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Monday to Friday: 10:00 am to 4:30 pm
(excl. public holidays)
The second and last Saturday of every month

Burning land: Victoria and bushfires

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Aerial photograph Lara

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Aerial photograph Lara

Parched land, plumes of smoke and burning embers. All of these phrases have been in the headlines in the last few weeks since the devastating fires raged to the north of Melbourne, fires which are still smouldering. These fires are not the first to cause devastation across the state as Victoria has a long history of bushfires.

Just over five years ago Victoria watched the ‘Black Saturday’ fires cause immeasurable damage, including loss of property, livestock and lives. However, this is not the first time that Victoria has been razed by fire. In fact ‘Black Saturday’ and the more recent fires of February 2014 are just a number in a long line of bushfires that have impacted on Victoria and Victorians.

On Friday 13 January 1939, in the peak of summer, as hot northerly winds played havoc, Victoria was once again alight. On “Black Sunday”, thirteen years earlier, almost to the day Warburton was ravaged by fire. Now, more than a decade on, Warburton, along with Yarra Glen, Woods Point and as far as Mansfield, the Grampian Ranges and the Otway Ranges were again burning. This time the fires covered over 1.5 million hectares of land and claimed seventy-one lives, up to 1300 buildings and completely destroyed the town of Narbethong. The fires that ripped through Warburton, St Clair, Woods Point and Matlock on their own claimed seventeen lives. At James Michael Fitzpatrick’s Mill at St Claire, near Matlock the fire claimed fifteen of those lives; one person lost their life at Yelland’s Mill at St Clair and one woman, Vera Ada Maynard died from ‘effects of suffocation and burns caused when they were overtaken by a bushfire (sic)’. The forest and the mills that these men were working in would have been the perfect dry tinder for the fire to latch on to, and evidently cause further deaths in the area.

Photographs from the inquest show trees and land blackened by fire, unrecognisable bodies and the utter destruction of the saw mills, of which a total of 69 timber mills were destroyed.

Only a few years later in early 1944 whilst Australians were overseas fighting the battle of the Second World War, fires tore through Victoria again. Forty-nine lives were lost, more than five hundred homes and vast amounts of livestock was destroyed in ferocious fires that covered over one million hectares of land. The Central and Western districts, including Hamilton, Dunkeld, Skipton and Lake Bolac were deeply affected, as well as plant works in Morwell and Yallourn.

However, another fire in Woodend would prove fatal with the death of a woman in her 70s. As it happens, this particular fire would also take place on 13 January, and an inquest into Sarah Lugg’s death was held at the Woodend Court House in May 1944. Her inquest details how ‘the fire had evidently started near a small rubbish tip in [a] paddock, on the side of a hill about 150 yards south of [the] dwelling house and 50 yards away from the milking sheds.’ Once this fire had been ignited it seemed as if it would be a matter of time that it would erupt into something larger with ‘the conditions on that day…conducive to the rapid spread of fire. The temperature was high with a strong north to north west wind blowing which caused the fire to frequently change direction over a wide front.’

Sarah Lugg had packed her belongings into two suitcases and along with Bridget Connelly, whom she had known for sixty years, the two made the decision to flee the dense smoke and retreat to an open paddock for safety. However, it appears that Lugg that retreated on her own, with Connelly eventually making her way to the paddock to find that she was not there. By this time the fire had swept across Ashbourne Road, taking in its path the life of Sarah Lugg.

Forty-five years ago on the 8 January 1969 total and utter devastation would befell the small community of Lara, between Geelong and Melbourne. However this destruction would be widespread, affecting communities across the state and even the country.

VPRS 24-P2-Unit 293-Item 1969_1054 Weather summary

“Summary of Aerodrome Weather Reports” – The weather and conditions the day of the Lara Fires (8 Jan 1969)

Conditions during the 7 and 8 January were hot and windy, the perfect combination for the fast and the wide spread of fire. An initial fire broke out on Tuesday 7January near Anakie at a large grazing property called Woollomanata, close to Lara. This fire was contained before it broke out again on the 8 January. In the inquest held at the Geelong Coroner’s Court on the 9 and 10 June 1969 the coroner stated that ‘the evidence adduced [did] not enable [him] to say what was responsible [for the fire], or perhaps, further, who was responsible, if anybody, for the starting of the first fire.’ There was contention as to whether the initial fire was ignited by a spark from a passing truck or caused from a cigarette butt thrown from a car.

VPRS 4-P2-293-1969_1054 Photo 13

VPRS 24-P2-293-1969_1054 Photo 13

Whilst this was never established, the facts of the fire detailed in the coroner’s inquest, along with news reports and eye witness accounts from the day are all wracked with tragedy and devastation. The losses from the fire included thousands of livestock, the destruction of many homes and properties, grievous bodily injuries and the death of 18 people.

From the eighteen lives that were lost on this day, 17 of them had been caught on the Princes Highway at Lara in their vehicles. The fast moving grass fire had caused thick smoke, which in turn caused low visibility along the highway. Eye witness accounts from the day describe the panic and terror that ensued as people decided to flee their cars and attempt to outrun the fire. Ultimately this decision took the lives of seventeen people, including one family and several members of others. The tragic circumstances of the day have also helped in establishing the changing of guidelines for people in cars during bushfires.

Bushfires are a part of Victoria’s history, and no doubt will be a part of our future. The tragic events detailed here are just a small handful of Victoria’s bushfire history, with PROV holding a large and varied range of records relating to events and outcomes surrounding these wild forces of nature.


A selection of available sources at PROV:

Black Saturday bushfires Royal Commission (digitised online) – VPRS 16295/P3

Bushfire inquest – VPRS 24/P0/1379 1939/818

Sarah Lugg inquest – VPRS 24/P0/1492 1944/507

Lara bushfire inquest – VPRS 24/P2/293 1969/1054


Phoebe Wilkens

Access Services Officer

New Records Transfers

New PROV logo BLACKThe below records have been transferred into the PROV collection and are now available for ordering and viewing in our North Melbourne reading room.

Controlling Agency:
VA 3970 Department of Human Services
VA 4921 Department of Health III

Creating Agency:
VA 2695: Department of Health II (commonly known as the Health Department Victoria)
VPRS 17369 / P1 Central Correspondence Files, RMS System

Controlling Agency: VA 5002 Department of Environment and Primary Industries
Creating Agency: VA 534 Forests Commission
VPRS 11563 / P8  General Correspondence Files, Annual Single Number System

Sir Rupert Hamer Awards 2014

Nominations for the 2014 Sir Rupert Hamer Records Management Awards are now open to government agencies or approved Places of Deposit.

The Sir Rupert Hamer Awards are held annually to recognise excellence and innovation in records management within the Victorian Public Sector. The Awards are proudly offered through the Public Records Advisory Council and the Public Record Office Victoria

Winners will be announced at Queens Hall, Parliament House on 22nd May.

For more information on how to enter see:

Structured Data


For some time, information management practitioners have been challenged by how to manage structured data over the long term.  You may find other blog entries relating to this topic interesting or even informative:

If you don’t find these either interesting or informative, go to your favourite search engine enter the terms “structured data and records management” and pull up the results (“My mind is a raging torrent, flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.[1]”)


To help PROV and other information management specialists meet the structured data management challenge, PROV commissioned Recordkeeping Innovation Pty Ltd to prepare an Issues Paper (presented Dec 2012).  Barbara Reed who wrote this paper, made a number of recommendations.  Over 2013, PROV commenced to deliver many of the recommendations.  Two recommendations resulted in substantial projects; one being the trialling of SIARD (see a separate post) the other a stocktake (survey) of databases across the VPS.  PROV commissioned Nous Group (Nadia Mecoli) to undertake the Stocktake project.  In addition we worked closely with the Digital Government Team in the Department of State Development, Business and Innovation to ensure that the report had reference to and value for the Victorian Governments ICT Strategy action items;


So what did the Stocktake find?:

Rather than overwhelm you with detail or go through the entire recommendations and findings I’ll just give you “the vibe of the thing….[2]”:

“… operational management also generally addresses record management, the greatest risks arise when records are no longer operationally relevant but they have not reached the end of their record retention period. Typically this affects permanent and long term records.

Making it easier for agencies to identify high value permanent and long term records is the first step in reducing these risks.[3]


The Report reinforces this view with the following diagram[4];

 Risk gap

What does this mean?

A few things are important from this:

  1. Agencies don’t usually rate/prioritise long term preservation.  This is not just for records of enduring (archival/permanent) value its even for records that continue to have operational value.
  2. The risk gap opens before systems are being retired (although that is clearly a critical time).
  3. Agencies (and Archives) desperately need tools and policies that help identify what has value.  Such tools have to be measurable and applicable to a wide range of users not just archivists and records managers


Lastly while the challenge of effective information management is daunting keep in mind the need for effective organisation and planning “There is no reason why good cannot triumph as often as evil. The triumph of anything is a matter of organization. If there are such things as angels, I hope that they are organized along the lines of the Mafia.[5]


If you have any questions or would like to pursue this further don’t hesitate to contact David Brown or Andrew Waugh at PROV.

[1] Hedley Lamarr

[2] Dennis Denuto

[3] p7 Final report – Stocktake of Victorian Government Databases February 2014 Nous Group

[4] p15 Ibid

[5] Kurt Vonnegut

PROV Highly Commended at Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards

The hard work and dedication of Public Record Office Victoria’s staff and volunteers was recognised at the Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards last night.

The Awards, held at the State Library of Victoria, recognise the outstanding achievements of Victorian Government arts agencies and cover a wide range of categories from excellence in public programs through to leadership in technology and disability access.

Andrew Abbott, Acting Director of Arts Victoria and Hon Heidi Victoria Minister for the Arts presented Public Record Office Victoria with a Highly Commended in the category of Leadership in Public Programs for the 40th Anniversary Program. The 40th Anniversary Program included the curation of a special exhibition, Victoria on Record which celebrates the Public Record Office Victoria collection by showcasing rare treasures of the archives.

Another key part of the 40th Anniversary Program was Public Record Office Victoria’s first Open Day which was held on 20 April 2013. The Open Day, which introduced people to the archives through a series of informative and entertaining tours, talks and information sessions, was a major success attracting almost 500 people.

Public Record Office Victoria also produced a special edition Guidebook and Annual Report to mark Public Record Office Victoria’s 40 years of operation.

The work of volunteers was celebrated at last nights Awards, with Ms Victoria commenting that Melbourne’s thriving arts sector relies on the dedication and passion of its volunteers.

Public Record Office Victoria’s Volunteer Program was awarded a Highly Commended with Mr Abbott noting that in 2013 volunteers contributed over 20,000 hours, an all time record for the Public Record Office Victoria Volunteer Program.

A big congratulations to all staff and volunteers at Public Record Office Victoria and to our colleagues within fellow arts agencies.

For further information on the Arts Portfolio Leadership Awards visit Arts Victoria.

Showcase Record – February 2014

The “Gentle Sex” – Women convicted of Murder

VPRS 264 and VPRS 1100 consist of files compiled to assist the Governor in deciding whether the royal prerogative of mercy should be applied to persons convicted of a capital offence and given the mandatory death sentence (although some offenders, notably those under 21 years of age were sentenced to the Governor’s pleasure). VPRS 516 comprises registers created by the Penal and Gaols Branch to record the registration number, name and personal details of female prisoners in custody in Victorian gaols.

Olga Radalyski, Prisoner number 6644

Olga Radalyski, Prisoner number 6644.
VPRS 516/P0, Volume 12, Page 230

These records intrigued me as they show a sadder, seedier and more desperate side of life than the one that most of us experience. They reflect the standards and hardships of life in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

What drove these women (and in some cases, girls) to an act of desperation? In some cases, such as infanticide or deaths through abortion, it is a reflection on the social mores of the time – pregnancy outside marriage is a falling from grace and “sinful” – or perhaps an attempt to limit the size of the family. Sometimes, it appears that the acts of infanticide may have occurred as a result of post-natal depression. In other cases, the murderess sees the death of another – usually her husband – as a means to protect her family from drunken rages and physical, verbal and sometimes sexual abuse.  In yet other instances, acts of murder are committed for revenge and, in one very interesting case, I discovered a case of “unrequited love”, stalking, poetry, unbridled rage and insanity culminating in the death of an innocent woman.

Information on this topic is found in VPRS 516 Central Register of Female Prisoners, VPRS 264 Capital Case Files and VPRS 1100 Capital Sentences Files.  Further information can be obtained through research in VPRS 30 Criminal Trial Briefs and VPRS 521 Register of Names, Particulars and Person Description of Prisoners Received.

Creating Agencies:

Christine O’Donnell, Access Services Officer

Learning for fun: Massive Open Online Courses

The concept of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) has been around since 2008.  Although certain limitations preclude them from fully replacing formal training and education, these courses have significantly expanded over the years.  

For example, according to one site, Open Colleges, there are at least 50 of such MOOC sites available that provide free online courses to the public.

Without further ado, listed here are 10 courses you may find intriguing related (directly or vaguely) to information management.  

It is important to note, these courses are often not accredited and not recognized as formal education.   

Happy Learning!


Strategic Management (Commenced 13 January, so hurry!)

Emergency Management (Commenced 13 January, so hurry!)

Big Data and Better Performance (Commenced 13 January, so hurry!)

Principles of Project Management (Commenced 13 January, so hurry!)

Inter-professional Healthcare Informatics (Commences 10 February)

Building and Information Risk Management Toolkit (Commences 19 February)

Information Security and Risk Management in Context (Commences 19 February)

Wiretaps to Big Data: Privacy and Surveillance in the Age of Interconnection (Commences 2 March)

Introduction to Cloud Computing

Metadata: Organising and Discovering Information (check date for next course)

Information Management Maturity Measure Tool – IM3

In November 2013, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) proudly launched the Information Management Maturity Measurement Tool – IM3. The tool is designed for users to assess their agency or organisation’s level of Information Maturity (IM).

Since its launch the tool has been very well received and attracted a great deal of positive feedback. Users have commented that the tool is well scoped, useful, interesting, timely and easy to use. In addition we have also received and welcomed some constructive criticism which has resulted in the following enhancements to the tool and its supporting documentation:

• A static Word version of the IM3 Question Set has been developed and loaded onto the PROV website. This is designed to enable users to view questions consider their responses prior to completing the assessment

• Additional instructions have been added to the IM3 Guidelines and Instructions. These advise users that ‘if the tool appears to be ‘unresponsive’ at any stage press [Enter] or click out of the current cell’.

We encourage agencies and organisations to familiarise themselves with the tool, use it to build on their current IM practices and to then share their assessment findings and user experience with PROV. For further information or feedback contact David Brown, Assistant Director, Government Services, PROV Or click to access the IM3 tool

New Records Transfers

New PROV logo BLACKThe below records have been transferred into the PROV collection and are now available for ordering and viewing in our North Melbourne reading room.

Controlling Agency: VA 5001 Department of State Development, Business and Innovation
VPRS 16772 / P2 General Correspondence Files, Annual Single Number System
VPRS 16771 / P2 General Correspondence Files, Single Number System

Reviewing Our Collection

As part of its routine collection management program, Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) is reviewing its collection of physical records held at the Victorian Archives Centre in North Melbourne. We will be looking at our existing collection to ensure that we are retaining only those records of permanent value to the State and people of Victoria. As part of this review we will be identifying records that do not need to be held in the State’s archive any longer.

The great bulk of our Collection will not be affected or even considered during the course this project. What we will be examining is a relatively small portion of our collection that has never been fully appraised (that is, the worth of the records have not been determined) or that requires a review of the original appraisal decisions. These are predominantly records that were taken into archival custody many years ago without thorough examination or with their archival status uncertain, sometimes in order to assist agencies facing crisis situations.

This project is likely to take several years to complete. It will involve examining the records and the original decisions behind the records being transferred into PROV’s custody. We will be referring to our current appraisal decisions and criteria which provide guidance as to which records need to be retained as part of the state archives. PROV will be working alongside each agency responsible for records that have been identified through this project, to ensure they agree with us when we identify records that can be returned to the agency or immediately disposed of. Our decisions will be rigorously tested, documented and approved prior to any final action being taken.

You may be wondering, what are the benefits of doing this? This project will help ensure that our unique collection continues to hold those records that are of permanent value to the government and people of Victoria. It also provides us with the added benefit of freeing up valuable space in our purpose built archival storage facility to ensure our collection can to continue to grow for years to come. This is also great news for our researchers who will benefit from a richer, more valuable collection.

Charlie Farrugia
Senior Collections Advisor

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