Official files in the Written Records Section of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, January 1945
Official files in the Written Records Section of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, January 1945.
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Official records refer to records raised by government agencies. They are key primary sources for historical studies.

The two main repositories for Commonwealth official records relating to Australia at war are the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the National Archives of Australia (principally the Canberra and Melbourne offices).

Organisation of official records

Collections of similar records which document the activities of a particular official, agency, organisation or person are grouped together in series. These often preserve the original recordkeeping arrangements of the creating organisation. In some cases this reflects a highly organised subject-based arrangement, while other series have a much more general grouping of records.

Each series held by the Memorial has a title and a series number prefixed with “AWM”; for example, Pre-Federation and Commonwealth records (AWM 1). Series are often referred to simply by their series number.

Series are divided into items (usually individual files) which are assigned a control symbol (usually the file number).

Official records at the Memorial

The Memorial holds official records created by the Australian armed forces and related agencies during wartime and peacekeeping operations, as well as the corporate records created by the Memorial itself. These records include operational and planning records from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), the Australian Army and the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), as well as the papers of the official historians.

The Memorial collects these records under the Australian War Memorial Act 1980 and manages them under the Archives Act 1983. The Archives Act also defines the conditions by which the Memorial provides public access to these records.

Official records do not generally include items created by an individual in a private capacity, such as private letters and diaries.

Finding official records

Official records held at the Memorial are listed and described on RecordSearch, the National Archives of Australia’s collection database.

Sources:

David Horner, “Official Australian records of the Pacific War”, research essay for the Australia-Japan Research Project.

Ian Smith, Records of war: a guide to military history sources at the Australian War Memorial (Canberra: Australian War Memorial, 1996).

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