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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

We will be closing the Reading Room at 1pm on Fri 19 Dec

The Ministerial Forum for the Cemetery Sector


As an initiative of the Hon David Davis, Minister for Health, The Ministerial Forum for the Cemetery Sector was held at the Melbourne Town Hall on Friday 24 October, 2014.

The theme of the Ministerial Forum was Heritage and Historical Linkages to Cemeteries. The main event of the day was a book launch to promote In Memoriam : A Guide to the History and Heritage of Victoria’s Cemeteries by Garrie Hutchinson. Download a copy of the publication here.

Public Record Office Victoria was invited to speak at the Ministerial Forum along with Dr Celestina Sagazio, Historian and Manager of Cultural Heritage at Southern Metropolitan Cemetery Trust and John Hawker, Horticulturist, Heritage Victoria.

Julie McCormack, Manager of Appraisal and Documentation at Public Records Office Victoria, presented a talk at the forum on How Records Become Archives.  Julie’s presentation covered the Public Records Act 1973 and discussed cemetery records required as State Archives. Julie further discussed the forthcoming Retention and Disposal Authority for Cemetery Records, how to transfer records and records relating to cemeteries already held by Public Record Office Victoria.

Indeed, Public Record Office Victoria holds a selection of records about cemeteries, as well as records created by cemetery trusts. Amongst our substantial collection at Public Record Office Victoria are records from the Greta, Oakleigh, Old Melbourne, Melbourne General, Walhalla, and Fawkner cemeteries.
Public Record Office Victoria also holds records from a range of government agencies which have had a role in the regulation of cemeteries in the 19th and 20th centuries. This includes the Public Works Department, the Department of Crown Lands and Survey, the Chief Secretary’s Department and successive health departments and local councils.

If you would like more information or have any questions please email us at

Image: Presenters at the Ministerial Forum

PROV volunteers win Melbourne Award!

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

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

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

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

See a full list of award winners here. 

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

PROV volunteers nominated for Melbourne Award

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

Some of our outstanding volunteers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the full list of finalists here.

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

Public Records Amendment Bill 2014 – Current Status

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: Parliament of Victoria


Archival Snapshot: Exhibition Photos Display Fashions of 1888

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

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

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

Exhibitions of late 19th Century

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

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

Staff Photo Albums

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

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

Author: Georgia Harris, Access Services Officer

Accessing These Records

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

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

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

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


Regional Rail Link preserves Footscray railway’s station heritage

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

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

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

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

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

Free heritage tours

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

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

Original photographs

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

Search Historic Rail Photographs

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



Discover North Melbourne 1855-1905

Here is an image of a page out one of the rate books. It is handwritten by the rate collector of the time.

This Item is part of Series number: VPRS 5707

Digitised North Melbourne rate books for 1855-1905 are now available through our online catalogue.

In the nineteenth century, North Melbourne was known as the Hotham Ward of the City of Melbourne. Melbourne’s stockyards and meat markets were centered around this area and evidence of this activity survives to this day in features such as the wide streets for cattle and the Meat Market Arts Centre, as well as the colloquial name of ‘Shinboners’ for the North Melbourne Football Club.

Rates for commercial and residential properties in the area were ‘assessed’ and collected annually. Rate collectors walked the streets assessing properties and noting details of owners and tenants. The Rate Book for each year was then signed off as a key record of the city’s finances.

Download copies

Rate books for North Melbourne for the years 1855-1905 are now available for download here.

These records will be of particular interest for property research and finding out original home owners in the area.

Navigating the archives

To find details of a particular property you need to browse the online files, listed by year, and then find the street address.

The rates are listed by the street that the property was on – though the streets are not listed alphabetically – we think that the books are in the order in which the assessors walked the streets. Once you’ve found a property in a volume for one year, it will generally be in a similar position in volumes for other years, although the boundaries were redrawn and property numbers changed every so often.

These volumes were digitised with the support of the Melbourne Library Service as part of a project to digitise previously microfilmed records. As well as these volumes (VPRS 5707) rate and valuation books for the Melbourne CBD (VPRS 5708) and the Flemington/ Kensington area (VPRS 4097) were also copied and are available online. Copies of these images are also available at Melbourne Library Service branches.

Celebrating the Arts Centre’s 30th anniversary

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

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

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

Gems from the collection

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

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

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

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

Production of documents

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

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

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

 Records of inquiries

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

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

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


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


History Week – Victorian Community History Award Winners 2014

Exceptional Australian Garden MakersPublic Record Office Victoria announce the 2014 Victorian Community History Award winners

20 October, 2014

As part of History Week celebrations, Public Record Office Victoria today honours the winners of the 2014 Victorian Community History Awards.

The annual Awards, funded by the Victorian government, and coordinated by the Public Record Office of Victoria recognise the people and projects that helped preserve and share Victoria’s history in 2014. The Awards have grown since their conception in 1999 and this year they attracted a record 167 entrants over eight categories.

The overall prize was awarded to an impressive publication which celebrates Australia’s gardening culture.  Anne Vale’s, Exceptional Australian Garden Makers is a thoroughly researched book which explores the global influence on Australian garden styles and trends over the past two centuries and the pioneers who shaped them. It beautifully illustrates the adaptability of early gardeners to merge European styles with the dry yet beautiful Australian landscape.   

Other winners include an exhibition showcasing the history of the Mornington Peninsula, an interactive website which invites users to explore the history of the buildings and people of John St, Lilydale, and a personal memoir on the challenges of maintaining identity following the Black Saturday bushfires.

This year’s winner of the local history project category will be of particular interest to historians. Marguerita Stephens has published the first transcription of William Thomas’ diaries, the Assistant Protector of the Aborigines of Port Phillip Victoria 1839-1867, an important resource on early Victorian history.

Minister for the Arts, Heidi Victoria MP said the Awards highlighted the importance of local history in shaping Victoria’s identity.
“Our identity as Victorians is shaped by our collective stories and experiences. These Awards recognise and celebrate the passionate community historians who are dedicated to researching and sharing local stories and in doing so, supporting all Victorians connect with the past,” Ms Victoria said.

This year honours a range of projects including exhibitions, history publications, phone apps, websites and DVDs. By interpreting our stories in different ways we will continue to attract new audiences and keep Victoria’s rich history alive.

Justine Heazlewood, Director and Keeper of Public Records, Public Record Office Victoria congratulates the winners of this years award.
“Many of these projects utilised local historical collections to help preserve and tell stories. It highlights the importance of local collections in shaping our State’s history,” said Ms Heazlewood.

The Victorian Community History Awards are managed by Public Record Office Victoria in partnership with the Royal Historical Society of Victoria.

Media Enquiries:
Rebecca Young, Media Advisor, 03 9348 5722 / 0418 698 364 /
Kate Follington, Co-ordinator Communications, 0412 328 632


Victorian Community History Award ($5000) – Anne Vale
Exceptional Australian Garden Makers
This beautifully presented book is an overview of garden history that reinforces the importance of gardens and gardening in Australian life and culture. Vale explores the major influences on Australian gardening and designs.  Particularly from significant individuals like Ferdinand von Mueller to the present and the enormous literature to which many of them contributed.  She researched in depth the early women gardeners who have largely been unrecognized for their influence over domestic and public gardens.

Local History Project Award ($2000) – Marguerita Stephens
The Journal of William Thomas, Assistant Protector of the Aborigines of Port Phillip & Guardian of the Aborigines of Victoria 1839-1867, 4 volumes
The diaries of William Thomas have long been recognised as an important source for contact history, For the first time, these four volumes make Thomas’ hand written diaries accessible and easy to interpret. Each volume is annotated and indexed and the fourth volume collects language material from Thomas and others. Overall this is an enormously useful publication which will have a big impact anyone wanting to research Aboriginal history.

Historical Interpretation Award ($2000) – Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage
The Garden at La Trobe’s Cottage, Kings Domain, Melbourne
This is an intriguing historical project – the recreation of the garden that surrounded Charles and Sophie La Trobe’s Jolimont cottage 1839-1854. While the cottage is not on its original site, contemporary paintings and references from written sources have been used to discover, and as closely as possible duplicate, the original plantings including a number of heritage species and garden features.

Multimedia History Award ($2000) – Lilydale & District Historical Society Inc.
Gun Alley: The Forgotten Story of Lilydale’s Back Streets 1880 to today
This remarkable website is the result of an ambitious project to capture online the history of the people and buildings in John Street, Lilydale.   The website is cleverly designed, its various layers enabling the viewer to select a time period and then delve into the history of individual properties and their residents through a combination of maps, images, interviews and other presentations.

Judges’ Special Prize ($1000) – Mornington Peninsula Local History Network and Lavender Hill Multimedia
Postcards: Stories from the Mornington Peninsula (DVD)
This travelling exhibition and DVD brings together stories from eight local historical societies. Each society focused on a local heritage theme, for example the development of holiday attractions and local industries in the Mornington Peninsula.

History Publication Award ($2000) – Robert Kenny
Gardens of Fire: an investigative memoir
This book is a moving account of the authors experiences during and after the devastating Black Saturday bushfires of 2009 in the small central Victorian community of Redesdale. The book focuses on the author’s experiences of the bushfires and the rebuilding process and includes reflections of the consequences of loss of identity.  The book also includes discussions on the nature of fire in Australian ecosystems, history, society and culture.

Local History – Small Publication Award ($1500) – Margaret Bowman
Cultured Colonists: George Alexander Gilbert and His Family, Settlers in Port Phillip
This book follows the life of artist and teacher, George Gilbert and his family who arrived in Melbourne in 1841. By using a wide range of sources the author traces the lives of these ‘cultured colonists’ as they make their way in the developing society of Port Phillip, Victoria in the 1840s and 1850s.

Collaborative Community History Award ($2000) – Gerry Robinson and friends
From Apples…To Coffee, the first 90 years of the Heathmont shopping centre, 1923-2013
This book, the result of collaboration between the author and a group of four friends, focuses on the Heathmont shopping centre and tracks its development from 1923; post World War Two all the way up to 2013. The book includes photos, paintings, newspaper clippings and more to tell the story of the Heathmont area and its people over the past 90 years.

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