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Records management on trial? Justice Legislation Amendment (Discovery, Disclosure and Other Matters) Act 2014

New case management powers in Victoria for discovery and disclosure provide an even stronger case for government agencies to ensure compliance with the standards issued by Public Record Office Victoria.


“The one great principle of the English law is, to make business for itself. There is no other principle distinctly, certainly, and consistently maintained through all its narrow turnings. Viewed by this light it becomes a coherent scheme, and not the monstrous maze the laity are apt to think it. Let them but once clearly perceive that its grand principle is to make business for itself at their expense, and surely they will cease to grumble.”
―Charles Dickens, Bleak House

 Magnifying lens  on the stack of old filesIn August this year, the Justice Legislation Amendment (Discovery, Disclosure and Other Matters) Act   2014 came into effect. The Victorian legislation is the capstone in a longstanding push by members of the  legal community to reduce costs and delays associated with discovery and disclosure of documents required in court proceedings. It comes in the wake of modern-day Dickensian litigation such as Seven Network Limited v News Limited, where the estimated cost of discovery ($200 million respectively) has been grossly disproportionate to the amount of relief  sought (in that case, a damages estimate of between $195–$212 million).

The amendments introduce a range of additional mechanisms targeted towards better case management. Most relevantly, it arms the courts with more sophisticated legal tools under the Civil Procedure Act 2010 in a bid to:

  • minimise the production of voluminous documents (and in doing so reduce the burden associated with sifting through them for evidence);
  • aid in the discovery of relevant documents.

As a result, the provisions will likely open up records management practices and systems of businesses and government to greater scrutiny during pre-trial processes. 

Scope of discovery

First, courts can order a statement of issues which identifies and summarises the key issues in dispute in a proceeding. If the parties cannot agree on the contents of the statement, it may be determined by the court. Second, a court can limit discovery to a class or classes of documents specified in the order; or to documents relating to one or more specified facts or issues in dispute. Courts are also empowered to order that a party pay the costs of discovery of another party, creating an incentive for parties to avoid extraneous requests for documents.

Discoverability of documents

Under new section 55A where there is the agreement between the parties, courts can order that all relevant documents to a matter in the possession of one or more parties are handed over. Parties can still opt to exclude documents protected by privilege from discovery. A court can only make the order where it is comfortable that:

  • the documents can be identified and located by the person providing the documents without incurring unreasonable costs in the process;
  • the documents are able to be identified by a general description or category; and
  • the party providing the documents will not be substantially prejudiced in giving the other party access to the documents.

What’s apparent is that the key benefits arising from use of these powers are prefaced on evidentiary documents being managed under an effective records or document management system. That is, under a 55A order the providing party will not be required to review each of its documents for relevance prior to production, saving it time and money.  But by the same token, a robust records management system must be in place to enable cost-effective retrieval. This assumption is reinforced by additional powers which enable courts to direct that documents are provided in a searchable electronic format, or any other format that the court requires.

Affidavit of document management

The amendments also introduce section 55B powers by which courts can require parties to a proceeding produce an ‘affidavit of document management.’ This affidavit can include the volume, manner of arrangement or storage, type or location of discoverable documents. It can also pertain to a party’s ‘processes of document management.’ In addition, the court can order that the deponent (person giving evidence in the affidavit) or an appropriate person (for example a records or information manager) be orally examined about the affidavit of documents management. Notably, the court can order that any party has to pay for the costs of an oral examination. Parties therefore have an incentive to prepare full, accurate and reliable affidavits of document management.

Be prepared!

So what to expect? It is hoped is that discovery requests will become more targeted as the scope of discoverable documents will be commensurate with the matters at issue. At the same time, arguments that documents have not been sufficiently described in a request for discovery so as to identify them; or that the documents are ‘hidden’ in an organisation’s document management system, are less likely to hold water. Orders for the release of all relevant documents, coupled with orders to reveal the organisation’s document/records management system create expectations of fewer barriers to accessing and retrieving records.

Against this new set of expectations, government agencies can better weather pre-trial discovery processes through ensuring compliance with the standards and specifications issued by Public Record Office Victoria. In particular:

  • Having a standards-compliant records management framework already in place will reduce cost and effort associated with complying with section 55A or 55B orders.
  • Standards cover the complete spectrum of records management activities and facilitate access to hardcopy and electronic records. Records management policies and strategies developed under the standards can be readily reproduced in an affidavit context, avoiding the need to capture and describe these retrospectively.
  • Finally, an agency can demonstrate compliance with the standards to show that records have been managed and disposed of in a legally responsible way.

Public Record Office Victoria welcomes the introduction of the amendments and emphasises the role that good records management in increasing access to justice in our Courts and reducing costs associated with discovery.

A Peak Inside Sister Saunders’ Scrapbook!

A page from Sister Saunders' scrapbook of a girl holding a puppy

Sister Saunders’ scrapbook
Citation: 16870/P1

A Treasure Trove of memories from the Royal Children’s Hospital

Recently, while digging through the archives I discovered a series of records within our health related records that took my interest.  The series is a real treasure trove and it includes Sister Dorothy Saunders’ scrapbook full of papers, trinkets and memorabilia. It offers us a glimpse into the personal history of Sister Saunders’ long and rewarding career at The Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.

Dorothy Saunders trained at the Royal Children’s Hospital between the years 1928-1933 and was Sister In Charge of the operating theatres from the early 1930s until her retirement in 1972.

During her time at the Royal Children’s Hospital Sister Saunders documented her career highlights in this large and lovingly created scrapbook which dates back to the 1960s.







The scrapbook holds a variety of memorabilia all beautifully presented and highlighting special occasions such as:

  • Certificates received for passing various training courses
  • Invitations such as Centenary invitations
  • Newspaper clipping
  • Many greeting cards she received with good wishes
  • Photos and Correspondence
  • Travel highlights

Click here to take a look at our flickr site and see some of the highlights of Sister Saunders’ scrapbook.

Written by Sandra Hopper, Access Services Officer, Public Record Office Victoria.


Archival Records Tell A Story of Mission Life

Black and white photo of unidentified children play with stick at Aboriginal mission in Victoria

Aboriginal children playing with sticks on Victorian mission. Citation VPRS 14562/P4, unit 6014

Victoria’s first Aboriginal missions and reserves were set up in the 1850s and 1860s by missionaries and colonial authorities. These administrators believed segregation could shield Aboriginal people from the negative effects of colonisation.

Rules and regulations

Rapid white settlement of the Port Phillip District from 1834 devastated the Aboriginal population. European farming on traditional lands, as well as violence and introduced disease, severely weakened and scattered tribes.



The Aborigines Protection Act 1869 required Aboriginal people to live on one of six reserves, where rules and regulations shaped their daily life. To earn their ‘upkeep’, men did manual labour, while women and older children performed domestic duties. They were often paid with rations rather than wages.

Regulations governed where Aboriginal people could live. A reserve manager or the Board for the Protection of Aborigines could decide to move a person from one station to another. This was distressing for people who were separated from family or unable to live where they wished.

Daily Life Community and Identity 

Mission life was generally restrictive and often monotonous, although the character of the station manager and his relationships with residents could make a difference. Reverend John Bulmer, manager at Lake Tyers until 1908, encouraged traditional hunting and fishing to supplement rations. Residents also made artefacts to sell to tourists visiting the picturesque Gippsland lakes. 

At first, reserves tried to be self-supporting through agriculture. Hop production flourished at Coranderrk (near Healesville) in the late 19th century. But lack of funds, a shifting workforce that relied on outside wages, and a growing perception of reserves as welfare institutions, eventually caused these initiatives to fail.

 Despite these hardships, the stations were a source of community identity and connection, and a base for organised campaigns to win civil and land rights.

Government Records in Victoria Open for Viewing

 Government officials began to create records about Aboriginal people from the earliest years of European settlement in Victoria. Many of these documents, dating from the 1830s to the 1970s, are now held in the state and commonwealth government archives and available for viewing. They are a rich resource for researchers and genealogists seeking to connect with family and country.

Want to know more?
Visit our latest exhibition, walata tyamateetj: carry knowledge

On display at the Victorian Archives Centre until 31 October 2014

This interesting exhibition offers access to important Aboriginal records rarely put on public display.  Walata tyamateetj,  meaning to ‘carry knowledge’, features a fascinating selection of iconic Victorian records including petitions, hand drawn maps, photographs, letters, official documents and manuscripts drawn from the collection of Public Record Office Victoria.

Koorie Records Unit

The Koorie Records Unit at Public Record Office Victoria offers a dedicated service for Aboriginal people wishing to access records.

A Koorie Reference Officer can help you find and obtain copies of records that relate to you, your family and community.

For more information, click here  or contact the Koorie Records Unit directly on:

phone 9348 5600



Recipients of Victorian Local History grants, digitising the past for the future

Brighton Southern Cross front page
Brighton Southern Cross Newspaper 1914-1918

What it takes to win! Local History Grant recipients in profile

The Bayside Library Service and Stonnington History Centre were both awarded Local History Grants in 2013-2014 to digitise newspapers for publishing through Trove, the National Library of Australia’s online newspaper database.

The National Library of Australia undertakes paid newspaper digitising projects by community groups and organisations. The Local History Grants awarded to the Bayside Library and Stonnington History Centre have given the organisations the opportunity to digitise the Brighton Southern Cross from 1896 to 1913 and the Prahran Chronicle from 1882-1906.

The Brighton Southern Cross: bringing a whirlwind of history into the 20th Century!

There aren’t many Brighton residents who will remember the cyclone which ripped through the area early in the afternoon on Saturday 2 February, 1918. The cyclone brought down houses and giant trees but amazingly, only killed two people. The Brighton Southern Cross newspaper, which is already available on Trove from 1914-1918, includes numerous accounts of lucky escapes, injured people, overturned boats and damage caused by flying debris from the cyclone.

Just imagine how many more stories will be unearthed with the inclusion of the years 1896 to 1913 – made possible thanks to a Local History Grant.

The project to digitise the Brighton Southern Cross newspaper from 1896 to 1913 was initiated and will be overseen by members of Bayside History Network representing the following local historical community groups: Sandringham and District Historical Society Inc, Brighton Historical Society Inc, Friends of Black Rock House, Brighton Cemetorians, Friends of Cheltenham and Regional Cemeteries and the Bayside Library Service.

The Bayside History Network’s next goal is to have the first decades of the paper digitised, from 1879 to 1895.

Burning of The Colosseum Chapel St Prahran, Sunday July 11th 1914 [picture], 1914, SLV

Chapel St Prahran, Sunday July 11th 1914 State Library Victoria

The Prahran Chronicle: chock-full of vintage gems to rival those found at the Chapel Street Bazaar!

Prahran is renowned for its beautiful architectural landmarks and swish shopping emporiums. Many of these buildings are still used commercially and most are heritage listed.  Did you know a large fire destroyed one of the most renowned stores, the Colosseum, in 1914? Damage was estimated at over £100,000 and according to a January 1914 Prahran Chronicle article, the massive fire broke out due to an absence of watchmen[1]. The Colosseum was replaced soon after by the more imposing structure which stands today.

The digitising of the 1882-1906 Prahran Chronicle newspapers will begin soon. This has been made possible thanks to a Local History Grant.

The project to digitise the Prahran Chronicle has been initiated by the Stonnington History Centre.

The Local History Grants Program

The Local History Grants Program provides small grants to community organisations to support the cost of projects that preserve record or publish Victorian local history. The program is administered by Public Record Office Victoria and will distribute several small grants for projects in the 2014-15 financial year.

Interested in applying for the 2014-2015 round of grants? Be informed of when applications open by joining the grants and awards mailing list Connect with us.

Written by: Lee Hooper, access services officer


Victorian Electronic Records Strategy Standard Renewal – We are seeking your feedback!

Talk bubblePublic Record Office Victoria is conducting a project to revise the Victorian Electronic Records Strategy Standard (PROS 99/007 ‘The management of electronic records’).   We are very interested in receiving your feedback on the proposals! 
We are seeking comment from vendors in relation to both the Draft VERS Standards and Specifications and the Draft Tool Specifications.
Please click here for more information and for a copy of the draft documents for review. 

History Students Dig the Archives for Soldier Stories

AlexWilliamsonActionThe Battle-To-Farm Project

Public Record Office Victoria is currently digitising around 10,000 Soldier Settlement Records for the centenary commemoration of World War One. The entire collection of individual soldier settlement records helps to explain the highs and lows of the farming experience undertaken by many returned Victorian soldiers; most of the soldiers were offered leased land in recognition of their war service. It will be searchable and available online by 2015.

Public Record Office Victoria are excited to have entered into an internship agreement with Monash University Faculty of Arts to help uncover case studies for the project and provide students with industry experience to aid their career path.



Arts and Economics Student, Alex Williamson

“My name is Alex Williamson, and I’m studying Arts and Economics at Monash. I’m a third year student, and my Arts major is history, with a minor in literature. During my time at PROV I’ll be working on the Battle to Farm project, which concerns soldier settlement after World War One. In particular, I will be researching the economic side of the scheme, both in terms of the macro picture of the state and global economics during this period, and the individual economic struggles faced by the soldier-turned-farmer. So far I’ve gathered a lot of information and statistics, and a few interesting stories about soldier settlers, their families, and the land.


History and Literature Student, Chelsea Delpirou

ChelseaAction_lookingthroughfolders “My name is Chelsea Delpirou, and I am in my 3rd year of my double major in history and literature, at Monash University,  Clayton. Last year in 2013, I worked with the National Archives of Australia to research the Repatriation files from WWI, revealing the stories of damaged and dependent veterans, highlighting the true cost of war for Australians. Sparking my interest, this year with PROV, I was given the opportunity to research a Governmental approach to increasing labor and productivity through giving WWI returned soldiers their own farms to build a living. Unfortunately, the scheme produced mixed results leading to many discharged soldiers walking away from their farms. Working with PROV, I will be specifically focused on changes within society, if women received land, and if Aboriginal and Chinese Soldiers received land. I hope to highlight various case studies to reveal the successes and failures of the Government’s Battle to Farm.”





“many suffered greatly in their noble efforts to persevere and make a go of living on the land” Alex Dubout 


 Commerce and Arts Student, Alex Dubout.

AlexDuboutDesk_cropped“My name is Alex Dubout. I’m a second year student at Monash completing a Commerce/Arts degree, majoring in Finance and History respectively. I got involved with Public Record Office Victoria through the Professional Placements Office of the Arts Faculty. Several of the units I have completed so far have focused on understanding the effects of war on the role and prominence of the nation-state and national identity.As such, this project appealed to me as a means of extending the breadth of my learning on that topic, whilst also getting the opportunity to assist PROV with real-life historical work in a non-classroom environment.

 I have already learned so much more than I previously knew about this ill-fated-and now largely forgotten-chapter in the story of Victoria. One of the most striking things I have noticed about the soldier settlement scheme is the political climate in which it was conceived, and how blithely indifferent many leading figures of the day were towards the enormous difficulties they knew soldiers were going to encounter along the way. PROV’s files on these soldiers have demonstrated over and over again that it was them and their dependents that were left to carry the heaviest burdens that the flawed scheme created, and many suffered greatly in their noble efforts to persevere and make a go of living on the land.”

The project has been funded by the Veterans’ Branch of the Department of Premier and Cabinet as part of the Centenary of Anzac commemorations.


Stay in touch with the Archives  here, and here

Drowned With Gold

Black and white Sketch of Royal_Charter_(ship)_courtesy_statelibraryqueensland

A sketch of the Royal Charter, State Library Queensland

The Royal Charter was one of the fastest ships traveling from Liverpool to Australia during the Victorian gold rush.

In August 1859 the Royal Charter passenger ship left Melbourne for Liverpool, carrying 452 men, women and children, and a cargo of gold valued at £320,000 – the equivalent of more than A$170 million today!

In the early hours of 26 October, the clipper was near Moelfre (off the north-west coast of Wales). Winds began to pick up dangerously: the ship had sailed into the worst storm to hit the Irish Sea that century. Sending up distress signals, but finding no pilot to respond, the captain dropped the anchors and powered the coal engines, but it was too late.

‘Save me!’

The Royal Charter was driven onto rocks only 50 yards (46 metres) from the shore and was battered against them with such force that the ship broke in two. Many people were thrown from the ship; some swam valiantly for shore but were weighed down by the gold in their pockets.


Seaman Edward Wilson, one of the crew to survive, described the terrible confusion on deck: ‘Fathers and mothers clasping their children in their arms, wives clinging to husbands, shrieking and crying, “Save me!”’. Another seaman, Joseph Rogers, was a hero. He tied a rope around his waist and managed to swim to shore. He secured the rope and aided the rescue of the 39 survivors – all men.


view the original passenger list.

The Royal Charter Shipping List is preserved within the Public Record Office Victoria shipping records, here you can see John Bradbury’s name at the top of this record, the only man who survived off this list.  Shipping lists of  those individuals who migrated to or from Victoria  between 1852 and 1923 are now available to search online, and a valuable resource for family historians. #sailingintomelbourne






Sailing Into Melbourne Exhibition

The Sailing Into Melbourne exhibition, on until January 2015 at the Old Treasury Building,  helps to explain Melbourne’s nautical history, including the perilous journey migrants made to join the the gold diggers in rural Victoria.

What’s in the Archives?

Consider searching the inward and outward passenger lists of ships, by surname or ship name to uncover the stories of your ancestors and how they came to move to Victoria.

 Passenger list record citation: PROV, VPRS 948/P1, unit 17; Image: Courtesy of  John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.

PROS 11/01 Storage Standard: Revised Storage Specifications Issued

Exclamation MarkPublic Record Office Victoria is pleased to announce the revision and issue of the Specifications associated with PROS 11/01 Storage Standard.

Several key changes to the original Storage Specifications, which were issued in 2011, have been made, including the separation of Agency and APROSS storage requirements into two separate Specifications, and the rearrangement, amalgamation or removal of several requirements.

The new Specifications and associated Checklists may be downloaded from the following links:

We would like to thank all those who provided feedback during the consultation process.

Additional Guidelines to assist with the implementation of the Specifications have also been drafted, and are currently available for comment on the Recordkeeping Standards Review pages <>

Thomas’ Map of Lost Place Names for Port Phillip

Hand Drawn Map by William_Thomas_citation_VPRS 6760PO, Unit 1, Item 1Picture1

Thomas’ hand drawn map of Western Port District of Port Phillip Bay 1830s – Click to enlarge

 William Thomas, Protector (1839 – 1849)

 On his first morning camped with the Bunurong tribe,  in July 1839, William Thomas (Aboriginal Protector from 1839 – 1849) noted in his journal that while reading his morning Psalms the admired Aboriginal hunter Poleorong (known as Billy Lonsdale) poked his head through Thomas’ tent. Poleorong insisted on sharing his bread, tea and sugar with the new protector, and had built Thomas a fire the night before.

Despite disease rapidly decimating the Aboriginal people living around Port Phillip Bay in the 1830s, Thomas decided to set up camp with the local tribes he was employed to protect.

William Thomas was brought from England to be employed as one of four assistant protectors of Aborigines for the Port Phillip District of Australia, from April 1839 until 1949. Thomas kept detailed diaries of his expeditions of the area, observations of camp life, the death of Aboriginal people by massacre and disease.

Capturing Memory

One of the tasks of the assistant protectors was to gather information about the customs and languages of the Aboriginal people of the Port Phillip District. The result were some government records of Aboriginal languages and geography, including this map of the Westernport District made by Thomas in 1841, no doubt informed by the time he spent living with Aboriginal communities. The map is a record of his understanding of the original place names, geographical features and land use of the area, including his record for the Aboriginal name for Port Phillip, more commonly known as Nerm or Neerim.


 The protectorate was short-lived. The huge social and economic changes brought about by the gold rush coincided with a lack of policy for Aboriginal people. The consequences were dramatic with only 2,000 Aboriginal people remaining by the 1850s. Records and reports from this period are held at the Public Record Office of Victoria. Its main holdings are records created by the office of Chief Protector of Aborigines, Agency number VA512 (1838-1849) and Guardian of Aborigines (1850-1860) Agency number VA 513.  

Rare Records on Display

This record is currently on display at the Victorian Archives Centre Gallery until 31 July 2014, as part of the exhibition walata tyamateetj: Carry Knowledge exhibition.


Image: A map of Westernport District made by William Thomas, Assistant Protector of Aborigines, in 1841. The map identifies both Aboriginal and European names.
Citation: Public Record Office Victoria, PROV VPRS 6760/PO, Unit 1, Item 1

Written by Kate Follington, Contributions by Tsari Anderson. Diary, William Thomas, Thomas Abstract for July 1839, CY 2604, item 2, frame 59, Mitchell Library.





What to archive? What not to archive? Share your views

girl_thinking_arms_crossedWe invite you to review and comment on the proposed Appraisal Statement for Public Records required as State Archives. This is your opportunity to tell us whether this statement will ensure that we collect and preserve the records which are important and valuable to Victorian people and communities, well into the future.

This is in order to:

  •  preserve evidence of past decisions and actions;
  •  support transparency, openness and accountability in government;
  • preserve the documented memory of government and its citizens;
  • support research by providing documentary evidence for academic and research communities and the general public;
  • support individuals and communities to reconnect and preserve identity and memory and facilitate redress, recovery and reconciliation.


Help us do that! Provide your comments on the Draft Appraisal Statement for Public Records as State Archives. 

Comment period has now closed.



A key recommendation of the Public Record Office Victoria Disposal Review called for the development of a comprehensive appraisal statement that sets out the areas of government activity that required permanent retention as State Archives, and this statement guides the identification of permanent records.  

 The draft statement draws on appraisal concepts outlined in pre-existing Public Record Office Victoria documents Developing RDA Guideline and Appraisal Guideline, with enhancements drawing on the work of the National Archives of Australia, National Archives UK and Queensland State Archives.

The statement forms one element in the development of a new framework for disposal authorisation in Victorian government. It is intended to sit alongside a high-level macro appraisal policy that identifies significant functions of government and provides guidance to support a risk based approach to disposal.

The document sets out the characteristics of permanent value records and provides for illustrative purposes examples of records from the Public Record Office Victoria collection that demonstrate the characteristics.

Comment period has now closed.

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