will explain the nature of the information, why it has been withheld, and how to appeal against the decision.

Citing the records

The correct citation of archival records is important both when requesting them and when referring to them in written or published works. Using proper citations will not only help staff to more readily locate records, but will also help other researchers to find that material you have used if they wish to examine it for themselves.

The correct form of citation for records held by the National Archives is expressed as follows: the name National Archives of Australia followed by a colon, the series number followed by a comma, and then the item number. An example is:

National Archives of Australia: A9951, 74

The name National Archives of Australia may be abbreviated to 'NAA' provided the full name has been used in the first citation.

Locating additional information

Additional information on the Jewish experience in Australia can be located by conducting searches on the National Archives database. Holdings of relevant material by other institutions in Australia are noted in Appendix 1. The select bibliography will also assist researchers to identify other primary and secondary sources.