Koorie Heritage – Aboriginal Records at PROV
Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds records relating to the administration of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria. Its main holdings are records created by the office of the Chief Protector of Aborigines (VA 512) and its successor, the Guardian of Aborigines (VA 513), which administered Aboriginal Affairs in the early years of the colony. PROV also holds some records of the Board for the Protection of Aborigines (VA 515).
Most of the records in PROV’s collection date from 1839 to 1946, with more extensive holdings from the period 1839 to 1859. The National Archives of Australia also holds records for the period 1860 to 1970s.
The records were created by government agencies managing Victorian Aboriginal people residing on Aboriginal mission stations. These records contain a wide range of information about Aboriginal people, such as medical and education reports, correspondence, employment details, meeting minutes, annual reports, police reports, and the issuing of provisions, clothing and rations, and records of the movement of Aboriginal people across Victoria.
As well as being a valuable resource for historical and genealogical research, the records also provide an insight into an era of surveillance and control of Aboriginal people by Victorian government agencies.
Signatories were residents of Lake Tyers mission station seeking to prevent the removal of station manager Captain Newman. The petition was unsuccessful.
PROV, VPRS 1694/P0 Correspondence Files, Unit 11, file May 1931 – June 1931
Records relating to Aboriginal people in Victoria are held in the collections of both Public Record Office Victoria and the National Archives of Australia (NAA). This is due to the Commonwealth government taking over responsibility for Aboriginal affairs from the Victorian state government in 1975.
Records held by both PROV and NAA can be accessed at the shared reading room at the Victorian Archives Centre (99 Shiel Street, North Melbourne).
Starting your research
The following online resources will assist you with starting your research at PROV:
The Aboriginal Protectorate and its successors
VA 512 Chief Protector of Aborigines 1838–1849
VA 513 Guardian of Aborigines 1850–1860
VA 514 Central Board Appointed to Watch Over the Interests of the Aborigines 1860–1869
VA 515 Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1869–1957
VA 4371 Aborigines Welfare Board 1957–1968
See also VF 175 Aboriginal Affairs on PROV’s online catalogue for more detailed information about the agencies that administered Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria, and the records they created.
Aboriginal records available at PROV: a select list
VPRS 1694 Correspondence Files [Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1867–1946]. For other correspondence files of the Board consult National Archives of Australia series B313.
See also: National Archives of Australia series B313 for other files in this series.
VPRS 10768 Register and Index of Inward Correspondence [Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1909–1939] For an earlier register consult National Archives of Australia series B328.
VPRS 10309 Secretary’s Letter Book [Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1905–1917].
VPRS 926 Letter Book Coranderrk [Board for the Protection of Aborigines 1898–1924]
VPRS 90 Daybook of the Native Police Corps, Narre Warren [1845–1853]
VPRS 11 Inward Unregistered Correspondence to the Chief Protector of Aborigines – Reports and Returns [1847–1851]
VPRS 10 Inward Registered Correspondence to the Superintendent of Port Phillip District, relating to Aboriginal Affairs [1839–1851]
Further detailed information about Aboriginal records at PROV and NAA is available in the publication My Heart is Breaking (see Publications below for details).
Viewing digitised records online
Some records relating to Aboriginal Affairs can be accessed online. See PROV’s guide to Digitised Records and Online Indexes for more information.
Koorie Records Unit
PROV’s Koorie Records Unit (KRU) promotes awareness of records about Aboriginal people held by PROV and NAA, and aims to improve the accessibility of these records to Koorie people and the wider community. The KRU collaborates with Koorie community organisations such as Link Up Victoria, the Koorie Heritage Trust and Connecting Home Ltd, in its outreach and training projects.
Aboriginal name indexes
Both PROV and the National Archives of Australia have created Aboriginal name indexes to improve access for Aboriginal people to records about themselves, their families and country.
Public Record Office Victoria’s Koorie Index of Names can be searched in the Public Record Office Victoria reading rooms at the Victorian Archives Centre and Ballarat Archives Centre; no appointment is necessary to access the Koorie Index of Names database.
Requests for searches of the National Archives of Australia’s Bringing Them Home name index can be made to a National Archives of Australia reference officer in any of its capital city reading rooms or by emailing the National Archives of Australia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A dedicated Koorie Reference Officer assists Aboriginal researchers, including members and descendants of the Stolen Generations, to identify records relating to family, community and culture in both PROV and NAA. The Koorie Reference Officer does not undertake general research requests, or provide Proof of Aboriginality.
walata tyamateetj: A guide to government records about Aboriginal people in Victoria. This guide assists people researching Aboriginal family and community history, or the history of interactions between government and Aboriginal people in Victoria.
You can read this free guide online or download the PDF copy from this website.
Footprints: the journey of Lucy and Percy Pepper is a joint NAA and PROV publication that was developed in consultation with the Pepper family of Victoria. Footprints tells the story of the family’s struggle to stay together, at a time when laws and government policy defined who was ‘Aboriginal’ and who was not.
Published as an e-book in 2012, which is available from the Public Record Office Victoria website. A travelling exhibition to accompany this publication was also developed by Public Record Office Victoria in 2011.
Publications available online
Finding Your Story
Finding Your Story is a valuable reference tool for Victorian Indigenous people seeking information on their separation from family and community. Finding Your Story is also a helpful guide for organisations that assist the Stolen Generations retrace family and community connections through records made by government and non-government agencies.
Finding Your Story is currently being updated.
wilam naling …knowing who you are… report 2006
The wilam naling report addresses recommendations from the Commonwealth government’s 1997 National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families. The report contains recommendations for improving access to records by people affected by removal policies.
Tracking the Native Police
PROV’s online exhibition Tracking the Native Police tells the story of the Native Police Corps from 1837 to 1852. It contains records about the Aboriginal men who joined the corps, and also about the many Aboriginal people and communities they encountered throughout Victoria.
Provenance: The Journal of Public Record Office Victoria
PROV publishes its online scholarly journal Provenance every year in September. The journal has featured a number of articles about Aboriginal people and issues, such as
‘Unequal Justice’: Colonial Law and the Shooting of Jim Crow, in issue 5, 2006;
Superintendent La Trobe and the amenability of Aboriginal people to British law 1839-1846, in issue 8, 2009; and
Koorie Heritage Trust’s Koorie Family History Service
295 King Street
Melbourne Vic 3000
(03) 8622 2600
Oral histories, assistance with family history research, and library and education programs
139 Nicholson Street
East Brunswick Vic 3057
(03) 8388 1855
Family tracing, reunion, support and counselling assistance for Aboriginal people removed from their families as children
Connecting Home Ltd
14 Gipps Street
(03) 8679 0777
Supporting and addressing the needs of people affected by practices and policies of removing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples from family, community, country and culture
Australian Institute of Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS)
Family History Unit
GPO Box 553
Canberra ACT 2601
(02) 6246 1111
Online Family History Kit and other tools to assist with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander family history research.
PROV, VPRS 3686/P1, Unit 370, Drawing No. ARF 1.