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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

What is ‘Moveable Heritage’?

Not for sale! Limits on the international trade of records in Australia

Most people in the heritage and archives community understand that Victorian public records are protected from being illegally sold or removed, damaged or destroyed.

Unlike a library you cannot simply borrow a public record from our North Melbourne, nor any other, Reading Room! It is also a crime for a member of the public, or a public servant who doesn’t have permission, to take or sell a public record that belongs to a Victorian government organisation.

Moveable Heritage

Perhaps less well known is that most records held by Public Record Office Victoria and other Australian Federal, State and Territory archives are also protected as ‘Moveable Heritage’. This means that these records cannot be legally exported outside of Australia without a permit.

What’s more, this restriction applies to all ‘documents’ which are:

  • of significance to Australia; and
  • more than 30 years old; and
  • not represented in at least two public collections in Australia by an item of the same quality.

A ‘document’ can include (among other things) books, letters, pamphlets, a sound recording, a film, television or video production, maps, plans, photographs, and drawing or other graphics, whether or not these are hardcopy or digital.

Records or other documents of this type which are sold or exported internationally (for example via EBay) illegally may be seized by Federal authorities and forfeited. Those responsible could also be prosecuted.

More information can be found on the Ministry for the Arts website.

The Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act 1986 which governs Moveable Heritage is currently under review. The findings from the review will be reported to the Australian Government on 30 September 2015.

By Carly Godden, Senior Standards and Policy Officer

Planning for the worst

Imagine how you’d feel on a Monday morning to go into work and head down to the basement (which is where your records are stored) and it’s turned into a cross between a swimming pool and an open sewer, or, if one night you receive a phone call explaining your office was gutted by fire; including the records storage area that you’re responsible for.

While having a Disaster Management and Recovery Plan won’t stop a burst pipe or a fire, it can make recovering from such an event a lot easier.

Get Covered and Read It

One important component of a Disaster Management and Recovery Plan is insurance information. The name and contact details of your insurer as well as any preferred companies they have for recovery work should be kept accessible, even in cases where the office is destroyed. Vital information includes exactly what the insurance covers and how much your recovery budget will be. It may sound callous, but perhaps your disaster recovery insurance doesn’t cover faulty plumbing, or recovery of records being stored in an environment where disaster risks were evident (such as exposed sewerage pipes) and no mitigation actions had been taken.

Paper Recovery Vs Digital Recovery

Methods for recovery of records after a disaster differ according to the format of the record and the nature of the disaster. For example, water damaged paper records respond well to vacuum freeze drying; but parchment, vellum, painted media and photographs do not and so should not be treated that way. Records held on a computer or in a server may not be lost, even if they have been gutted by fire. There are organisations which specialise in recovering records from disaster situations and that should be called in as quickly as possible to ensure maximum record recovery.

What Matters Most?

Choices will need to be made regarding which records to focus on as a recovery budget is unlikely to be sufficient to cover everything. An understanding of which records are vital for the organisation, where they were stored and on what medium will provide much needed direction for prioritising recovery work and expenditure. Another factor is whether there are copies of the affected records in another location which remain accessible for business continuity.

Assess your storage area

Of course the most effective approach to disaster recovery is careful planning. Conducting a risk assessment of records storage areas may have identified the potential for water damage resulting from a burst pipe, for example. Mitigation measures may have included not using the basement to store records, refitting the basement, routinely checking the state of the pipes and placing important records on higher shelves, and ensuring backup arrangements for digital records had been tested and are effective.

More help

Are you prepared should a disaster affect your records storage? More information on records storage can be found here. 

 This article originally appeared in PS News as part of our Government Recordkeeping Tips series.  

New transfer: SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

  • A photo of the front cover of one of the photo albums in this collection
    Photograph Album, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

A new set of photo albums has been added to our State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) Latrobe Valley Photographic Collection. 

The SECV Latrobe Valley Photographic Collection began in the 1920s with photographs taken of the progress of construction of the Yallourn Township, Power Station and Briquette Factory. It continued on a part-time basis until after World War II and eventually a full-time photographer was appointed to the Yallourn Drawing Office.

We now have new photos from Yallourn Power Station, Briquette Factory and other nearby sites (1916-1967) available to order and view at the Victorian Archives Centre North Melbourne.

Here’s a sample from one of the albums in VPRS 17092 P13 Unit 8:

A photo of the front cover of one of the photo albums in this collection

Photograph Album, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection

Photo of the power house

Power House June 1921

A photo of flood waters

After the floods Dec 1934

A photo of all the men working on constructing the weir

The weir construction gang July 1935

A photo of the weir construction

Construction of the weir July 1935

Another photo of the power house

The Power House 1921

A photo of weir construction

Construction of the weir July 1935

Search VPRS 17092 p 13 Photograph Albums, SECV Latrobe Valley Photo Collection to order these records. 

Other new transfers to our collection include Research papers of J A Vines, Author of A History of the Loy Yang Mine – Its Origins and Development to May 1997



Research into physical record storage within Victorian Government

RepositoryPhotoSince 2013, PROV has conducted a number of surveys to determine the volumes, locations and costs of physical records storage held by Victorian Government agencies and within commercial storage facilities.

Although our research is ongoing, there are already some emerging observations we can share.

The growth of physical records is not in decline

Despite the increasing efforts to digitise, we are still seeing a steady growth in the storage of physical records. In fact, we estimate Victorian Government to hold around 800km of records, costing millions of dollars each year in storage costs.

We also hear anecdotal evidence as to why agencies aren’t carrying out much records disposal. One example is because of the high upfront cost of destroying a standard archive box of records stored in a commercial facility, which is equivalent to the cost of one year of storage (of that same archival box).

However, implementing a disposal program not only ensures the agency fulfil its record-keeping obligations, but in the long term will actually save money, and reduce administrative burden and growth of physical records.

Digitised and source paper records are being unnecessarily stored at the same time

Another agency shared with us that in many instances, after the completion of a digitisation project, the source paper record and the digitised record are both stored by the agency.

Not only does this create a disincentive for the agency to conduct further digitisation projects, it also creates further administrative burden. At times, there are legitimate reasons to do this, such as the source paper record has value as a physical artefact or there is a requirement imposed upon the agency to keep the records in a particular format. However, in many instances, there is some confusion as to when the source records can be disposed of after conversion to another format.

According to the Guide to the GDA for converted Source Records, it is advisable for agencies to gain experience on low risk conversions before attempting large scale high risk conversions.

It is likely you will need to build a business case to gain endorsement and resources for your digitisation and storage projects. PROV has a useful Writing a Business Case Guideline which can be used to present your case and to seek endorsement and funding to a particular project or initiative. In addition to this, you may also find this impact calculator of interest.

By Alan Kong, Manager of Standards and Policy

walata tyamateetj (carry knowledge) wins archive publication award

  • Vicki Couzens, Untitled, mixed media on paper, 2005.
    Artwork used on the front cover of Walata tyamateetj by Vicki Couzens, untitled mixed media on paper, 2005.

walata tyamateetj [wa-lata  tee-ama-teej], a guide to Victorian government records about Aboriginal people, was awarded a Mander Jones Award for best finding aid to an archival collection at the Australian Society of Archivists annual conference earlier this week. 

The Mander Jones Publication Awards honour Phyllis Mander Jones who, among other contributions to the profession, authored Manuscripts in the British Isles relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, in 1972. Miss Mander Jones was also the first Corresponding Secretary of the Archives Section of the Library Association of Australia  and she co-edited the first issue of the Society’s journal Archives and Manuscripts.

Walata tyamateetj was awarded for enabling access to and engagement with Victorian Aboriginal archival collections. 

This publication is a joint guide to Victorian government records about Aboriginal people published by Public Record Office Victoria in association with the National Archives of Australia. The guide includes information about Victoria’s Koorie history through a comprehensive listing of records which can be accessed both in hard copy and electronic formats.

Access to the records in these collections is critical to Aboriginal people, and particularly the Stolen Generations, to enable them to reconnect with family, culture and Country. Records are also important to organisations within Victoria which offer services to members of the Stolen Generations. The guide was created to help reduce the barriers and improve access to records for the Victorian Aboriginal community and general researchers.

More information about the Mander Jones Awards can be found on the Australian Society of Archivists website. 

View, download, or order a free hard copy of Walata tyamateetj here. 

walata tyamateetj means ‘carry knowledge’ in the Gunditjmara language of western Victoria.  

New online index: Body Cards 1959-1985

  • One of the files from VPRS 10010 P1 Unit 53

What are ‘Body Cards’?

This series, named ‘Body Cards’ after the cardboard files contained within, include records of deaths reported to the Melbourne Coroner’s Court between 1959 and 1985. 

Deaths reported to the Melbourne Coroner’s Court included unexpected, unnatural, or violent deaths, deaths in care or custody, and when the identity of the person was unknown.  

What can I find in these files?

Records within the series contain all of the supporting documentation used by a coroner when investigating reported deaths, including:

  • the Victorian Police report of the death
  • an autopsy report as conducted by the Coroner’s Court 
  • an affidavit and/or other statements of identification
  • a copy of the body admission sheet
  • correspondence from next of kin, solicitors and others (if received)
  • copies of drug analysis, carbon monoxide or blood alcohol reports (when appropriate)
  • medical deposition from a treating doctor in a hospital and ambulance admission sheet.

Search the index

A new index to this series is now available online enabling you to search files for viewing at the Victorian Archives Centre.

Search the online index here.

Bendigo’s ‘Petitions of the People’

  • Image of the Petition Bye-Law for permitting hairdressers shops to be kept open
    Petition Bye-Law for permitting hairdressers shops to be kept open

The Bendigo Regional Archives Centre website hosts a series of digitised ‘Petitions of the People’ ranging from 1870 to 1899. These fascinating records can be useful sources of information for family history research, as each scanned petition includes names, signatures and often occupation of each signator. There are currently 273 petitions available to download with more to be added over time.

Getting started

These ‘Petitions of the People’ allow a rare insight into life from 1870 to 1899 in Sandhurst/Bendigo, a period when this gold mining town grew into a thriving Victorian city. A signature on a petition may be the only tangible evidence that an ancestor lived in the region, practiced a particular trade or profession or felt strongly about a local issue. If you want to find out if your ancestor appears in any of the petitions you can firstly download the full list of names here. 

Once you’ve found the name you’re looking for, check the column on the left for the petition category details, and then simply search within that category.

Petitions related to occupations in Bendigo

Here, we delve deeper into some of the ‘occupation’ category petitions to reveal requested changes to local butchering practices, struggles of the local stonebreakers, hairdressers, and the dairymen:

an image of a handwritten petition from the butchers

Petition from butchers to dress veal in their shops

To the Worshipful
The Mayor and Councillors of The City of Sandhurst


We the undersigned Butchers residing within The City boundary, respectfully beg that you will allow us to dress our veal at our respective residences – the same being slaughtered and bled at the Abbatoirs before coming onto our premises. As this would be a very great boon to us, especially during summer months, we trust you will look at the matter favourably and grant this request.

We are Gentlemen

Yours most respectfully
October 30th 1873

Surname First Name/Initial Address Occupation
Fletcher Edmund Mundy St Butcher
Nosworthy William Mitchell St Butcher
Gittins WB Williamson St Butcher
Bear Thomas Arnold St  Butcher
Hill Frederick Mitchell St Butcher
Goudge Bros   View Point Butcher
Dowding Jno High St Butcher
Martin Denis High St Butcher
Steepe Michael Mc Ivor Rd Butcher
Osborne Charles View Place Butcher
Hands Edward Barnard St Butcher
Weller Henry Long Gully Butcher
Nelson Timothy Bridge St  Butcher
Read CW   Butcher
An image of the Petition for the continuance of stonebreaking

Petition for the continuance of stonebreaking

Sandhurst January 26th, 1882

To the Mayor & Councillors of the City of Sandhurst


We the undersigned Stonebreakers beg to petition that you would order the continuance of the stone-breaking for street metaling. We have been discharged by order of Mr. Steane, and respectfully request that you will order our reappointment as we are all old and not capable of performing any other kind of work and if deprived of this, we have no other resource than seek aid from the charities.

Your humble servants

Surname First Name/Initial Occupation
White P Stonebreaker
Brodie Pat Stonebreaker
Mc Caig Hugh Stonebreaker
Gorman Jas Stonebreaker
Smith Jas Stonebreaker
O’Grady P Stonebreaker
White Jas Stonebreaker

Note from BRAC: Judging from the handwriting most of these petitioners could not read and write so they sought help from first signator, P White, to compose and write the petition’s prayer, and write each of their names next to their X marks. This is the only petition in the collection where the majority of petitioners were obviously illiterate. Over a decade later, the Council’s Surveyor reported that he was then employing 29 stone breakers, and commented “I have not refused any man a job at this need of work,” but concluded “it will be impossible to keep them fully employed for the whole year.”

Image of the Petition Bye-Law for permitting hairdressers shops to be kept open

Petition Bye-Law for permitting hairdressers shops to be kept open

To the Worshipful Mayor and Councillors of the City of Sandhurst

We the undersigned being a majority of the Hairdressers Keeping Hairdressers Shops or Saloons within the City of Sandhurst hereby humbly petition that you will in pursuance of the power given you by Section 45 of “The Factories and Shops Act 1885” make by-laws for the following purposes namely;

For permitting the class of shops known as Hairdressers shops or saloons within the City of Sandhurst on obtaining a license to keep open after the hours mentioned in Section 44 of the said Statute during such hours as shall be specified in such license and that the hour to be specified in such license on which the shops of the above class shall be closed shall be on each and every evening of the week except Saturday and Wednesday eight of the clock and on Saturday evening at the hour of eleven of the clock.

For closing all shops of the above class at the hour of the clock on the Wednesday of each and every week. Provided that on the day immediately preceding any public holiday any such shop may be kept open until the clock in the evening.

12 February 1886

Surname First Name/Initial Address Occupation
Wood Charles Mitchell St Hairdresser
Bohmer John Charing Cross Hairdresser
Remfry John High St Hairdresser
Green John High St Hairdresser
Henley J View St Hairdresser
Wainwright J Bull St Hairdresser

Note from BRAC: here the local Hairdressers were asking the Council to use the powers they had under the new Victorian Factories and Shops Act, to create the necessary local bye-laws to allow Hairdressers to remain open longer than other businesses on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This is the nineteenth century forerunner of the concessions hairdressing salons still have today.

An image of the Petition protesting against Bye Law 23

Petition protesting against Bye Law 23


To the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Sandhurst



We the undersigned Dairyman beg to protest against enforcement of Bye-Law No. 23 re market dues on milk as we supply our customers under contract and in our opinion selling milk to casual customers is more of a public convenience than a source of profit to ourselves hoping you will give this matter your favourable consideration.

Surname First Name/Initial
Burke Michael
Keating Pattrick
Kennedy Edward
Ackerman Ralph
Hines Michael
Fahey Patrick
Lowe Thomas
Wilson Wm
Liddy John
Brown H
Foley William
Owen John
Winzar H
Cummins Jas
Magee B
Warren Jas
Coughlin Thomas
Callaghan J
Mc Namara D

Find more occupation related petitions here. 

The Bendigo Regional Archives Centre received funding for this project from the Victorian Government in celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of Melbourne.

Upcoming Event: Start your family history research

Celebrate Family History Month! Are you curious to learn more about your family’s past but don’t know where to start? Do you have some branches on your family tree left to fill?

Start your family research journey at the Victorian Archives Centre!

This session will take you through the basics of how to get started researching your family. You will be introduced to the useful records we hold here at the archives and learn how to go about searching them.

After the session feel free to head straight into our Reading Rooms and get started using your new-found family research skills!

When: Friday 28 August 2015, 1-2pm
Where: Victorian Archives Centre, 99 Shiel St North Melbourne
Free parking available onsite off Macaulay Rd. 

Book now!

Other family history news & events:


Celebrate Family History Month in Regional Victoria

August is Family History Month, a time for celebrating and discovering more about family history. There are a number of events in Bendigo and Ballarat throughout August, all designed to help new archival researchers navigate the collections and start delving deeper into their family history. 


The Bendigo Regional Archives Centre will host three events in August:

  • August 12 & 13, Behind the Scenes tours
  • August 19 10.30am-12noon, Ancestors in the Archives
  • August 20 5.30pm-6.30pm, Vahland in the Archives

Visit the BRAC website for more information and bookings.


The Ballarat Archives Centre will feature as part of a City of Ballarat Libraries event: 

Learn more about finding your family history in the archives:

New archives to the collection: applications for ‘sustenance’ during the Depression

  • Alfred Anderson’s application for sustenance (VPRS 17781)

New records transferred to our collection provide a glimpse into the lives of Dandenong and surrounding residents during The Depression.

There are three different series, consisting of applications for sustenance administered by the shires of Cranbourne, Berwick and Dandenong in pursuance of the provisions of the Unemployment Relief (Administration) Act 1932.

The files contain Applications for Sustenance forms outlining:
– applicant name
– place of birth
– address
– age
– usual trade
– marital status
– out of employment details
– particulars of children and dependents
– information regarding assets or income
– investigation notes regarding application
– application support documentation such as statements of income.

What was The Sustenance Scheme of the 1930s? 

The sustenance scheme was established for the relief of individuals able and willing to work but unable to find employment. The scheme was managed by the Employment Council of Victoria (from1932) and relief committees were created throughout Victoria.

Sustenance payments were made on the basis of eight shillings (10 cents) six pence (5 cents) per week for man and wife with an additional one shilling and six pence per week for each additional child up to a maximum of 20 shillings 6 pence per week. In addition, each approved individual was provided with an identification card which enabled him to gain groceries, meat, bread and milk for a four week period through nominated shopkeepers selected by the individual. Sustenance also included the provision of babies’ food, clothing and footwear for school children, firewood and rental assistance.

As outlined in the Unemployment Relief (Administration) Act 1932, only unemployed applicants who resided in Victoria for three or more months prior to application and were not found to have refused any opportunities for employment were eligible to apply.

In return for sustenance, male applicants were required to perform work for the municipality.

What you can discover in these files

A sample from the Dandenong series, an application from Alfred Anderson, reveals many details of this man’s life at the time of the Depression. At the time of application he had been out of work for 8 months, and struggling to support his wife and two young daughters. He had held various labouring jobs in the past and owned a truck and saw bench. He had also done shift work at the Kimpton Flour Mills Kensington. At the time of his application he held no bank accounts, and owned no property or business. The Inspector found that Alfred was willing and prepared to accept any work offered to him.      

Application for sustenance 1 Application for sustenance 2
Application for sustenance 3 Application for sustenance 4
Application for sustenance 5 Application for sustenance 6
Application for sustenance 7 Application for sustenance 8

Search ‘Applications for Sustenance’

The records are arranged alphabetically by applicant surname. Search Cranbourne VPRS 17876, Dandenong VPRS 17781 or Berwick VPRS 17877 for the list of records that are now available for viewing at the Victorian Archives Centre, North Melbourne.

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