National Archives of Australia

National Archives of Australia
Agency overview
Formed March 1961
Jurisdiction Government of Australia
Headquarters Queen Victoria Terrace, Parkes ACT
Employees 504 (at April 2013)[1]
Annual budget A$86.98 million (2007-08)
Agency executive
  • David Fricker, Director-General
Parent agency Attorney-General's Department (Australia)

The National Archives of Australia is a body established by the Government of Australia for the purpose of preserving Commonwealth Government records. The organisation sits within the Attorney-General's Department, reporting to the Attorney-General George Brandis. The national office is in Canberra with offices in each state capital and Darwin. As of June 2007, the National Archives had 437 staff, of which 246 (56.3%) were women.[2] The Archives' budget for 2007-2008 was $86.98 million, with $66.8 million provided by the Commonwealth government.[3] The chief executive officer is the Director-General. The agency is divided into five branches: National Coordination, Access and Communication, Archive Operations and Preservation, Government Information Management and Corporate, each headed by an Assistant Director-General.

In addition to caring for its collection, the National Archives develops and tour exhibitions, publishes books and guides to the collection and delivers educational programs. It also advises other government departments and agencies on records management.


The National Archives of Australia national office on Queen Victoria Terrace in Canberra, December 2011.

The foundation stone for a National Archives was laid by Edward, Prince of Wales in Canberra in 1920 but no building was constructed after the ceremony. The Federal Parliamentary Library (later the National Library of Australia) was responsible for collecting Commonwealth Government records after World War I.

Dr Theodore Schellenberg, Director of Archival Management at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., visited Australia in 1954 on a Fulbright Scholarship and advocated the separation of Australia's national archives from the National Library.[4] In March 1961 the Commonwealth Archives Office was formally separated from the National Library of Australia with offices spread across several Canberra suburbs, including in Nissen huts. The organisation was renamed the Australian Archives in 1975.

The Archives Act 1983 gave legislative protection for Commonwealth archives for the first time and gave the Australian Archives a legislative mandate to preserve government records. The agency was renamed the National Archives of Australia in February 1998 and became an Executive Agency of the Department of Communications, Information Technology and the Arts on 28 February 2001.[5] On 12 December 2011, it was transferred to the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sport. Following the department's abolishment in September 2013, the National Archives were transferred to the Attorney-General's Department.

Eastern facade of the current home of the National Archives of Australia, 2009.


The National Archives' collection covers public records pertaining to Federation, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Cabinet and Ministers and most of the activities with which the government has been involved. The Archives' repositories are "closed access" so the public cannot browse its 300,000m of shelves, but items can be requested for viewing in the reading rooms or copies made. Most records over 30 years old are released for public access, while a small proportion are released with some exempt information deleted. Exempt information includes documents relating to defence and security (such as the design and construction of weapons and records of Australian intelligence agencies) and private information (including medical records and raw census data). Cabinet notebooks are released after 50 years. Access to items of cultural sensitivity to Indigenous Australians may also be restricted.

Several collections, including all Australian military service records from the Second Boer War to the Vietnam War, have been made available online and are popular with researchers. On 6 November 2002 the Archives placed World War II service records online.[6] Migrant selection documents and naturalisation papers more than 30 years old were made available in 2005.[7] On 11 April 2007 the Archives placed 376,000 World War I service records online. Digitising of files is an ongoing process, and new images are being added to the web site on a regular basis. The public can also request particular files to be digitised, for a fee.

Notable collections

William James (Jack) Mildenhall photographed in 1927

There are several notable collections held by the National Archives of Australia. These include:


Document repositories were opened in the Canberra suburbs of Mitchell in 1981 and Greenway in 1989. In 1998 the Canberra reading room, galleries and public areas of National Archives moved into a heritage listed building in the Parliamentary Triangle. The building is the former East Block, one of the national capital's original office buildings, located next door to the Provisional Parliament House. East Block held various government departments and served as Canberra's first Post Office and telephone exchange before it became the head office of the National Archives of Australia.

Reading rooms, repositories and offices for the National Archives are also located in each State capital and in Darwin.

In November 2009, it was announced by the Director-General Ross Gibbs that the National Archives offices in Hobart, Adelaide and Darwin would close over the succeeding two years. Gibbs blamed Government budget cuts for the closures.[8] The National Archives continues to fund research grants of up to $45,000.00 annually,[9] and contributes an unknown amount towards the National Library of Australia administered Community Heritage Grants, with the NLA reporting grants of $383,852.00 in 2009.[10]


The National Archives of Australia publishes a free magazine, Memento (ISSN 1327-4155) twice a year. It also publishes books, research guides to the collection, exhibition catalogues and a range of other publications.

Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) System

The Australian Series System (also known as the Commonwealth Record Series (CRS)) is the system used to organise and describe records held in the National Archives of Australia. It was developed in the 1960s based on an idea of an archives staff member, Peter Scott. Under the CRS system, agencies (government departments, and statutory authorities) create series (that is groups of related records created by the agency) which are made up of items (records of any sort).[11]

National directors

See also


  1. Australian Public Service Commission (2 December 2013), State of the Service Report: State of the Service Series 2012-13 (PDF), Australian Public Service Commission, p. 255, archived (PDF) from the original on 6 December 2013
  2. National Archives of Australia, Annual Report 2006-2007.
  3. "Portfolio Budget Statements 2007–08: NAA" (PDF). Retrieved 8 August 2007.
  4. Piggott, Michael (1989). "The Visit of Dr TR Schellenberg to Australia 1954: A Study of Its Origins and Some Repercussions on Archival Development in Australia". University of New South Wales.
  5. National Archives of Australia, Annual Report 2000-2001.
  6. "Service records of Aussies who served in WWII go online". Sydney Morning Herald. 6 November 2002. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  7. "National archives makes migration records available". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 9 February 2005. Retrieved 7 August 2007.
  8. Cost-cutting forces National Archives to close offices, The Canberra Times, 14 November 2009
  9. "Research grants – National Archives of Australia". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  10. "Previous recipients | National Library of Australia". Retrieved 2012-08-05.
  11. Documenting a Nation by Hilary Golder
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