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The National Archives of Australia

The National archives of Australia is a part of Australian Government Agencies that has dedicated itself to serving the country’s National Archives. Formerly known as the Commonwealth Archives office and Australian Archives, the National archives of Australia collects important Commonwealth government records with the intention to preserve them.

The sole purpose of the National archives of Australia is to encourage the general public to gain access to valuable government records. The National archives of Australia promote the use of its records by the following methods:

  1. Through exhibitions.

  2. By publishing books.

  3. By arranging guides on the collection at the National archives of Australia.

  4. Through educational programs.

The National Archives of Australia

The Main Role

Described as a “Memory of the Nation”, the National Archives plays the role of a preserver of important records. By involving a comprehensive process of collection of data and records that specifically reflect the identity of Australia, the National archives seek to preserve the history of the nation.

Visitors to the National archives of Australia are encouraged either online or in-person to explore the vast collection that traces events and decisions that have built the nation and lives of the Australian people.

Another important role that the National Archives of Australia plays would be to help the Australian Government and its departments be effective and accountable to its people.

The Archives Act of 1983

National Archives of Australia
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Under the Archives Act of 1983, the Australian government records can be available to the public. The act governs all access to Commonwealth government records.

To fulfil an important aspect to preserve Australia’s valuable government records and encourage their use of them, the National Archives of Australia ensures that all Australians have easy access to the archives.

The Archives Act of 1983 regulates that all government agencies in Australia have an excellent record management system.

Citizens of Australia are encouraged to interact with the government departments to fulfil the need to preserve their history for the future generation. Through this process, the National archives of Australia help family historians, academics, and other researchers gain a wealth of information.

By encouraging the government agencies to promote good records management, the National archives of Australia render invaluable support to Australia’s cultural heritage of the country, the rights of the citizens, and informed decision making.

The Archives National Office in Canberra

archives of Australia
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The National Archives of Australia has not been in existence as it is today. It was created as a part of the National Library of Australia or the Commonwealth National library resulting in an independent agency in 1963.

The heritage-listed building called the East Block in the Parliamentary Triangle was built in 1926 next to the Provisional Parliament House. In 1998, the Canberra reading room, galleries, and public areas of National archives were moved here.

The East Block was home to various government departments, Canberra’s Post Office, and Telephone exchange. The National archives of Australia officially opened its new National Archives Preservation Facility in Canberra on 9th June 2017. This was a separate office and was different from the reading room and galleries.

The 180000 sq. ft facility was renamed Peter Durack Building. Hon. Peter Durack QC was instrumental in the introduction of the bill that created the Australian National Archives in 1983.

The offices and reading rooms of the National archives of Australia can be found in every state’s capital city and the Northern Territory. The offices are found at the following locations:

  1. National Office – Canberra.

  2. South Australia – Brisbane.

  3. Northern Territory – Darwin.

  4. Tasmania – Hobart.

  5. Victoria – Melbourne.

  6. Western Australia – Perth.

  7. New South Wales – Sydney.

The National Archives Collection of Australia

The National archival collection has over 40 million items that pertain to the records belonging to the Government of Australia such as :

  1. Federation

  2. Governors-General

  3. Prime Ministers

  4. Cabinet

  5. Ministers

The most popular records among the public are the ones that specifically relate to the defence and immigration records. These remain indispensable and contribute to valuable family history.

Some of the Archives repositories that are not open to the public need to be requested for digitization. It can also be viewed in one of the reading rooms of the archival offices. As the records are nearly 26 years old, they are generally released to the public on request.

There are certain documents that may be exempted from access such as defence and security. As these contain highly classified and sensitive information they are generally exempted from public access.

Some of the noteworthy collections found at the National Archives of Australia are:

  1. The founding documents – Royal Commission of Assent, The Constitution Act, and Records relating to the six colonies federated to create the Commonwealth of Australia.

  2. The service records of World War 1 and World War II – Some are digitized too and can be viewed online at “Discovering Anzacs”.

  3. The Griffin Drawings – The Prizing winning entry of the Design Competition to design Australia’s Federal Capital.

  4. Jack Mildenhall’s glass plate photographs – 7700 images taken during the 1920s to 1930s.

  5. Immigration Photographs – 34000 plus photos.

  6. Registrations records of copyright, patent, and trademark.

archives of Australia
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 Topics To Explore in the Collection at the National Archives of Australia

The National Archives of Australia has access to some of the most significant and crucial Australian government records to enable one to understand the nation’s past, present, and future.

The forty million collection traces events relating to military service, immigration, first Australians, and much more. You can start looking for any topic online by clicking on “Go to RecordSearch”.

archives of Australia
Image by Bohdan Chreptak from Pixabay

Some of the most popular topics that are searched at the National archives of Australia are as follows:

1. Immigration and Citizenship

The National Archives Collection has over a thousand records that document Australia’s migrant history. To know more about a family’s migration details to Australia, one can research the topic “Immigration and Citizenship”. It covers the following:

  • Passenger Arrival Records – This collection traces events relating to ship and aircraft arrival records. These help you to understand the way people migrated in and out of Australia.

  • Immigration Restriction Act 1901 – This was famously known as the White Australia Policy. It restricted or limited non-white immigration from 1901 to the 1960s. The Act was dismantled in the early 1970s.

  • Wartime Internment Camps – In order to shelter prisoners of war and enemy aliens, the Australian Government had set up internment camps during World I and II.

  • Citizenship Records – The National Archives has citizenship records from 1904 onwards.

  • Migrant Accommodation Camps – The camps were known as training centres and helped migrants to learn the English language and also look for employment.

  • Alien Registration Records – All documentation pertaining to non-British immigrants are recorded here.

2. Defence and War Service Records

archives of Australia
Image by Hands off my tags! Michael Gaida from Pixabay

There are over 1.5 million WWI and WWII service records in the National archives of Australia. To learn more about a family’s war history, to do academic research, or commemorate ex-service members, the collection of war service records would be the one to give helpful insight on the subject.

You can research the following:

  • War Service – Learn about a person’s war service to the Nation.

  • Conflicts – The Archival Collection has records relating to every conflict from the Boer War to Vietnam.

  • Discovering Anzacs -Government records relating to Australians and New Zealanders in World War 1 and II

    archives of Australia
    Image by Sammy-Sander from Pixabay
  • The entire collection of WWI and II Australian servicemen and women. Some of the most intriguing stories can be found on these pages.

  • Royal Australian Navy Ship and Crew.

  • Royal Australian Airforce records since its establishment in the year 1921.

3. First Australians

The National Archives of Australia has an immense collection of records about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

All records pertaining to individual indigenous people and the Australian government policies on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people will be available under this heading.

4. Australia’s Prime Ministers

The official records of each Prime Minister’s period in the office are available for public access at the National Archives of Australia. The records will also have records of their personal lives.

5. Intelligence and Security

All official information relating to Australia’s security services will give an in-depth analysis of the shadowy world of intelligence and espionage. You can research on:

  • Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).

  • History of Australian Intelligence and Security.

6. Cabinet

The National Archives will provide an insight into the issues and decisions taken by the government over the past several years. The Prime Minister and senior government ministers make up the Australian Cabinet. It includes:

  • Latest Cabinet Release – All decisions taken by Prime Minister John Howard’s second and third terms will have their place here.

  • Cabinet notebooks – Notebooks of senior public servants can be found in the National Archives.

  • Cabinet Records – All cabinet meetings held over the course of the history of Australia will be listed here.

Archives of Australia
Image by helen35 from Pixabay

Archival Research

Australia is a great place to complete higher education. Many students would be glad to know that there are great higher education loan programs. The key role of the National archives is to promote archival research in Australia to encourage a considerable use of the collection. The Archives has awarded the following research grants:

  1. Ian Maclean Award- For professionals and archivists interested in archival issues.

  2. Frederick Watson Fellowship – Given to established scholars.

  3. Margaret George Award – Given to Talented and emerging scholars.

The National Archives of Australia has an active program that includes touring exhibitions, learning, and outreach programs. The agency continues to be of great help to the Australian government. It helps to improve the creation, collection, management, and use of data. The Australian government in turn can protect and serve the people of Australia with the outstanding support of the National Archives of Australia.

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