Public Record Office Victoria, North Melbourne, Australia

Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) is the government State Archives of Victoria, Australia. PROV was created by the Victorian Public Records Act 1973 with responsibility for the better preservation management and utilization of the public records of the State.

We seek to inspire public servants to keep good records so that Public Record Office Victoria can fulfil its mission: to support the efficient management and use of public records in order that the Government is accountable to the community and the historical memory of the Victorian Government is secure and accessible. These exhibitions demonstrate how public records can be utilised to enable communities to connect with their history and culture.

Prior to 1903 there was no formal attempt to deposit Victorian government records with an archival authority. In that year ten volumes of Convict Indents were transferred to the Public Library (later the State Library of Victoria) by the Secretary of the Law Department. In ensuing years, reinforced by a 1927 instruction to departments from the Premier that no documents be destroyed without reference to the trustees of the Public Library, a substantial archival collection of Victorian public records was created. The first archivist was appointed to the staff of the Public Library in 1948. In 1955 a Senior Archivist was appointed and a separate Archives Section was established in 1961. The Library Council of Victoria Act 1965 introduced the first, though brief, legislative provisions for the control and preservation of public records in Victoria.

The Public Records Act came into effect on 17 April 1973. The Laverton Base Repository was acquired in 1975 and developed to ultimately house approximately 80 kilometres of public records and to provide a facility for public research. The holdings, based on the records transferred from the Archives Division of the State Library of Victoria, grew through an active transfer program. A reading room in the Melbourne CBD was established and a regional repository to serve the Victorian Central Highlands Region was established at Ballarat in 1982.

The purpose built Victorian Archives Centre (VAC) was designed and constructed in North Melbourne and all Melbourne based activities of PROV were transferred there, including the complete holdings from the Laverton Base Repository, by 2004. The VAC reading room is named after the first Keeper of Public Records, Harry Nunn OAM, and is a facility shared by PROV with the Melbourne Office of National Archives of Australia. Researchers can thus access archives of both the Victorian and Australian governments in the one reading room. The VAC repository has a potential capacity of over 120 kilometres.

The Public Records Act established the Public Record Office, the position of Keeper of Public Records and the Public Records Advisory Council. Subject to the general control and direction of the Minister responsible for the Public Record Office, the Keeper exercises the powers and responsibilities defined in the Act. The role of the Advisory Council is, in consultation with the Keeper, to promote cooperation between PROV and public offices and to report or make recommendations to the Minister.
The Office’s structure reflects the two broad areas of responsibility defined in the Act, that is, a role in providing leadership and services in records management for Victorian public offices, and the preservation of and provision of access to the State’s archives.

With some exceptions PROV’s holdings date from 1836 when Captain William Lonsdale was appointed as Police Magistrate and a formal government presence in the Port Phillip District of the Colony of New South Wales, as Victoria was then known, was established. PROV’s holdings include most 19th and 20th century central correspondence systems for major Victorian public offices as well as records of:
courts, tribunals, Royal Commissions etc.
municipalities and other local governing bodies
statutory authorities such as the State Electricity Commission of Victoria and the State Bank of Victoria
police, prisons and health and welfare institutions
education, immigration, Aboriginal affairs, Crown land, infrastructure.

Records associated with both the Kelly Gang outbreak and the Eureka Stockade uprising are available online and have been added to the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World Register.

Members of the public can contribute to their knowledge of Victorian history to the Public Record Office Victoria’s Wiki, through editing articles, uploading and transcribing digitized images of records.