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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

PROV volunteers win Melbourne Award!

  • PROV staff Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade accept their 2014 Melbourne Award for the Public Record Office Victoria volunteering program

Our Public Record Office Victoria volunteers are the proud recipients of the 2014 Melbourne Award for Contribution to Community by a Corporation. The City of Melbourne’s ‘Melbourne Awards’ were held on Saturday 15 November. Volunteer Program Coordinators Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade attended the gala event and were thrilled to accept the award on behalf of more than 150 volunteers. 

Jack told the audience that PROV volunteers cover a broad demographic and come from a wide range of backgrounds.

“But one thing they all have in common – and in common with Leigh and myself – is their passion for the State’s archives and for the stories contained in the records.

“Their work is making a permanent contribution to current and future researchers and enhancing Melbourne’s reputation as a centre for research. For recognising their work with this award, we’re both very grateful to the City of Melbourne and the sponsors of this awards ceremony tonight.”

See a full list of award winners here. 

Here is a link to the PROV volunteer projects currently underway.

PROV volunteers nominated for Melbourne Award

This is a photo of some of our volunteers. A group of about 60 got together for a photo at the Archives Centre.

Some of our outstanding volunteers

Now in its 12th year, the Melbourne Awards were introduced by the City of Melbourne to recognise outstanding achievements of organisations and individuals who are committed to making Melbourne a unique place to live, visit and do business.

The Public Record Office’s volunteer program is a finalist for the prestigious ‘Contribution to Community Award’.

Our team of more than 120 volunteers undertake work on under-utilised or difficult-to-use areas of our archival collection.

 The volunteer program has run for over twenty years, with volunteers providing an incredible 21,000 hours annually. Their work enables researchers to easily discover previously hidden links to people, places and decisions that have shaped Melbourne’s history.

The most recent projects our volunteers have worked on include digitising and indexing records related to:
• Over 30,000 prisoners in Melbourne area jails
• Melbourne court cases
• Wards of the state
• Immigrants
• Indigenous Australians
• Establishment of Government in Melbourne (from policing to schooling systems)
• Melbourne’s built environment (maps and plans)

We are proud of our volunteers for their hard work, dedication and passion, and their amazing help undertaking this important work.

Managers of the volunteer program, Jack Martin and Leigh Kinrade, will be attending the Melbourne Awards to see if we win on Saturday 15 November at Melbourne Town Hall.

See the full list of finalists here.

If you would like to volunteer for the Public Record Office of Victoria keep an eye on our training and orientation schedule.

Public Records Amendment Bill 2014 – Current Status

This is an image of a decorative parliament seal.Public Record Office Victoria would like to advise agencies that the Public Records Amendment Bill 2014 lapsed when Parliament was prorogued. 

As a result, the Public Records Act 1973 remains unchanged (view the current act here). 

The Bill proposed a number of changes to the Public Records Act 1973. These changes included formalisation of a new process for the annual release of Cabinet records. Agencies have been required to organise cabinet records on an annual basis since 2010.

Other proposed changes included a shortening of timeframes for mandatory transfer of public records from agencies to Public Record Office Victoria and an increase in the maximum penalty for destroying or interfering with a public record.

If you have any questions about the lapsed Bill, please contact Alan Kong Manager Standards and Policy ph: (03) 9348 5720 email:

Picture: Parliament of Victoria


Archival Snapshot: Exhibition Photos Display Fashions of 1888

Sepia photo of M.A. Gerson a staff member of the 1888 International Exhibition, Melbourne.

M.A. Gerson and S.L Gerson, 1888 International Exhibition, Melbourne. VPRS840P1 Unit 1

The Melbourne Centennial International Exhibition of 1888 was a pinnacle moment in Melbourne’s development as a City. It marked the city’s entrance onto the global stage with much to offer international traders looking for new markets to exploit. The exhibition took place at the Exhibition Building, one of Melbourne’s most photographed and ornately designed buildings still located within the Carlton Gardens.

Exhibitions of late 19th Century

From its opening on the 1st of August 1888, until its closing on the 31st of January 1889, over two million people visited the exhibition; more than twice the number of people living in Melbourne at the time.

International Exhibitions of the late 19th century were large scale trade fairs where nations could display their industrial achievements to an international audience. In addition to providing opportunities to buy and trade, they also provided entertainment. Attractions such Fine Art exhibits, daily concerts and demonstrations of new industrial processes drew in local crowds.

Staff Photo Albums

Such a large scale event required significant numbers of staff and at some point in the planning process that lead up to the Centennial International Exhibition, it was decided that a photographic record would be kept of all non-paying entrants to the exhibition. These photographs were kept in albums. Of those that have survived, four are held by the Public Record Office of Victoria (a further two albums are held by the State Library of Victoria).

The albums could also serve as a photographic record of other occupations which existed in Melbourne at the time. In addition to categories for visiting international exhibitors and staff, there are sections devoted to local categories such as Fine Arts, Country and Metropolitan Press and even members of a Fire Brigade employed for the duration of the event.  The photos also help paint a picture of the varying fashion and hair trends enjoyed by Melbourne’s working class.

Author: Georgia Harris, Access Services Officer

Accessing These Records

PROV has an online index of the names of staff.  Click on this link here. Listings in the album are via surname or situation, so it is best to limit your search to these terms. The photographs can be viewed by ordering the album to view at the Reading Room in North Melbourne.

Records: VPRS 840/P0 Units 1,2,3,4  Security Identity Photos of Individuals Associated with the 1888 International Exhibition Melbourne

Creating Agency: Trustees, Exhibition Building: VA 1070, 1881 – 1996

Agency currently responsible: Museum Victoria Council: VA 3152, 1996-continued


Regional Rail Link preserves Footscray railway’s station heritage

A photo of the new signage displayed at the station. The signage begins with a panel entitled 'The William Cooper Footbridge'Works to conserve and restore historic buildings at Footscray railway station, as part of the Regional Rail Link project, are now complete.

“Restoration of the station’s heritage-listed buildings has been undertaken in a way that ensures the significant architectural features of each building remain true to the period during which they were originally constructed,” Regional Rail Link CEO Allen Garner said.

New interpretive signage, which includes a series of photographs sourced from the Public Records Office Victoria, has been installed to share the story of the station’s important heritage status, with some of the current buildings dating back to the early 1900s.

The new signage also celebrates William Cooper (1860–1941), after whom the station footbridge is named. Mr Cooper was a former Footscray resident and a leading campaigner for the rights of Aboriginal and Jewish people during the 1930s.

Restoration works on the station buildings included replacing the roof with new Welsh slate, repairing gutters, windows and brickwork, and repainting to approved colour schemes. Restoration and repair of the heritage buildings was guided by a Conservation Management Plan commissioned by the project. The station buildings at Footscray are listed on the Victorian Heritage Register (VHR) as a place of State significance. 

Free heritage tours

Project staff will be hosting tours of the heritage buildings as part of the Footscray Celebrates Festival that will be held on Saturday 15 November.

From 11am until 1.30 book into free 15 minute tours on McNab Avenue (alongside Footscray Station) exploring the station’s new design as well as efforts around heritage restoration.

Original photographs

Flick through photos used within the new interpretive signage on our Facebook page.

Search Historic Rail Photographs

If you’d like to see old photographs of your local train station, try searching the Public Transportation Corporation photographic index here’s a link.



Celebrating the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary

cL8tar1414387348To celebrate the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary we dug through our archives and came up with some gems from the last 30+ years.

From original seating and lighting plans, articles announcing the opening and clippings from the first set of performances, there’s a treasure trove of history to be found – including an article on one of the very first performances after construction.

The performance was in 1982 when the construction workers were treated to a performance alongside their family, friends and the Arts Minister of the time, Mr Matthews. After working so tirelessly on the project, this allowed the workers a chance to show off their efforts and experience the venue ahead of the general public. According to our records, the performance was capped off with refreshments served outside under the Riverside Terrace.

Gems from the collection

You can read the original newspaper article on this performance alongside some of our other Arts Centre records here.

A new system of government inquiry: what impact on record keeping?

Introduced in September this year, the Inquiries Act 2014 formally establishes three tiers of government inquiry in Victoria. The Act carries new implications for records received and created by inquiries, including a change in the agency responsible for dealing with Cabinet records. Perhaps though, what is most interesting about the regime is that it permits the handing over of Cabinet records (which are ordinarily closed from public access for a minimum 30 year period) to an inquiry; an issue that received much attention at a federal level earlier this year during the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program.

 WB bridgeThe Inquiries Act 2014 clarifies and enhances the powers of existing Royal Commissions and Boards of Inquiry, while introducing a new tier of inquiry, Formal Reviews.

Production of documents

Royal Commissions and Boards of Inquiry can call upon agencies to produce documents, even if other legislation prohibits the production of a document/s. The only exception is where another Act specially excludes the production of documents to the inquiry, or where this is prescribed by regulations. This means that:

  • Public records which are closed under sections 9, 10 &10AA of the Public Records Act 1973 would still be available for such inquiries;
  • Cabinet documents are also not excluded from call up provisions. The Freedom of Information Act 1982, under which cabinet documents are classed as exempt documents, specifically does not apply to documents in the custody of an agency (or the inquiry body) during the life of an inquiry.

The Act comes in the wake of the decision in early 2014 by Attorney-General George Brandis to release Cabinet documents of the former Rudd Government during the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program, which generated controversy in some political and legal quarters. The debate centered on whether the release of the documents set a precedent for publication of Cabinet documents before their set release date, and the possible consequences of this for free and open discussion in Cabinet. These questions have yet to be raised in the context of an inquiry body in Victoria.

 Records of inquiries

The Act provides that when a Royal Commission, Board of Inquiry or Formal Review has wound up, all its records are to be transferred to the Department of Premier and Cabinet as the responsible public office. That is unless the Premier, by legislative instrument, determines that they are to be transferred to another public office. Permanent value records must then be transferred to Public Record Office Victoria as soon as practicable.

 Previously, the Department of Justice has been the primary responsible agency, although at times other Departments have been responsible for the records (for example Department of Treasury and Finance).

 The new arrangements under the Act will apply to all future Victorian government inquiries.


Image: Front page of the Royal Commission into the Failure of West Gate Bridge, supplied by Public Record Office Victoria.


Vida! The Australian Suffragist Who Shook Up An Empire

blackand white photo of VidaGoldstein

World Famous Australian Suffragette Vida Goldstein

It’s impossible to discuss the Australian and global suffrage movement without talking about Melbourne woman Vida Goldstein. One of the women who tirelessly traveled across Melbourne and Victoria gathering 30,000 signatures for the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition.

Aimed at securing Victorian women the right to vote. The petition was the largest known petition of the 19th Century, at 260 metres long,and it was also the catalyst for similar petitions in New Zealand and England.

 Inspired by her mother Isabella, a vocal suffragist and worker for social reform, and the inspiring speaker and well traveled feminist Annette Ellen Bear-Crawford, Vida was well educated and passionate about reformist legislation, often attending parliamentary sessions in Melbourne to learn about political procedures.  She was a very good looking woman and a witty public speaker, she helped to challenge the populist anti-suffrage claim that feminists were he-women who had ‘never been kissed’. An influential speaker, she also won the support of politician’s wives.

By 1899 Goldstein was the undisputed leader of the radical women’s movement in Victoria and was focused on securing Victorian women the right to vote.

‘In essentials unity; in non-essentials liberty; in all things charity’ Vida Goldstein.

She was known  as a witty and impressive speaker because she was able to handle the most abusive hecklers.  Between 1891 and 1919 she helped to educate women about political process through her publication the Woman’s Sphere and her touring lecture series.  She was vocal about women’s equality, including equal property rights, raising the age of marriage and consent to 16, women’s worker rights, pacifism and in her older years improved access to birth control. She was a known lobbyist and directly influenced many Acts of parliament. Her most famous was her cost-living-table which influenced the Harvester Judgment which established the concept of a basic wage.

Vida ‘was the biggest thing that has happened to the woman movement for some time in England’. Melbourne journalist for The Argus Alice Henry

Of all the Australian suffragettes Goldstein was the only one to develop an international reputation. She visited England and the United States and always drew huge crowds. In 1902 she spoke at the Woman Suffrage Conference in the United States and was elected secretary. Women in Australia were given the right to vote in the Federal election in 1902, and Goldstein was one of four women to be nominated for election, and went on to run for the Senate as an independent throughout the First World War. The first of such women in the British Empire. Australia and New Zealand were trail blazers in securing women the right to vote. 

It was the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition which kick started Vida’s career as an activist, lobbyist and aspiring (inspiring) politician.

The petition is a treasure in the Public Record Office Victoria Collection, and is on display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka for a time from October 2014 – January 2015.

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Suffragette Brettena Smyth Taught Birth Control in 1880

Black and white photo of sfrragette Btrettena Smyth

Prominent activist Brettena Smyth was a suffragette and championed right

Brettena Smyth was a feminist freethinker, author, lecturer, suffragist and women’s health reform campaigner. She was also a vocal supporter of the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition, an important public record now on display from October 2014 at the Museum of Democracy at Eureka.

In 1873 Brettena Smyth, a recently-widowed mother of four children, closed the family greengrocery in Errol Street, North Melbourne.  Instead, she opened a drapery and druggist’s shop, which became a landmark in the struggle for women’s rights. The shop was a venue for meetings of the Australian Women’s Suffrage Society in the 1880s–90s and, more controversially, the source of birth control advice and ‘preventives’ for Melbourne women.

At Six Foot Tall Smyth Was Recognisable

Smyth became one of Melbourne’s most prominent activists in the feminist cause; at almost six feet tall, she was also the most recognisable. A  member of the first Australian suffrage organization, Victorian Women’s Suffrage Society, she left that organization in 1888 to found the Australian Women’s Suffrage Society, after some members found her ideas on birth control objectionable. Smyth recognised that access to artificial contraception, which could be ‘used without the knowledge of the husband’, was as liberating as the power of the vote.

Brettena Smyth died in 1898; her organization did not long survive her. Others groups, such as the Victorian Women’s Franchise League (backed by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union) and Vida Goldstein’s United Council for Women’s Suffrage, took the suffrage campaign into the twentieth century. 

The 1891 Women’s  Suffrage Petition is a treasure in the Public Record Office Victoria Collection.

Written by Helen Harris, Public Record Office Victoria.

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Ballarat Suffragette Signed Petition to Stop Alcoholism

Sepia photo of suffragette Mary Morrison

Australian Suffragette Mary Morrison

Mary Morrison was living in Ballarat, Victoria at the time she signed the 1891 Women’s Suffrage Petition. It is one of Victoria’s most important public records and on display at the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka from October 2014.

She was born in 1863 in Morrisson’s, a small gold-mining settlement near Ballarat. Her father worked at the diggings at Dolly’s Creek in one of the gold-bearing quartz reefs there, and suffered from what was known as “miner’s complaint”, or pulmonary fibrosis, from which he eventually died. 

Mary ‘In Service’ at 12

As he was unable to work for many years, Mary had to leave school at the age of 12 to work “in service” to help her younger siblings. However, she read widely and her considerable drive and energy led her to become a local leader in the temperance movement, an activity that continued after her marriage to Duncan McPhee, which took place in the same year that she signed the Petition – 1891.

 Passionate About Abstinence

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was established in 1889, and Mary became an active member in Ballarat. Members of the Union not only supported total abstinence from alcohol but also feminist objectives.

“From childhood until death she was always busy, and never an idle moment could I detect. She was puritanical in outlook and was active as a church worker from childhood. She had a fairly simple faith, was very kindly, always helping people worse off than herself.” Mary’s son, Stuart McPhee.


Champion for the Monster Petition

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union were one of the chief organising bodies for the massive Women’s Petition, arguing for votes for women on the grounds of social justice. They continued to put pressure on the government for women’s suffrage in Victoria until it finally came to pass in 1908.

After she died in 1932, Mary’s son Stuart, one of her five children, wrote: “From childhood until death she was always busy, and never an idle moment could I detect. She was puritanical in outlook and was active as a church worker from childhood. She had a fairly simple faith, was very kindly, always helping people worse off than herself, had many friends, was intelligent, but without much learning except through reading and self-improvement, was extremely industrious and was very capable, naturally taking the lead when required. She took life very seriously but was a devoted mother.”

Image and text courtesy of Jan Harper,  grand-daughter of Mary Morrison.

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« October 2016 »
Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
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3 4 5 6 7 8* Saturday opening at 10:00 am
10 11 12* Read All About It! at 9:30 am
13 14* Records Management Network at 9:30 am
15 16
17 18 19 20* Mining the Geelong Archives at 9:30 am
21 22 23
24 25* Read All About It! at 6:00 pm
26 27 28 29* Saturday opening at 10:00 am
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