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Victorian Archives Centre public opening hours

Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
(excl. public holidays)
The second and last Saturday of every month
The Reading Room will be closed on 2/Oct for the public holiday.

Capture Standard Refresh

Magnifying lens  on the stack of old filesPublic Record Office Victoria (PROV) is currently reviewing its Capture Standard and associated products. Current Capture Standard documents can be found here.

We’re inviting interested stakeholders to participate in the review.

Consultation will take place during November and December 2015 and will likely consist of a survey or interview (approx. one hour), depending on the number of participants. There will also be a subsequent opportunity to comment on the review recommendations and/or proposed Capture Standard products. Your feedback would be highly valued in assisting to improve PROV products.

The Refresh will have a focus on digitisation requirements and digital signatures, although feedback on all aspects of capture is welcome.

To indicate your interest please email with the heading ‘Capture Standard Refresh’ by COB Friday 16th October.

PROV intends to complete the Capture Standard Refresh by mid year 2016.

Report finds systematic recordkeeping failures across Victorian government

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Greater emphasis and investment in information management within agencies is critical to avoiding waste and loss of public confidence.

Earlier this year Public Record Office Victoria, in conjunction with Landell, completed a review of the compliance of Victorian Government agencies with their records management obligations prescribed by the Public Records Act (1973).  

David Brown, Assistant Director Government Services, explained “Over the years PROV has observed a significant trend of recordkeeping non-compliance within Government departments, agencies and other Victorian public bodies in our jurisdiction. We commissioned Landell to help investigate if this non-compliance is systematic and what, if any patterns could be determined regarding instances of non-compliance that had been identified.”

The Review examined the 224 reports published by Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO) and the Victorian Ombudsman (VO) between 2010 and 2014. Records management failures were identified in over half of them. It found that rather than being isolated incidents, records management failures are systemic, chronic and pervasive.

VO reports aim to investigate situations where some form of ‘wrong-doing’ or administrative failure has occurred, or was thought to have occurred. It was therefore expected that some records management failures would be identified in the VO reports. In contrast, it was anticipated that the VAGO audit reports would identify records management failures to a lesser extent, as VAGO audits evaluate government agency performance. However this was not the case. The consistent appearance of records management failures across both sets of reports supports the conclusion that this is a systemic issue, rather than the result of multiple ‘one-off’ events.

It is clear from this Review that:

  • There is a pattern of systematic and ongoing records management failures within Victorian Government departments and agencies.
  • The records management failures hinder investigation by VAGO or VO.
  • Over the five years considered, at least 54% of reports included some form of records management failure or concern. This figure reached as high as 84% in the most recent year considered (2014).
  • Almost all Departments appeared more than once over the entire period of review.
  • Victorian Governments give insufficient regard to the value of information throughout its entire life. This devaluation reduces accountability, lowers public respect, increases costs and lowers productivity.

The Review concluded that record keeping failures are an extensive and ongoing concern for Victorian Government departments and agencies.

If you want to know more about the Review, contact us at


A new exhibition is coming to Old Treasury Building

  • A photo of a soldier settler campsite including tents, soldier settlers, their dogs and horses
    A photo from the archives to be featured in Soldier On: PROV VPRS 14517 P1 Unit 34 L533

After a successful eight months of nostalgia at the Old Treasury Building, School Days: Education in Victoria is set to close in October, making way for a new exhibition from 9 November. 

Soldier On:  WW1 Soldier Settler Stories features records straight from our archives, revealing previously untold stories of the Victorian soldier settler experience.

The exhibition will take visitors through the establishment of the WW1 Soldier Settlement Scheme in Victoria and the harsh realities of life on a soldier settlement farm, through to the 1925 Royal Commission and beyond.

Between 1918 and 1934, the Soldier Settlement Scheme helped settle around 11,000 returned soldiers on farming land across the state through government leases. From the exhibition’s original records, as well as first-hand video and photo accounts, discover how the Scheme shaped the Victorian landscape as we know it today.      

Soldier On:  WW1 Soldier Settler Stories is presented by Old Treasury Building in partnership with Public Record Office Victoria, and is supported by the Australian Government’s Anzac Centenary Arts and Culture Fund.

What: Soldier On:  WW1 Soldier Settler Stories
Old Treasury Building, Spring Street, Melbourne.
Soldier On:  WW1 Soldier Settler Stories is showing from 9 November until 15 August 2016.
Open Sunday through to Friday 10am-4pm (closed Saturdays).
Bookings: This is a FREE exhibition. Bookings not required. 

Visit for visitor information or discover your WW1 soldier settler ancestors at

Newly indexed “Deeds of Composition” shed light on financial dealings in Melbourne 1871-98

  • Schedule of Insolvency Andrew Anderson Pratt in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Melbourne ‘Deeds of Composition’ are now searchable by name, location, occupation and year thanks to the hard work of our volunteers.

What are ‘Deeds of Composition’?

A ‘Deed of Composition’ is the record of arrangements between insolvent debtors and their creditors in which they agree to settle for a percentage of the amounts owed. This small series was created by the Court of Insolvency, Melbourne 1871-1898.

The deed process enabled those who could not pay their liabilities to make a private arrangement with their creditors and then be completely discharged.

The practice was also known as “Secret Compositions” because the arrangement required no personal court appearance and there was little to no newspaper reporting of the arrangement. The stigma and restrictions of formal bankruptcy were also avoided and the individual could incur new debts immediately as their financial situation was known only to their old creditors.

Value for family researchers

PROV volunteer Marilyn Kenny, who indexed and repackaged the files, said that the records enable researchers to understand the characteristics of those who sought to make such an arrangement and appreciate the impact this pattern of debt had on Victorian society.

“The amount of money involved totalled into the millions of pounds,” she said.

“This is the first full listing of names, addresses and occupations across the whole period. Family historians may discover unexpected details of their ancestor’s financial dealings.”

Finding these records

Here we can see an example of what you can find within each record. This is Andrew Anderson Pratt’s “Deed of Composition” in which he outlines everything he owes to his 11 creditors.

Statement of Insolvency 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Statement of Insolvency 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Statement of Insolvency inside Andrew Anderson Pratt VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Statement of Insolvency inside Andrew Anderson Pratt VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Schedule of Insolvency Andrew Anderson Pratt in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Schedule of Insolvency Andrew Anderson Pratt in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Affidavits 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

Affidavits 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

General meeting minutes 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

General meeting minutes 12 Andrew Anderson Pratt 137 King Street Melbourne Ironmonger in VPRS 763 P1 Unit 1

What is ‘Moveable Heritage’?

Not for sale! Limits on the international trade of records in Australia

Most people in the heritage and archives community understand that Victorian public records are protected from being illegally sold or removed, damaged or destroyed.

Unlike a library you cannot simply borrow a public record from our North Melbourne, nor any other, Reading Room! It is also a crime for a member of the public, or a public servant who doesn’t have permission, to take or sell a public record that belongs to a Victorian government organisation.

Moveable Heritage

Perhaps less well known is that most records held by Public Record Office Victoria and other Australian Federal, State and Territory archives are also protected as ‘Moveable Heritage’. This means that these records cannot be legally exported outside of Australia without a permit.

What’s more, this restriction applies to all ‘documents’ which are:

  • of significance to Australia; and
  • more than 30 years old; and
  • not represented in at least two public collections in Australia by an item of the same quality.

A ‘document’ can include (among other things) books, letters, pamphlets, a sound recording, a film, television or video production, maps, plans, photographs, and drawing or other graphics, whether or not these are hardcopy or digital.

Records or other documents of this type which are sold or exported internationally (for example via EBay) illegally may be seized by Federal authorities and forfeited. Those responsible could also be prosecuted.

More information can be found on the Ministry for the Arts website.

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which governs Moveable Heritage is currently under review by the Australian Government, who will release their findings on 30 September 2015.

By Carly Godden, Senior Standards and Policy Officer

Planning for the worst

Imagine how you’d feel on a Monday morning to go into work and head down to the basement (which is where your records are stored) and it’s turned into a cross between a swimming pool and an open sewer, or, if one night you receive a phone call explaining your office was gutted by fire; including the records storage area that you’re responsible for.

While having a Disaster Management and Recovery Plan won’t stop a burst pipe or a fire, it can make recovering from such an event a lot easier.

Get Covered and Read It

One important component of a Disaster Management and Recovery Plan is insurance information. The name and contact details of your insurer as well as any preferred companies they have for recovery work should be kept accessible, even in cases where the office is destroyed. Vital information includes exactly what the insurance covers and how much your recovery budget will be. It may sound callous, but perhaps your disaster recovery insurance doesn’t cover faulty plumbing, or recovery of records being stored in an environment where disaster risks were evident (such as exposed sewerage pipes) and no mitigation actions had been taken.

Paper Recovery Vs Digital Recovery

Methods for recovery of records after a disaster differ according to the format of the record and the nature of the disaster. For example, water damaged paper records respond well to vacuum freeze drying; but parchment, vellum, painted media and photographs do not and so should not be treated that way. Records held on a computer or in a server may not be lost, even if they have been gutted by fire. There are organisations which specialise in recovering records from disaster situations and that should be called in as quickly as possible to ensure maximum record recovery.

What Matters Most?

Choices will need to be made regarding which records to focus on as a recovery budget is unlikely to be sufficient to cover everything. An understanding of which records are vital for the organisation, where they were stored and on what medium will provide much needed direction for prioritising recovery work and expenditure. Another factor is whether there are copies of the affected records in another location which remain accessible for business continuity.

Assess your storage area

Of course the most effective approach to disaster recovery is careful planning. Conducting a risk assessment of records storage areas may have identified the potential for water damage resulting from a burst pipe, for example. Mitigation measures may have included not using the basement to store records, refitting the basement, routinely checking the state of the pipes and placing important records on higher shelves, and ensuring backup arrangements for digital records had been tested and are effective.

More help

Are you prepared should a disaster affect your records storage? More information on records storage can be found here. 

 This article originally appeared in PS News as part of our Government Recordkeeping Tips series.  

New transfer: SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

  • A photo of the front cover of one of the photo albums in this collection
    Photograph Album, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

A new set of photo albums has been added to our State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) Latrobe Valley Photographic Collection. 

The SECV Latrobe Valley Photographic Collection began in the 1920s with photographs taken of the progress of construction of the Yallourn Township, Power Station and Briquette Factory. It continued on a part-time basis until after World War II and eventually a full-time photographer was appointed to the Yallourn Drawing Office.

We now have new photos from Yallourn Power Station, Briquette Factory and other nearby sites (1916-1967) available to order and view at the Victorian Archives Centre North Melbourne.

Here’s a sample from one of the albums in VPRS 17092 P13 Unit 8:

A photo of the front cover of one of the photo albums in this collection

Photograph Album, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

Photo of the power house

Power House June 1921

A photo of flood waters

After the floods Dec 1934

A photo of all the men working on constructing the weir

The weir construction gang July 1935

A photo of the weir construction

Construction of the weir July 1935

Another photo of the power house

The Power House 1921

A photo of weir construction

Construction of the weir July 1935

Search VPRS 17092 p 13 Photograph Albums, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection to order these records. 

Other new transfers to our collection include Research papers of J A Vines, Author of A History of the Loy Yang Mine – Its Origins and Development to May 1997



Research into physical record storage within Victorian Government

RepositoryPhotoSince 2013, PROV has conducted a number of surveys to determine the volumes, locations and costs of physical records storage held by Victorian Government agencies and within commercial storage facilities.

Although our research is ongoing, there are already some emerging observations we can share.

The growth of physical records is not in decline

Despite the increasing efforts to digitise, we are still seeing a steady growth in the storage of physical records. In fact, we estimate Victorian Government to hold around 800km of records, costing millions of dollars each year in storage costs.

We also hear anecdotal evidence as to why agencies aren’t carrying out much records disposal. One example is because of the high upfront cost of destroying a standard archive box of records stored in a commercial facility, which is equivalent to the cost of one year of storage (of that same archival box).

However, implementing a disposal program not only ensures the agency fulfil its record-keeping obligations, but in the long term will actually save money, and reduce administrative burden and growth of physical records.

Digitised and source paper records are being unnecessarily stored at the same time

Another agency shared with us that in many instances, after the completion of a digitisation project, the source paper record and the digitised record are both stored by the agency.

Not only does this create a disincentive for the agency to conduct further digitisation projects, it also creates further administrative burden. At times, there are legitimate reasons to do this, such as the source paper record has value as a physical artefact or there is a requirement imposed upon the agency to keep the records in a particular format. However, in many instances, there is some confusion as to when the source records can be disposed of after conversion to another format.

According to the Guide to the GDA for converted Source Records, it is advisable for agencies to gain experience on low risk conversions before attempting large scale high risk conversions.

It is likely you will need to build a business case to gain endorsement and resources for your digitisation and storage projects. PROV has a useful Writing a Business Case Guideline which can be used to present your case and to seek endorsement and funding to a particular project or initiative. In addition to this, you may also find this impact calculator of interest.

By Alan Kong, Manager of Standards and Policy

walata tyamateetj (carry knowledge) wins archive publication award

  • Vicki Couzens, Untitled, mixed media on paper, 2005.
    Artwork used on the front cover of Walata tyamateetj by Vicki Couzens, untitled mixed media on paper, 2005.

walata tyamateetj [wa-lata  tee-ama-teej], a guide to Victorian government records about Aboriginal people, was awarded a Mander Jones Award for best finding aid to an archival collection at the Australian Society of Archivists annual conference earlier this week. 

The Mander Jones Publication Awards honour Phyllis Mander Jones who, among other contributions to the profession, authored Manuscripts in the British Isles relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, in 1972. Miss Mander Jones was also the first Corresponding Secretary of the Archives Section of the Library Association of Australia  and she co-edited the first issue of the Society’s journal Archives and Manuscripts.

Walata tyamateetj was awarded for enabling access to and engagement with Victorian Aboriginal archival collections. 

This publication is a joint guide to Victorian government records about Aboriginal people published by Public Record Office Victoria in association with the National Archives of Australia. The guide includes information about Victoria’s Koorie history through a comprehensive listing of records which can be accessed both in hard copy and electronic formats.

Access to the records in these collections is critical to Aboriginal people, and particularly the Stolen Generations, to enable them to reconnect with family, culture and Country. Records are also important to organisations within Victoria which offer services to members of the Stolen Generations. The guide was created to help reduce the barriers and improve access to records for the Victorian Aboriginal community and general researchers.

More information about the Mander Jones Awards can be found on the Australian Society of Archivists website. 

View, download, or order a free hard copy of Walata tyamateetj here. 

walata tyamateetj means ‘carry knowledge’ in the Gunditjmara language of western Victoria.  

New online index: Body Cards 1959-1985

  • One of the files from VPRS 10010 P1 Unit 53

What are ‘Body Cards’?

This series, named ‘Body Cards’ after the cardboard files contained within, include records of deaths reported to the Melbourne Coroner’s Court between 1959 and 1985. 

Deaths reported to the Melbourne Coroner’s Court included unexpected, unnatural, or violent deaths, deaths in care or custody, and when the identity of the person was unknown.  

What can I find in these files?

Records within the series contain all of the supporting documentation used by a coroner when investigating reported deaths, including:

  • the Victorian Police report of the death
  • an autopsy report as conducted by the Coroner’s Court 
  • an affidavit and/or other statements of identification
  • a copy of the body admission sheet
  • correspondence from next of kin, solicitors and others (if received)
  • copies of drug analysis, carbon monoxide or blood alcohol reports (when appropriate)
  • medical deposition from a treating doctor in a hospital and ambulance admission sheet.

Search the index

A new index to this series is now available online enabling you to search files for viewing at the Victorian Archives Centre.

Search the online index here.

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