Adjust Font Size [ + ] [ – ] [ o ]

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
We will be closed on Monday 26 January for the Australia Day Public Holiday

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.

Request for Feedback: New Draft Guidelines to support implementation of PROS 11/01 Storage Standard

We would like to invite you to review the eight new draft Guidelines developed to assist with the implementation of the Storage Standard (PROS 11/01).

Please provide any feedback to by COB Friday 25 July 2014.

Documents are available for download at the following link and are:

  • PROS 11/01 G5 Shelving Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G6 Records Storage: Location and Construction Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G7 Records Storage: Preservation and Safety Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G8 Records Storage: Identification and Control Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G9 Records Storage: Security Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G10 Records Storage: Maintenance Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G11 Records Storage: Disaster Preparedness and Management Guideline
  • PROS 11/01 G12 Records Storage: Authorisation and Inspection Programme Guideline

Please be aware that the documents are draft only. The actual changes made will be based on the feedback received and any additional investigations required. We would like the draft Guidelines to be practical and easy to use, and to achieve that aim your feedback is invaluable.



Homage To A Music Star – The Palace Theatre

Black and white photo of interior hallway of the Palace Theatre, Melbourne

Palace Theatre, Melbourne

Just like the performers who have graced her stage, The Palace Theatre took on a myriad of identities throughout her 154 years of operation, experiencing arson, the depression, the ‘talkies’, musical theatre and some of the best live music acts from Australia and abroad. Sadly, at the end of May, the Palace Theatre had her final curtain call, bringing to a close many years entertaining Victoria.

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) holds the Public Building files for the Palace Theatre.





These records reflect the less romantic side of managing a long running performance space, but tell fascinating tales of health inspections, elaborate building plans, arson, criminal proceedings and health concerns from the 1920s until the late 1980s.

Here is just a peek behind the curtain of the iconic Palace Theatre.

Sir Benjamin Fuller the Vaudeville King

Before 1920 the Palace Theatre had several guises; most notably as the Douglas Hotel which burnt to the ground in 1911. Its new owner, theatre entrepreneur Sir Benjamin “Ben” Fuller, launched The Palace Theatre in 1916 and kept it running until it could no longer compete with the spread of popular film. Sir Benjamin Fuller started on the stage at the Savoy Theatre in London before crossing the seas and settling in Sydney.  Sir Benjamin and his brother John became the directors of John Fuller & Sons and prospered in the pantomime and vaudevillian business, bringing vaudeville to Melbourne and the Palace Theatre.


‘On careful reflection I’d say that Sir Benjamin Fuller was the greatest of all Australian proprietors-managers,’ claimed illusionist ‘Doctor’ Richard Rowe. ‘He controlled more theaters at one time than any man here, his shows ranging from Punch and Judy to grand opera. There were times when he juggled hundreds of acts between Perth and the Bluff, New Zealand. (Live Performance Australia, Hall of Fame)


Re-modelling for Cabaret and ‘The Talkies’

In 1922 the brothers went into partnership with American actor and producer Hugh J. Ward and remodelled the Palace and the Princess Theatres in Melbourne. Remodelling included an application for ‘the use of the basement as a cabaret club’ and an ‘unauthorised doorway between the dress circle foyer and the stairway’, as well as an unsuccessful application for a revolving stage. How scandalous!

By the mid 1930s the Fuller brothers, gave the Palace Theatre another facelift with the aid of D. F. Cowell Ham and changed its name to the Apollo Theatre.

In 1936 the Apollo Theatre was not just changing its name but also its purpose. Prior to it becoming the Apollo, the theatre was used predominately for theatrical stage performances. However, by 1937, with an unsuccessful season of Noel Coward’s Fallen Angels the owners made the move to ‘show pictures permanently’.  

The depression had presumably taken its toll on live theatre. In 1940 Sir Fuller made an application to the Health Department about the proposed alterations regarding improvements to the Apollo Theatre. ‘I don’t want to stress the obvious and I don’t want to make this a sob story, but I would like to point out the extremely bad time the legitimate theatre has gone through in the past few years and with the expenditure of ₤6000 I will not only be giving employment, but I consider I shall be adding to Melbourne’s social amenities.’

Photo Slideshow: Black and White Photos of Public Records about Palace Theatre, Melbourne.

Metro Theatre and the Rat Problem

With the era of film came new names. Firstly St James’ Picture Theatre in 1940 (open until 11pm) and a decade later, The Metro. The US company Metro Goldwyn Mayer first became the sole lessee and then purchased the space in 1951 from the Fuller brothers.  The beginning of a new decade brought new problems including a rat infestation. The rat infestation drew complaints from customers as they were seen ‘racing across the centre aisle from one side to the other then would go under seats, and on to an empty seat.’ Mrs Trinnick from Northcote had not been the first to witness these rogue rodents in the theatre, which had made their way in from the eateries on Turnbull Alley and had been an ongoing problem for the Health Department and guests alike.

A sign of the times also included a limit on wheelchairs: only one was allowed at any one time, and definitely not on Saturday nights.

1970s Musical Theatre

It wasn’t until 1971 that the theatre was hitting the headlines again. After a successful season in Sydney, the musical Hair transferred to Melbourne and to the Metro Theatre. Drama had followed the controversial stage play about conscription into the Vietnam War, and Melbourne’s season was no exception.

By December the producer of Hair, Harry M. Miller Attractions, was engaged in legal proceedings with the Melbourne City Council. The Council had banned the use of naked kerosene-fuelled flame on the stage, which Mr Miller had ignored. Naked performers however didn’t appear to contravene any by-laws.

From Church Hall to Music Hall

By the end of the decade the Metro ceased to operate but was saved from demolition when it was bought by the Melbourne Revival Centre and became a house of worship.  It was then refurbished again into the Metro Nightclub, before finally and most graciously, being returned to its ‘heyday’ name of the Palace Theatre, where Australian and international acts have been performing up until now.

And So We Bid You Farewell

The famous landmark has witnessed many dramatic events. With rumours of a ghost haunting its visitors and a tunnel connecting the theatre with Her Majesty’s Theatre for horses and chariots to appear on stage. If the walls of the theatre could talk this iconic Melbourne venue would tell tales of thespians, musicians, vaudeville stars and the backstage antics of local and international stars spanning 100 years.  

Written by Phoebe Wilkens, Access Services Officer, Public Record Office Victoria.


You may also be interested in this Provenance Article on The Regent Theatre.

To view any of the records used in the above flickr set, please order these records online and view them in the Melbourne Reading Room or contact our research staff directly by email.

VPRS 7882/P1/95

VPRS 7882/P1/96

VPRS 7591/P3/289 547/776

VPRS 28/P4/1941 547/776

VPRS 8044/P3/690


Page 4 of 29« First...23456...1020...Last »