The National Archives of Australia is an Australian Government agency that collects, preserves and encourages access to important Australian Government records. It describes itself as the memory of the nation.
The Archives’ collection of 40 million items traces events and decisions that have shaped the nation and the lives of Australians. Visitors are welcome to explore the collection, online or in person.
Established under the Archives Act 1983, the National Archives reports to its Minister, the Attorney-General. Like all government agencies, it is accountable to the Australian Parliament. The National Archives of Australia Advisory Council provides advice to the Minister responsible for the Archives and the Director-General.
Under the Act, the National Archives has two main roles:
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.
|National Archives of Australia|
|Jurisdiction||Government of Australia|
Queen Victoria Terrace, ACT, |
|Annual budget||A$87.87 million (2017–18)|
|Parent agency||Attorney-General's Department|
After World War I the Commonwealth National Library (later National Library of Australia) was responsible for collecting Australian Government records. The library appointed its first archives officer in 1944.
In March 1961 the Commonwealth Archives Office formally separated from the National Library of Australia and was renamed as the Australian Archives in 1975.
The Archives Act 1983 gave legislative protection to Commonwealth government records for the first time, with the Australian Archives responsible for their preservation.
The agency was renamed the National Archives of Australia in February 1998.
The National Archives of Australia’s collection of 40 million items covers records pertaining to the government of Australia, including Federation, Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Cabinet and Ministers.
Among the most popular with the public are defence service and immigration records which often contain valuable family history.
The Archives' repositories are not open to the public but items can be requested for digitisation or for viewing in reading rooms. Most records over 26 years old (gradually reducing to 20 years) are released for public access on request. However some have certain information exempted from access. These exemptions may include documents relating to defence and security and sensitive personal information.
Cabinet notebooks have a longer closed period, gradually decreasing from 50 years to 30 years by 2021. Access to items of cultural sensitivity to Indigenous Australians may also be restricted.
There are several notable collections held by the National Archives of Australia. They include:
The Archives’ National Office is in Canberra. It has temporarily been relocated to Old Parliament House until the end of 2018 when it will return to East Block. In 1998 the Canberra reading room, galleries and public areas of National Archives moved into a heritage listed building East Block in the Parliamentary Triangle. The building, one of the national capital's original offices, was built in 1926 beside the Provisional Parliament House. Over the years East Block housed various government departments and served as Canberra's first post office and telephone exchange.
National Archives reading rooms, repositories and offices are also located in each state capital and in Darwin.
In 1966, Peter Scott of the Commonwealth Archives Office (predecessor to the National Archives of Australia) developed the Australian Series System (in practice, referred to as the Commonwealth Records Series System by the National Archives) in his paper "The Record Group Concept: A Case for Abandonment". This system represented a change in traditional archival theories of provenance that groups records by the more flexible record series rather than the record group which required all records to be filed under only one creating agency (business, government agency, individual, etc.). The new system recognizes that creating agencies change names, split and dissolve over time and provides a flexible framework to arrange their records across the different agencies which all share the same organizational content. These record series are relational in that they are linked to their historical creating agencies in their various forms to reflect changes in organizational structure over time.