Last updated:

1 January 2021

Every year on the 1st of January, hundreds of state archives are made public as part of Public Record Office Victoria’s annual Section 9 openings. Under Section 9 of the Public Records Act 1973 files of a personal or private nature are closed to prevent the violation of personal privacy. 

Among the files made public for the first time in 2021, is the 1945 criminal trial brief and capital sentence file of Kevin Joiner. In 1945 Kevin Joiner was convicted of killing his robbery accomplice, Thomas Charles Clarke, in Mt Martha. Joiner was only 19 when his death sentence was commuted to life in Pentridge prison. He is most famous for attempting an escape a few years later with Maxwell Carl Skinner in 1952. Joiner was shot by a warder and died, never making it free of the Pentridge prison walls.  

Also among the January openings is the criminal trial brief for what is often considered to be Victoria’s first mafia murder. The case centred around three men accused of killing “Fat Joe” Giuseppe by stabbing him some 91 times. Ultimately the men were all acquitted.

While many of the files being opened are from 1945, there are a few exceptions. For the first time a file called an extern case book will also be opened. From the midwifery department of the Royal Women’s Hospital, the bound volume includes hand written diary entries of medical students attending home births across Melbourne in 1920-21. The pages reveal as much about the students as they do about the home births they attended. A hand drawn sketch of a birth adorns one such entry.   

Other records include mental health records, medical journals, divorce cases, court registers and railways employee cards. Director and Keeper of Public Records, Justine Heazlewood, says that these records provide researchers, historians, writers and genealogists a window into Victoria’s past.

“The year 1945 was a truly historic year marking the end of World War 2. What many of these records provide is a history of what was happening in Victoria around that time. From murder to midwifes in training, there’s a lot to be learned by delving into these files.” 

A broad guide to time periods for closure under Section 9 is as follows:
•    Records primarily concerning adults may be closed for 75 years from the year in which the records were created.
•    Records concerning children as the primary subject may be closed for 99 years.
•    Records such as staff records where the individuals concerned may still be in the workforce may be closed for a lesser period such as 30, 40, or 50 years as appropriate.

The full list of records opening on 1 January 2020, more detail about the records/stories highlighted above, and information on how researchers can gain access to these files can be found here. 

For more information contact Tara Oldfield, Communications Officer, on 0418 698 364.

Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

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