The Australian Memory of the World Register is a selective list of Australia's significant documentary heritage.
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The Endeavour Journal is significant as the key document foreshadowing British colonisation of Australia. It has been cited in countless works on Pacific exploration and on first contacts between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
The journal, written between 1768 and 1771, records one of the first English voyages to the Pacific and one of the first in which exploration and scientific discovery, rather than military conquest and plunder, was the expedition's primary purpose. It is significant for its recording of the exploration of Tahiti and the Society Islands, the first circumnavigation and detailed charting of New Zealand, and the first charting of the eastern coast of Australia.
In June 1992 the High Court of Australia, in its judgement in the Mabo Case, overturned the doctrine of 'terra nullius', that Australia was an empty land owned by no one at the time of European colonisation. The judgment unleashed profound change in Australia's legal landscape, and influenced the status and land rights of its indigenous peoples and race relations in Australia generally. It is an extremely rare instance in world history of pre-existing customary law being recognised as superior to the law of the invading culture, regardless of the economic and political implications. The Mabo papers, dating from 1959-92, are significant for their documentation of a crucial period in the history of race relations in Australia, featuring a series of battles and legal cases over the ownership and use of land, growing awareness of racial discrimination, and the social and health problems of indigenous peoples.
This collection of landmark documents is significant as charting the evolution of Australia as one of the world's most stable and long-lived democracies. It was the first country in the world to be created as a result of a free vote of its people, and the first country to have its birth recorded by a movie camera. The documents in this nomination constitute the most significant legal instruments effecting major constitutional change in Australia over the twentieth century; and in addition the film records the nation's inauguration. The documents forming this collection have been selected to illustrate that the Australian nation is not a static but a constantly evolving entity, and their significance lies in their ability to do this. Most of the documents are original legal instruments, and include legislation, commissions, letters patent, proclamations, petitions and legal judgments. Together they are significant for their ability to demonstrate how legal documents can shape the lives of a people and the destiny of a continent.
This collection is significant as a comprehensive collection of 4,000 newsreel films and documentaries representing news stories covering all major events in Australian history, sport and entertainment from 1929 to 1975. These films for many years were the only means of audio-visually depicting major events such as wars, elections, floods, bushfires, sporting events and national news, and thus played a vital part in reflecting the nature of Australia over almost half a century. The collection contains the film that won Australia's only Academy Award (Oscar) for a documentary, Damien Parer's footage of wartime New Guinea. Much of what is depicted in the Collection is now regarded as significant as an iconic representation of Australia's twentieth-century history, societal attitudes and changing relationship to the world. The films encapsulate the unique form and narrative style that endeared the newsreel to a broad spectrum of Australians - one that is fondly remembered to this day.
The archives of the Australian Agricultural Company (1824-1995) comprise a business record unparalleled in Australia. The AA Company is Australia's oldest agricultural company. It operated wool and coal industries in the nineteenth century; made important contributions to the development of the cattle and wheat industries and to communications; and still operatestoday. During its long history, the AA Company has conducted its business in New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory; and it also has close connections with principals and merchants in Great Britain and the United States. As well as providing evidence of the origins and development of a nationally significant business enterprise, the archives contain sources on the history of land use, the early history of roads and railways in NSW, interactions between business and government (colonial and national), European-Aboriginal contact, family history and labour relations. The records which have been selected for retention as the Company's archives are the most complete of any body of business records in Australia.
On 23 May 1912 entry number 29, by Walter Burley Griffin, landscape architect, of Chicago, Illinois, USA, was declared the winner of the competition to design Australia's new federal capital. The winning design incorporated elements of the leading international ideas of the day in the science of town planning, such as the City Beautiful movement and the Garden City movement. It also contained references to other notable city planning models such as the plan of Washington, Daniel Burnham's 1908 plan for Chicago and the "White City" of the Chicago World's Columbian Exposition of 1893. Griffin's design was beautifully rendered by his wife and creative partner, Marion Mahony Griffin, who used a muted palette with gold highlights in a style that contains elements of Japanese artistic practice. Their combined efforts also articulated a city form with high symbolic values, and placed democratic ideals at the apex of the monumental structures of the group of parliamentary buildings. The design also integrated the natural and built environments to create a "bush capital".
The collection of 170,700 personal dossiers of Displaced Persons who emigrated to Australia between 1947-53 is of national significance for powerful historical and individual reasons. It documents a major shift in Australia's immigration priorities, which prior to World War 2 had favoured migration from Anglo-Celtic sources, and thus transformed political and social expectations of the cultural diversity of Australia. But beside being the evidence of shifts in government policy, the collection is also of significance for its resource of personal histories. These have not only evidentiary value but also emotional significance as the interface between old European family identities and new Australian citizen identities.
The nine minute fragments that remain of The Story of the Kelly Gang, with its promotional booklet to contextualise the tale, have historical significance as the first Australian narrative film, and thus the foundation of a vigorous Australian film-making industry. The film has creative significance as the germinal filmic representation of the Kelly bushranger legend, a central element in Australian culture, which has since been made at least 22 times.
Inscribed on the International Memory of the World Register in 2007.
The Memory of the World International Register lists documentary heritage which has been identified by the International Advisory Committee in its meetings in Tashkent (September 1997), in Vienna (June 1999), in Cheongju City (June 2001), in Gdansk (August 2003), in Lijiang (June 2005), and in Pretoria (June 2007) and endorsed by the Director-General of UNESCO as corresponding to the selection criteria for world significance.
The Australian Children's Folklore Collection has immense historic and research significance as the pre-eminent collection of children's folklore in Australia, and possibly the biggest in the world. A collection of 13 collections documenting Australian childhood culture from an ethnographic perspective, it incorporates records in text, image, sound and 3D formats. It represents dominant, Indigenous and immigrant cultures, spanning 140 years, with specialised material from the 1950s and 1970s-80s.
This copy of the Charter of the Ballarat Reform League has instrumental historical significance for the events it records in goldrush Victoria, the Australian history of democratic Chartism which it incorporates, and the subsequent development of democratic representation in Victoria to which it contributed.
The Deed of Settlement and Royal Charter of Incorporation of the South Australian Company is significant as a document representing the history of both imperial Britain and colonial South Australia. In establishing the rights and property of the SA Company, it demonstrates the extent of British government, business and social-evangelical interests in Australia.
The aeronautical journals and drawings of Lawrence Hargrave have historical significance as the primary research material in his lifelong project to develop a practical flying machine and powerplant. His ideas were highly influential to many of the world's aviation pioneers, acknowlegded by experts such as Santos Dumont, the Voisin brothers and Chanute.
The collection of 461 Sorry Books has powerful historical and social significance as the personal responses of hundreds of thousands of Australians to the unfolding history of the Stolen Generations. Many more Sorry Books dating from the 1998 campaign are yet to be located, but it is estimated that the entire movement generated perhaps half a million signatures. This represents a "people's apology" for past wrongs to Indigenous Australians, and a vast public expression of opposition to Government refusal to make a formal apology.
PANDORA is one of the world's earliest and most effective WWW-archiving apparatus, capturing online publications and a selection of the web-culture of Australian individuals, organisations and events since 1996, just three years after the invention of the WWW. As such it has historic and aesthetic significance in presenting an important but often ephemeral aspect of Australian culture at the turn of the 21st century.
The Port Phillip Association records are of historic significance as the foundation documents of European settlement in the Port Phillip and Melbourne region. They are important records of contact between European settlers and the local Kulin people, and in particular, the 'treaty' signed between John Batman and the Kulin remains relevant to on-going debates on land rights and reconciliation. The papers also record the cross-cultural experience of the escaped convict William Buckley, with rare insights into Aboriginal culture before white settlement.
The convict records of Australia are of outstanding national significance for their comprehensive documentation of the system of mass transportation of male and female felons whose arrival and continued existence on the continent laid the foundations of European Australia. The records contain details of the administration and management of the system, and the officials and individual convicts involved. They also document the human stories of the transportation system, recording the experiences of these transported men and women. The convict records have provided a rich resource for successive generations of historians and writers, whose works have often generated debate about the origin of European Australia and its effect on our national identity. Wider aspects of colonial and British history are also illuminated by the convict records. The operation of the convict system in New South Wales necessitated the creation of the colony's physical and social infrastructure, and this process is amply demonstrated in the records. A study of the convict records of New South Wales also sheds light on the operation of the late 18th and early to mid 19th century British penal system, and the ways in which contemporary ideas about crime and punishment led to what Professor Brian Fletcher has called 'an interesting and quite unique experiment in the treatment by Britain of its convict population'.
Tasmania was the second primary site for the reception of convicts transported from the British Isles to the Australian continent in the nineteenth century. Convicts formed the first major group of European descent to settle in Tasmania, and formed the bulk of the community throughout the period of transportation. The records held in the Archives Office of Tasmania meticulously document every aspect of the life of each convict in the system, and have provided the basis for research into a wide range of historical topics related to the convict period, as well as genealogical research into family origins. Their survival throughout many years when Tasmanians were more inclined to deny the impact of the convict origins of the state is remarkable.
The Collection consists of unique historical cultural materials from Northern Australia that document relationships between Yolngu people and their land in the period immediately before the large-scale changes of the 1960s and 1970s totally transformed north-eastern Arnhem Land. They were made at the behest of anthropologist Ronald M Berndt, who was concerned that the large collection of bark paintings he had amassed would not survive the trip to Darwin. The crayon drawings on brown butcher's paper, the first executed in this medium by artists who normally painted on stringybark, also have extraordinary aesthetic significance, and resonate with religious belief and meaning, demonstrating the complexity and structure of Yolngu spiritual beliefs. Hundreds of pages of dictated documentation, linked by penciled key numbers on the works themselves, are an unparalleled social and cultural resource for the study of Indigenous Australia.
The Kelly Papers held by the Public Record Office Victoria are the primary documentary evidence of Ned Kelly's story, and provide detailed factual information on Kelly, his gang members, family and supporters. The hundreds of official Kelly papers at PROV are the largest and most intact collection of historic documents on the subject, and range from the earliest Police reports in the Kelly saga, to the court records of Ned's trial. The Papers, dating from the 1850s to 1882, also document the reform of the Victorian Police Force as a result of the 1881 Royal Commission on the Police Force of Victoria, which was reviewed at the time of the Kelly outbreak. The records provide the material evidence of the life and career of Australia's most notorious outlaw, whose story has achieved iconic status in the Australian imagination. Ned Kelly's story, mostly amply told in these documents, has inspired artists and musicians, historians and novelists, film and documentary makers and cultural tourists.
With the Dardanelles Expedition: Heroes of Gallipoli is a silent black-and-white documentary film made in 1915 by celebrated British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and official photographer Ernest Brooks. It features inter-titles by Australian war historian C. E. W. Bean.
A remarkable achievement in film-making under difficult battlefield conditions, it is the only known moving imagery of the Dardanelles campaign in the Gallipoli Peninsula. Filmed at Imbros Island, ANZAC Cove, Cape Helles and Suvla Bay, it features Australian, New Zealand and British troops in military operations and daily life, as well as showing Turkish prisoners of war and excellent footage of the terrain.
The film shows soldiers in action in frontline trenches using periscope rifles—an Australian innovation—and remarkable scenes of a firefight and Turkish shells exploding in the Allies’ positions. It highlights the logistical challenges faced by the campaign, including scenes of a donkey being lifted over the water from a supply ship to land.
The film has been digitally restored and runs for 20 minutes 2 seconds.
The Mountford-Sheard Collection holds the wealth of material gathered by self-taught South Australian ethnographer, C. P. Mountford (1890-1976) during a career spanning the 1930s to the 1960s. Included are field notebooks and journals, photographic images, motion pictures, sound recordings, artworks, corresppondence and published works, along with his extensive personal library.
The collection holds items of great cultural significance to many Aboriginal communities in Australia, most particularly those in Central Australia, the Flinders Ranges, Arnhem Land and the Tiwi Islands. A prolific note-taker, Mountford's journals also provided a valuable insight into the practices of 20th century anthropology and ethnography.
The material produced by Mountford, particularly his photography, is significant because it is both respectful and empathetic to the Aboriginal people it depicts. Indeed, Mountford endeavoured to create an awareness of, and respect for, Aboriginal culture which was absent from mainstream Australia at that time. The details with which he recorded artistic, religious and ceremonial life is of ongoing importance to the spiritual life of these communities.
The High Court of Australia decides Constitutional matters, cases of special federal significance and is the highest court of appeal for federal, state and territory cases. Although the High Court of Australia was established in 1901 by Section 71 of the Constitution, the appointment of the first Bench had to await the passage of the Judiciary Act of 1903.
The vast collection of the High Court of Australia, with a date range from 1903 to 2003, includes judges' notebooks, correspondence between members, reports and records of judgements. It illustrates the development of Australia's common law practices and principles. It also includes a range of images and film of the opening of the original court and of the new High Court building in Canberra.
The records provide an insight into diverse landmark judicial decisions affecting Australian society, democracy and government. The cases represented here cover such issues as Commonwealth versus State powers (the Engineers case 1920 and the Tasmanian Franklin Dam case 1983), economic regulation (the Bank Nationalisation case 1948), freedom of speech and subversion (the Communist Party case 1951), the separation of powers doctrine (the Boilermakers case 1956), Native Title (the Mabo case 1992) and anti-homosexuality laws and human rights (the Toonen case 1994).
This collection comprises recordings by one of Australia's foremost artists, Dr James Gleeson AO, interviewing 98 Australian artists represented in the National Gallery of Australia (NGA).
This is a significant primary research collection unparalleled in Australian art. As well as his activity as a Surrealist painter, Gleeson, who died on 20 October 2008 at the age of 92, was also a poet, critic, writer and curator, and was a member of the NGA Council at the time of the interviews in the 1970s.
He brought a perspective to his interviews that provided profound and personal insights into the diverse creative processes, stories and meanings behind some of the nation's pre-eminent contemporary artists' works.
Some of the artists included in the oral histories are: Charles Blackman, John Brack, Judy Cassab, Jock Clutterbuck, John Coburn, Tony Coleing, Noel Counihan, Grace Crowley, Lyndon Dadswell, Alexsander Danko, Bob Dickerson, Sir Russell Drysdale, Leslie Dumbrell, Brian Dunlop, Leonard French, Rosalie Gascoigne, Murray Griffin, Elaine Haxton, Dale Hickey, Ian Howard, Vincas Jomantas, Grahame King, Robert Klippel, Alun Leach-Jones, Rosemary Madigan, Rodney Milgate, Alan Oldfield, Lenon Parr, Paul Partos, Stanislaus Rapotec, Lloyd Rees, Ken Reinhard, Ron Robertson-Swann, Bill Rose, William Salmon, Gareth Sanson, Martin Sharp, Eric Smith, Tim Storrier, Guy Stuart, Imants Tillers, Albert Tucker, Tony Tuckson, Guy Warren, Frank Watters and Brett Whiteley.
The interviews are accompanied by transcripts and 2000 reference photographs of the relevant artworks in the National Gallery's collection. Originally recorded on audiocassette, the oral histories have been digitised by the National Library of Australia and local Canberra radio station 92.7 Artsound FM.
The Victorian Women’s Suffrage Petition of 1891 contains almost 30,000 signatures and addresses collected by members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Victorian Temperance Alliance and other women’s suffrage groups, demanding the right for women to vote in the colony of Victoria.
Presented in 1891 with the support of Premier James Munro, whose wife was one of the signatories, it was the largest petition to be tabled in the Parliament of Victoria in the 19th century.
Comprising many fabric-backed sheets of paper glued together and rolled onto a cardboard spindle, the ‘Monster Petition’ is approximately 260 metres long by 200 millimetres wide. It bears the statements ‘that government of the People, by the People and for the People should mean all the People, not half’, and ‘that all Adult Persons should have a voice in Making the Laws which they are required to obey’.
It is a visual legacy of the important efforts of grassroots Australian women’s movements and is representative of the development of Australia’s democracy. It was a catalyst for other Australian states’ women to lodge petitions in their respective parliaments; while South Australia’s suffrage petition was successful sooner than Victoria’s, none was as large as the Victorian petition.
In December 1894 the South Australian Parliament became the first in Australia, and only the second in the world, to extend the suffrage to women. The 1894 Petition was presented to Parliament on 23 August 1894, just as the third reading of the Constitution Amendment Bill, proposing to extend the suffrage to women, was being debated. It contained 11,600 signatures, two-thirds of them from women, and was the largest of several petitions presented on this matter.
The Petition was the work of a group of women’s organisations, the Women’s Suffrage League, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Working Women’s Trades Union, which gathered signatures from all over the colony, campaigning for the suffrage as they went.
The 1894 Petition was recognised at the time as a significant factor in securing the passage of the Constitution Amendment Act (1894/5) and can be regarded as an iconic document of the ‘first wave’ of the Australian feminist movement.
This collection records the life's work of Professor Donald Thomson (1901-1970), who undertook extensive fieldwork in Arnhem Land, Cape York Peninsula, Central Australia, the Solomon Islands and West Papua between 1928 and 1963.
The material, of enormous breadth, covers anthropology, linguistics, botany, zoology, ornithology and ecology. Thomson lived in Aboriginal communities and meticulously recorded the cultural practices he observed.
The collection includes film; high-quality photographs; sound recordings and transcripts; original maps detailing the landscape and Indigenous occupation, including drawings of ceremonial grounds; notebooks recording genealogy, kinship and language; correspondence; illustrations and equipment. The audiovisual material contains some of the earliest extant moving and still colour film of Central Australia.
A tireless campaigner for Aboriginal rights, Thomson used his material to write over 40 scholarly publications and a large number of articles, lectures and reports.
The collection is important to researchers, academics and film-makers as it provides rare insights into Aboriginal people's lives and lands prior to government mission administration.
The acclaimed film, Ten Canoes, drew upon Donald Thomson's work, as represented in this collection. The material is also highly valuable to, and continually visited by, Indigenous communities; for some, it is the only record of their heritage.
It has also been used in successful Native Title land and sea claims.
The 1862 Land Act Map (known as 'the big map'), created by the Victorian Government in 1862, is one of the largest maps made in Australia (measuring 4.5 metres by 6 metres) and the only one of its kind ever produced that deals with the whole of Victoria.
Intended for public display to show the 10 million acres of land available for selection under the Land Act, the coloured map is a record of land administration in the colony. It shows the extent of the dispossession of Indigenous people from their land, and provides an important visual representation of the spread of European settlement and farming. It also shows demarcations of parishes, townships and counties.
The map reflects the vision of Lieutenant-Governor Charles LaTrobe. It was the result of Charles Gavin Duffy's Land Act 1862, which attempted to broker a compromise in the protracted agitation among squatters, gold seekers and small-scale farmers over control of vast areas of land.
The first geodetic survey of Victoria, the map is significant not only for its purpose and size, but also because it provides an environmental snapshot, with details of soil types, vegetation and wetlands.
It records Major Mitchell's expedition route and includes comments on water sources made by Wade and White in their respective government-commissioned expeditions. It also includes the Aboriginal names for country.
Colonel William Light was South Australia's first Surveyor-General. His design for the city of Adelaide is considered by many to be a prototype for an ideal city plan.
Adelaide was the first town planned in the world using trigonometrical survey rather than the established 'running survey'. Light worked with a grid design, consistent with that used in other British colonies, but his plan introduced the concept of the 'garden city' - the belt of parklands.
Light's plan was featured in the influential work by Ebenezer Howard, Garden Cities of To-morrow (1898, 1902) which inspired a key movement in the development of modern town planning, and influenced urban designers such as Walter Burley and Marion Mahony Griffin.
This collection, including Light's correspondence, notebooks, diaries, watercolours and sketchbooks, covers the period 1809-1841, and contains the only surviving papers of an official relating to the first survey work in the colony of South Australia. The papers are important evidence in the controversy over whether Light or George Strickland Kingston was the originator of the plan of Adelaide.
The personal archives of Joseph Stanislaus (Stan) Ostoja-Kotkowski (1922-1994) represent the breadth of work of this prolific and innovative artist-scientist.
Born in Poland, Ostoja-Kotkowski was integral to the development of the arts in Australia, with the introduction, for example, of his innovative work in computer and laser technology, including kinetics and chromasonics, applied to visual art, music and theatre.
He was awarded the Order of Australia in 1992. The archives, housed in both the State Library of South Australia and the Baillieu Library in the University of Melbourne, reveal the entire development process of his outstanding projects in diverse fields such as film-making, photography, murals, theatre and opera, sculpture, sound and image.
The collection is also a rare illustration of the migration and settlement experiences of a post-Second World War displaced person, as very few archives of Polish migrants exist in Australia.
The Margaret Lawrie Collection of Torres Strait Islands Material is the culmination of the life's work of Margaret Lawrie, a contemporary of noted Aboriginal poet Kath Walker (Oodgeroo Noonuccal), who travelled widely with her throughout the 1950s and 1960s. During this time they were both important influences on the development of services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island peoples, documenting their history, languages and cultures.
Margaret Lawrie later became interested in the history and cultures of the Torres Strait Islander peoples and spent significant periods in various Torres Strait Islands communities. She gathered first hand information and material about the myths, legends, languages, history, art and culture of the region.
Also in the collection are the manuscripts of her two published works, Myths and legends of the Torres Strait and Tales from Torres Strait. The former work was published in both Australia and the United States. Although out of print, it is still widely considered an iconic work.
The collection is the most significant relating to the Torres Strait since the one brought back to the UK by the Cambridge University - sponsored Haddon Expedition of the 1890s.
The Manifesto, issued on 9 September 1892, can be described as a foundation document of the Queensland Labour Party and a pivotal one in Australia's labour and political history.
It was written by prominent Queensland Labour Party member Charles Seymour (1853-1924) and signed by Thomas Glassey, the first person to be popularly elected on a labour platform in Queensland. According to party folklore, it was read out under the famous 'Tree of Knowledge' in Barcaldine, Queensland, the centre of industrial strife and a meeting place for striking workers.
In 1899 the Queensland Labour government became, briefly, the first Labor government in the world.
The handwritten document is the culmination of extraordinary union activism and working-class resolve at a time of political and economic instability in Queensland. Written against a background of strikes, including the great shearers' strike and the accompanying working-class solidarity, the Manifesto emphasises the troubled social and economic circumstances of working people - deprivation, unemployment, the declining welfare of farmers and workers, and the enormous and rising public debt. It details the party's grievances, with a focus on the ruling class of the time, including squatters, employers and the government, which it accused of mismanagement. It aimed to curb the excesses of capitalism and promised equal political rights and social and economic justice.
The Australian Indigenous Languages Collection (AILC) was established in 1981 and is held in the Library of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS). The collection brings together over 3700 published items written in 102 of the over 250 Australian Indigenous languages, and is the only one of its kind housed in one location and catalogued as one collection.
Before the European colonisation of Australia there were over 250 languages and 500 dialects spoken by Indigenous people. Of these languages, only 145 are still spoken, and over 100 will cease to be used over the next three decades. Australian Indigenous languages are unique and spoken nowhere else in the world, so their loss is not only a loss for Australia, but for the world. The AILC plays a vital role in preserving these languages, and assisting Indigenous groups to revive them, and thus is of considerable community significance for Australia’s Indigenous people.
The collection covers languages from all parts of Australia: from Tasmania to the Torres Strait and from the Kimberley to the southern parts of Australia, and is a storehouse of cultural knowledge and tradition for Indigenous Australians. The collection provides examples of the types of materials produced in Indigenous languages, including early works such as children’s readers and Bible translations, dictionaries, grammars, vocabularies and language learning kits produced by Indigenous Language Centres, and works of the imagination. It provides an historical overview of languages that have been recorded for teaching and learning purposes. Some of the items in the collection are of aesthetic significance, particularly children’s readers illustrated by celebrated Indigenous artists such as Mawalun Marika, Djoki Yunupingu, both from Arnhem Land; and Dennis Nona and Alick Tikopi from the Torres Strait.
The Old Registers is a nine-volume series commenced in 1802 and concluding in 1824, in which private legal transactions and dealings between individuals and businesses in New South Wales, ranging from marriages and separations to convict/master relationships, through to land transactions and sealing and whaling agreements, were registered and made available on the public record. They provide a unique and irreplaceable insight into the social record of the colony of New South Wales from January 1794 to May 1824.
The system of registering private legal transactions in books kept by the Office of the Judge Advocate was begun in November 1800 by Governor King, however none of the books survived. Further instructions issued by Governor King on 26 February 1802 allowed instruments dating back to 1794 to be added to the new surviving Registers. The Supreme Court of New South Wales was established in May 1824, and the functions of the Office of Judge Advocate were transferred to the Court, which retained the Register and the function of land registration until 1844, when the Office of Registrar-General was established. This function is now part of the former Department of Lands (NSW), now the Land and Property Management Authority, which records dealings related to land transactions.
The Old Registers document the first step in this continuing system of registration. The process of registering transactions has been fundamental to legal proceedings and daily business in Australia for over 200 years. The Old Registers represent the beginning of private business in the colony being recognised in the courts, and reveal an important step in the development of the cultural landscape of early Australia as they indicate the growing involvement of government in everyday life. They provide valuable information to researchers on the nature, demographics and values of the colony, as no other comparable records exist for this period.
The Mitchell and Dixson Libraries at the State Library of New South Wales hold the most comprehensive collection of First Fleet journals in the world. The nine journals, written at the time or as memoirs, provide eyewitness accounts of the voyage to and the early settlement of Australia from 1787 to the 1790s. They occupy a central place in Australian documentary history, recording the most profound social, cultural and political revolution experienced on the Australian continent.
Written by men of different ranks, each journal offers a unique perspective, and several also record Indigenous vocabularies. Two journals containing original drawings contribute to the significant documentary record of European settlement, the foundation and development of Sydney, and natural history, including species that are now extinct.
The journals provide evidence of the equipping of the First Fleet, and the British Government’s motives in creating a penal colony in New South Wales. They deal with relations between Governor Phillip and his officers and Marines; relationships between convicts and Marines, Royal Navy officers and free settlers; sexual relations and tensions; and punishment, law and order.
The First Fleet journals are significant as an invaluable record of the foundations of Sydney and the beginnings of the Australian nation; of the Indigenous lifestyle at the time of colonisation by Britain in 1788, and the genesis and development of relations between the British and Indigenous people in the Sydney region. They are also a significant record of the native flora and fauna; and of the European aesthetic response to this new and alien topography and landscape.
The penal settlement at Moreton Bay was established in 1824 in response to a recommendation of the Bigge Reports that another place of secondary punishment be provided to deal with a crime wave in Sydney and the sentences imposed on repeat offenders. The first settlement at Redcliffe proved unsuitable, and in 1825 a principal settlement was established on the Brisbane River. The Moreton Bay penal settlement became self-sufficient in 1826 after the arrival of Captain Patrick Logan, a harsh disciplinarian, and became a byword for severity, described in the old song, ‘Moreton Bay’, as a place where ‘excessive tyranny each day prevails’. Between 1826 and 1829 the number of prisoners at Moreton Bay rose from 200 to nearly 1000, but throughout the 1830s increasing agitation to bring about the end of the system of convict transportation led to a decline in prisoners coming to Moreton Bay, and by 1839 only 107 prisoners remained in the settlement. It was closed in 1842, when the Moreton Bay area was opened to free settlement, with Brisbane Town as its centre. The colony of Queensland was separated from New South Wales in 1859.
Records held in Queensland State Archives and the State Library of Queensland document the relatively short period of Moreton Bay’s life as a penal settlement before the modern city of Brisbane grew and all but obliterated the physical traces of its existence, with the exception of two buildings which have survived into the 21st century, the Commissariat Store and the Windmill. Prominent in this documentation are the architectural plans of buildings in the penal settlement that accompanied the report compiled by Andrew Petrie, Clerk of Government Works, in 1837 to investigate Brisbane’s potential as a future port. These plans are held by the Queensland State Archives, as are records of trials conducted at the penal settlement, and of public labour performed by Crown prisoners, as well as other records relating to the penal settlement period, including a chronological register of convicts at Moreton Bay. The State Library of Queensland also holds records relating to the Moreton Bay penal settlement, including artworks depicting the settlement during the convict period.
The records of the convict period in Queensland complement those already inscribed on the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register from New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia, and are significant as documentation of this key period in the history of Australia. They are also significant as the earliest documents to describe the settlement of Brisbane, and the foundation of what became the colony then state of Queensland. The architectural plans in the Petrie report also have aesthetic significance, and are significant for their capacity to illustrate the broad reach of military architecture across the British Empire.
William Buelow Gould’s Sketchbook of Fishes, in the collection of the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, Hobart, was created by this convict artist while he was incarcerated on Sarah Island on Tasmania’s west coast in 1832, at the behest of the resident medical officer, Dr William de Little, to whom Gould was assigned. Gould’s delicate watercolours of fish species include the earliest representation of the world’s largest freshwater crayfish, the genus Astacopsis, which was not described and taxonomically classified until 1845.The Sketchbook offers powerful evidence that artistic and scientific pursuits could flourish in the grim and hostile environment of one of Australia’s most remote and miserable penal settlements. William Buelow Gould’s Sketchbook of Fishes inspired Richard Flanagan’s prize-winning novel, Gould’s Book of Fish. His imaginative treatment of the life of the artist, and the inclusion in the novel of coloured reproductions of fish species from the Gould Sketchbook has brought knowledge and appreciation of Gould’s artistry to a wide audience in Australia and overseas.
The Sydney Theatre Playbill of 1796, in the collection of the National Library of Australia, is the earliest surviving example of a document printed in the colony of New South Wales. It advertises three entertainments to be performed in the Sydney Theatre on 30 July, and was produced by printer George Henry Hughes on the first printing press in the new colony, a wooden screw press brought to Port Jackson by Governor Arthur Phillip but not used until 1795. The verso of the Playbill is annotated by Philip Gidley King, later the third Governor of New South Wales. The Playbill left Australia with King, and passed through a chain of owners until it became incorporated in a scrapbook in the collection of the National Library of Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in recognition of its significance for Australia, presented the document to Prime Minister John Howard on 11 September 2007.
The Minute Books of Pre-Federation Australian Trade Unions, in the collections of twelve institutions – Noel Butlin Archives Centre (Australian National University), Broken Hill City Library, Fryer Library (University of Queensland), James Cook University, National Library of Australia, State Library of New South Wales, State Library of South Australia, State Library of Victoria, State Library of Western Australia, University of Melbourne Archives, University of Newcastle and University of Wollongong – record collective decision-making by Australian workers in the nineteenth-century. They are a record of democracy for workers – both men and women. They document the early formulation of our current industrial relations system, the beginnings of our social welfare system, the early history of communities and industries, and working lives that are no longer accessible today. They record events and achievements as they happened, local issues and disputes that developed into general strikes and became the first steps in broader campaigns such as that for the 8-Hour Day and the impetus for political representation of workers through the formation of the Australian Labor Party.