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Aboriginal Records at PROV

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.


Example record
A petition lodged in 1931 with the Board for the Protection of Aborigines. This petition is unusual because the signatures have been arranged in a spiral pattern.


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


Accessing records

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).

Check the websites of PROV and NAA for opening hours.

Starting your research

Records can be ordered through PROV’s online catalogue for viewing in one of PROV’s reading rooms. PROV’s guide to Searching Online for Records can help locate relevant records.

The following online resources will assist you with starting your research at PROV:

Koorie People and Places Research Pathway and Getting Started Research Pathway.

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.

To find out more about the KRU, subscribe to our electronic newsletter (email subscription request to and visit our webpage.

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

For more information about the Aboriginal name indexes see PROV’s guide to the Koorie Index of Names and NAA’s guide to the Bringing Them Home name index.

Contact us

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

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

Dallong – Possum Skin Rugs: A Study of an Inter-Cultural Trade Item in Victoria, in issue 4, 2005;

‘Unequal Justice’: Colonial Law and the Shooting of Jim Crow, in issue 5, 2006;

‘Give to us the People we would Love to be amongst us’: The Aboriginal Campaign against Caroline Bulmer’s Eviction from Lake Tyers Aboriginal Station, 1913-14, in issue 7, 2008; 

 The case of Peter Mungett: Born out of the allegiance of the Queen, belonging to a sovereign and independent tribe of Ballan, in issue 8, 2009;

Superintendent La Trobe and the amenability of Aboriginal people to British law 1839-1846, in issue 8, 2009; and

‘In future, only female teachers’: Staffing the Ramahyuck mission school in the nineteenth century, in issue 11, 2012.

Further information

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

Link-Up Victoria

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

Collingwood Vic

(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.


Example record
The proposed church building plan for the Framlingham Aboriginal mission station in 1920, near Warrnambool, Western Victoria.  This building is still standing.

PROV, VPRS 3686/P1, Unit 370, Drawing No. ARF 1.


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