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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

Mythbusting: New privacy laws do not apply

Image courtesy Stratford Historical Society

Image courtesy Stratford Historical Society

New privacy laws do not apply to authorised public records in a Place of Deposit

The Data and Privacy Protection Act 2014 commenced late last year.

Public Record Office Victoria would like to reassure agencies that public records that have been approved for transfer to a Place of Deposit (POD) should not be restricted from public access due to these privacy laws.  

As many agencies are aware, the Information Privacy Principles set requirements for the way private information is collected and stored by government. However, section 12 of the Act stipulates that the Information Privacy Principles do not apply to public records open for public inspection which are under the control of the Keeper of Public Records.

All records authorised for transfer to PODs remain under the control of the Keeper and it is a condition for appointment as a POD that those records be made available to the public.

“So its business as usual in terms of transfer of records from government agencies to Places of Deposit,” said Lauren Bourke, Coordinator Community Archives, Public Record Office Victoria.

Transfers of records from an agency to a POD must be authorised by Public Record Office Victoria.  Agencies wishing to transfer records to a POD should contact the Community Archives team at  

Information about the POD program can be found here.

Any questions on the impact of the Data and Privacy Protection Act 2014 upon PODs can be directed to Carly Godden via email:

Release of new Intellectual Property Guidelines for the Victorian Public Sector

Photo by: Horia Varlan

Photo by: Horia Varlan

In March 2015, the Department of Treasury and Finance released the Intellectual Property Guidelines for the Victorian Public Sector (IP Guidelines).

These IP Guidelines replace the working draft guidelines released in November 2013 and are designed to assist with implementation of the Whole of Victorian Government Intellectual Property Policy by providing important information on intellectual property (IP) related issues, including for example:

  • making copyright material publicly accessible
  • commercialisation of IP
  • protecting and enforcing IP rights
  • using third party IP.

All agencies, with the exception of local government, are subject to the IP Guidelines.

What does this mean for Public Records?

Public records contain a wealth of the state government’s IP and this IP must be carefully managed to ensure appropriate use and access.

Although the new IP guidelines contain new provisions to enhance the Government’s objectives of granting rights to the State’s IP as a public asset and managing third party IP responsibly, it also reinforces the obligations of agencies under the Standards issued by Public Record Office Victoria. This is particularly the case when it comes to disposal and procurement.

Disposal of IP

The IP Guidelines advise upon the range of considerations that must be taken into account when determining if it is appropriate to reassign or dispose of IP owned by an agency. However, as noted in the Guidelines, where the disposal concerns IP in public records, this must be done in accordance with PROS 10/13 Disposal Standard and the applicable Retention and Disposal Authority issued under the Public Records Act 1973.


Agencies should also be attentive to IP requirements in procurement, especially as applied to outsourcing agreements. Where an outsourcing agreement includes public records, agencies should take steps to ensure record-keeping contract clauses are included in the agreement. PROS 10/10 G2: managing records of outsourced activities guideline prescribes that ownership of IP contained in records that are to be used or transferred to the custody of agencies must remain with the government agency.

For more information about how the new IP Guidelines may impact agencies, email

Stories of WW1 soldier settlers come to life

  • Soldier settlers circa 1920 in a photo taken by John Ellis, a WW1 photographer.

One of Victoria’s most important military collections is now available to the public for the first time online, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane, unveiled an important new website for historical and family research today.

Battle to Farm enables the public access to nearly 10,000 government records on the Victorian Soldier Settlement Scheme. The scheme helped settle thousands of returned World War One soldiers on farming land across Victoria through government leases, drastically transforming the landscape of regional Victoria.

The great debate

Over the years there has been great debate as to the success or failure of the settlement scheme as ex-soldiers were entering farming life in a difficult economic climate as the world descended into the Depression.

Over 50 per cent of those allocated blocks left the scheme. Many were unable to cover their debts when food prices plummeted, while others accused the government of leasing blocks that were too small. Through these resources, we can see not only the land allocated to each settler, but the hardships they faced.

Making these records public

Searchable by soldier name and geographic location, the new website developed by Public Record Office Victoria is an extraordinary achievement, making public for the first time one of Victoria’s important military collections.

The website features digitised soldier settlement records, letters from the soldiers about their farming life, video interviews of people who grew up on settlement blocks, photographs, and a guide to understanding the records.

Shedding light on the lives of the settlers

Parliamentary Secretary to the Special Minister of State, Shaun Leane said that Battle to Farm allows us to learn about the experience these soldiers went through and to better understand this important chapter of Victorian history. 

“Between 1918 and 1934, 11,639 returned servicemen were allocated blocks of land under Victoria’s soldier settlement scheme – more than 80 volunteers have spent two years digitising these records to bring us this important resource in time for the ANZAC Centenary.”

Director and Keeper of Public Records, Justine Heazlewood said that the goal of the project is to make these records more accessible to all Victorians. 

“We’re thrilled to launch this great resource so the public can access their ancestor’s records easily and the public have an insight into the challenges soldiers faced on their return to Australia.”

For more information visit

Battle to Farm is a Public Record Office Victoria website, funded by the Veterans’ Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet as part of the Centenary of Anzac commemorations. The project was supported by Monash University, the ANZAC Commemorative Committee, Beaufort Historical Society, Stanhope Historical Society, Gippsland Historical Society, and more than 80 volunteers.  

The records we preserve

  • This is the hand written letter petition of mercy
    Significant impact on individuals: petition for the court’s mercy, PROV VPRS 1100 P2, unit 7

The Public Records Act 1973 requires Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) to work with Victorian government agencies to select public records for permanent preservation as State Archives.

So, out of all the digital and paper files government creates every day, how do we decide which ones are worth keeping forever?

The selection of State Archives is guided by a set of characteristics, these include:

  1. The authority, establishment and structure of government. Public records which provide concise evidence of the source of authority, establishment and structure of Victorian government. For instance, Acts of Parliament.
  2. Primary functions and programs of government. Public records which provide concise evidence of the government’s primary functions and programs, especially those records that provide evidence of a new or changed policy decision. For instance, Cabinet records, budget statements, planning and management of major infrastructure projects.
  3. Enduring rights and entitlements. Public records which provide concise evidence of the life events, enduring rights and entitlements of individuals and groups. For instance, births, deaths marriage registration records  and divorce records, records of land ownership.
  4. Significant impact on individuals. Public records which provide evidence of the significant impact of Victorian government decisions and actions on individuals and communities, the interaction of people with the government, and the influence of the Victorian community on government decision-making. For instance, criminal court decisions, records of government care of individuals, planning schemes records, petitions seeking government action.  
  5. Environmental management and change. Public records which provide evidence of the Victorian government’s significant actions in relation to environmental management and change, response to the impact of climate change, and the occupation, management and use of the state’s natural resources. For instance, rainfall, temperature and soil feature statistics, management of landfill sites, forestry planning and management..
  6. Significant contribution to community memory. Public records that have a substantial capacity to enrich the memory, knowledge and understanding of aspects of Victoria’s history, society, culture and people. For instance, public records relating to events or that represent the Victorian way of life including work, education, leisure and culture.

Download our full Appraisal Statement for State Archives here.

Enquiries about the records we keep can be made to

The Way We Were Historical Photograph Competition: Dig the Archives 2015

From your attic to our archives

Dig the Archives 2015 will feature explorations into Public Record Office Victoria’s rich photographic collection.

To help celebrate Victoria behind the lenses, you are invited to share a unique moment of Victoria’s past from your personal collection of photographs.

The entry judged to be the rarest, most artistic and historically interesting will receive a $100 Carlton Readings Gift Voucher, framed copy of their photo and presentation of the award at Dig the Archives. To enter simply email a high-quality JPEG (preferably no larger than 5mb) copy of your photograph together with your name, phone number and an accompanying short caption (personal anecdotes also welcome!) of a maximum 150 words to Please send under the heading ‘The Way We Were Competition’. Closing date for entries is 20 April 2015. See ‘Terms and Conditions’ for further information about the competition .

Dig the Archives, the annual Open Day event for the Victorian Archives Centre, will be held on 2nd May 2015 at 99 Shiel Street North Melbourne. Stay tuned to our facebook page for further information about the range of fascinating talks, tours and workshops on the day.

All sewn up at Walhalla School 957

  • A black and white photo of Walhalla State School
    Walhalla State School, PROV VPRS 1396 P0 Unit 3

The town of Walhalla

Walhalla is a picturesque mountain town nestled into the Baw Baw Ranges of the Gippsland District. Walhalla was the centre of one of the great goldfields of Victoria when it was founded as a gold-mining community in 1862. It was home to 4,000 people and produced some 55 tonnes of gold.

The town itself was small: settled on a small section of the Stringer Creek Valley, buildings were mostly confined to one main street that followed the valley’s creek.

The Walhalla Institute is born

Although conditions were rough and the town was isolated, during its boom years Walhalla was a vibrant town and community. By 1867 the population was more than large enough to support a local school, which opened under the super-intendancy of Mr George Christie. This school, known as the Walhalla Institute, taught 50 students and functioned as a church on weekends.

Within a year, the school’s roll had expanded to 90, and a new teacher was needed to oversee the rapidly expanding school. The role was advertised in Melbourne newspaper The Argus on the 1st of June 1868. Henry Thomas Normanton Tisdall, an Irish immigrant from Melbourne, applied and took the position.

Tisdall was a commanding figure and a central member of the community who taught the school for close to 18 years.

After his departure the school had difficulty finding steady staff due to its remote location, poor road access and cold and damp climate. Tisdall himself was required to assist in the process of hiring a new teacher. One applicant, Miss Mary Anne Dillsworth, was the subject of several letters between Tisdall and the Education Department.

Hiring Miss Dillsworth

On the 28th of January 1886 Tisdall wrote to the department:

“Mary Anne Dillsworth passed in all subjects…excepting needlework. The school does not seem to have examined her in that subject.”

Although Miss Dillsworth had passed all other examinations with a 3rd class order of merit, was able to provide past inspectors reports and a letter of recommendation from her previous school, the absence of needlework certificates proved rather alarming to the Department.

Tisdall, however, provided written support for Miss Dillsworth and a compromise was reached. The Education Department requested:

“Ms Dillsworth should forward specimens of her needlework” from which her aptitude could be judged.

A miniature woollen sock and cuffed cotton sleeve were promptly forwarded to Melbourne, and Miss Dillsworth’s competency was established.

Miss Dillsworth and Mr Tisdall’s communications with the Education Department were in some ways typical of the rural school experience. Staffing and managing schools in rural areas was often about compromise; although the submission of sewing samples was not a typical method to prove qualification, Walhalla’s isolation made compromise necessary.

You can find more rural school stories, records and photos amongst the displays at the School Days: Education in Victoria exhibition at Old Treasury Building.

Written by Amber Evangelista based on records* discovered while undertaking research for School Days: Education in Victoria. With special thanks to Bernard Bolch of the Walhalla Heritage and Development League for assistance.

* VPRS 640 P0 Unit 551: Central Inward Primary Schools Correspondence Series.

Journey back to old school days at Old Treasury Building this March

  • Black and white photo of a student writing lines on the blackboard
    School Days Exhibition, opens March 2 at the Old Treasury Building.

New exhibition coming soon!


Be transported back to the old school days at Melbourne’s Old Treasury Building.

Ports and sailors will be replaced by teachers and students when Sailing into Melbourne leaves the Old Treasury Building for new waters in March.

The School Days: Education in Victoria exhibition will take visitors back to a time when backyard schools were the best option and public schools for destitute students were labelled ‘ragged’ schools.  This exhibition will trigger some amazing memories, filled with classroom stories,  black and white photographs, old text books, and memorabilia sourced from the vaults of the state archives at the Public Record Office Victoria.

Be reminded of the days when milk was delivered to every child and being caned was all part of a good education. What were ‘ragged schools’ of the 1860’s, and how did the state approach Aboriginal schooling, migrant education and playground design? How did children on the goldfields get an education?

See how Victorian education has changed since 1872 – when Victoria became the first state in the world to establish a public school system based on the principles of free, secular and compulsory education.

School Days: Education in Victoria will be on display at the Old Treasury Building from March until August 2015.

Visit to see the exhibitions currently on display. 



Archival Snapshot: The Controversial Warship Shenandoah

C.S.S. Shenandoah - VPRS 8357P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic CollectionOn the 25th of January 1865 the Confederate States Steamer C.S.S. Shenandoah arrived in Hobsons Bay, Victoria,  seeking repairs, provisions, and to land its prisoners.  The month of January 2015 marks the 150th anniversary since the arrival of C.S.S. Shenandoah.  The Shenandoah’s arrival created a great deal of controversy and raised serious diplomatic concerns. 

This Archival Snapshot highlights some of the archived correspondence held at Public Record Office Victoria regarding the C.S.S. Shenandoah and its time in Victoria.

A piece of warship history

The American Civil War was fought from 1861 to 1865. The Confederate States of America was formed when individual States declared their secession from the United States of America.

British colonies and British subjects, as directed by Queen Victoria in a proclamation on Wednesday 17 July 1861, were to remain neutral in the North American conflict. No British subject was to enlist to serve in a foreign service, and the supply, fitting out or equipping of vessels for warlike purposes, in His Majesty’s dominions, was prohibited.

C.S.S. Shenandoah correspondence files within the Public Record office Victoria collection

During the stay of the C.S.S Shenandoah there was daily correspondence between the United States Consul William Blanchard, and the Government, with Blanchard protesting most stridently on the support provided to the vessel by the Colony of Victoria and the Governor.

There was also a protest by Shenandoah’s captain, Lieutenant Commanding James J. Waddell C.S.N., to the Commissioner of Trade and Customs on the 14th February 1865 in relation to the execution of a search warrant. Aid, assistance and work on the steamer was suspended after the Commander and officers refused to allow police to search the ship for alleged stowaways.

The correspondence files also include daily repair reports from the Harbour and Tides Master at Williamstown, United States Consul correspondence, affidavits of deserters and prisoners, Crown Law Office correspondence, police correspondence, military correspondence, and papers from the Trades and Customs Commissioner and the Governor of Victoria, Sir Charles Darling.

The correspondence provides a fascinating insight into the event given the historical context of the time. It’s a story full of intrigue, chivalry, piracy and stowaways.

WEB v2- VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt1WEB - VPRS 1095_P0_Unit 31 Special files Carton 1 No 2 Warship Shenandoah 5 IHK pt2

 The C.S.S. Shenandoah was in port for a total of 25 days, sailing out of Port Phillip in the early morning of the 18th February 1865 with a number of alleged stowaways on board.

Christine Little, Access Services Officer







VPRS 1095/P0 Unit 31 Special Files – Carton 1: No. 2 Warship Shenandoah

Creating Agency:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1851 – continued

Agency currently responsible:
Governor (including Lieutenant Governor 1851 – 1855 and Governor’s Office): VA 466, 1854 – continued

Other records used:
VPRS 8357/P1 Unit 6 Harbour Trust Photographic Collection, Historical: Ships
VPRS 1226/P0 Unit 44, C3151 Remarks on conduct of Police during the visit of the ‘Shenandoah’ Geneva Arbitration Award, Alabama Arbitration.


Victorian Electronic Records Strategy Case Studies


The Victorian Electronic Records Strategy (VERS) has produced a series of case studies to be used as a reference guide for innovative electronic recordkeeping practices.

The case studies highlight the challenges, processes, technologies and achievements encountered when undertaking electronic recordkeeping projects and digital records transfers within Victorian Government.

Small and large scale projects are featured in the case studies as well as recent Sir Rupert Hamer Award recipient agencies.

The case studies can be viewed here.

If you would like to submit a proposal for a case study about your organisation’s recent electronic recordkeeping or digital transfer project, please submit a VERS Case Study Proposal Form to

The Seven Year Myth

5. 7 Year MythSeven years is the ‘magic figure’ often bandied about when it comes to how long records must be kept by government. However, minimum periods for retention of public records actually vary and are determined by law and Public Record Office Victoria.

There are a lot mistruths associated with the seven year mark.

The myths

It’s often said that seven years of a dog’s lifetime is equivalent to one year in a human’s, or that separation rates peak seven years into a romantic relationship (the so called seven year itch!).

But the wisdom that all records, whether they are created by business or government, only need to be kept for a seven period, is a pretty sound assumption, right? WRONG!

Despite the best efforts of records management professionals everywhere, the ‘seven year rule’ is a myth which continues to dominate perceptions of the minimum periods required to retain public records. This fallacy has probably evolved from requirements to keep financial records for seven year periods under various laws, perhaps most notably section 286 of the Commonwealth Corporations Act 2001.

Our record keeping responsibilities

In some cases, legislation will prescribe retention periods for certain types of records. For example, under the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 1998 the principal registrar of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal must keep a file of all documents lodged in a proceeding for a period of five years after the final determination of the proceeding.

However for public records kept by government, the legal requirement to retain records for set periods of time is determined by Retention and Disposal Authorities (RDAs), which are created by Public Record Office Victoria.

RDAs are designed to take account of the relative legal, financial, transparency, historical and other values of records over time, which will vary considerably depending on the type of record.

All current RDAs are available on Public Record Office Victoria’s website.

While RDAs prescribe different retention periods for records, they can be categorised under four general classes:

  • Ephemera, drafts and duplicates can be destroyed as soon as administrative use has finished.
  • Temporary short term records must be held for two – ten years on average.
  • Temporary long term records and permanent records must be held for up to 75 years on average.
  • Permanent records can never be destroyed and must be transferred to Public Record Office Victoria as State Archives.

 If in doubt about whether to bin a document or how long a record should be kept for, it’s best to consult your records manager for advice. Because remember, just like diamonds, some records are forever!

By Carly Godden, Standards and Policy, Public Record Office Victoria

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