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National Archives of Australia
A6954, 2

‘Problems of Access to Commonwealth Archives’

File viewed: 15 April 2016

24 May 1957, Memo from WRC [Cumming?] to Bunting [Official Sec, Australia House at this point?]

Forwards a variety of attachments relating to archives policy.

‘The problem here is that we in Australia have no official policy regarding access to archives.’

‘…there are varying views in Australia about the question of access.’

Copied in full. 2pp.

4 April 1957, Memo by WRC for Sec

‘Access to Archives’ – a summary of issues and correspondence.

  • current practice
  • attitudes of researchers ‘puzzled and disappointed’
  • includes Sissons case
  • practice in UK and Canada

Copied in full. 4pp.

11 May 1956, Report by D Gilfedder, ‘Access to Archives’

Very interesting summary from the point of view of the PMs Department. Includes sections on ‘Historical background’, ‘Problems of Access’ and ‘Future Australian Policy’.

p. 2 – includes a statement of the ‘traditional restrictions’ as well as the principles used in the PMs department (these are basically the same as the handwritten annotations on memo of 7 May 1954 on NAA: A463, 1957/34 PART 1.)

‘A number of traditional restrictions apply and archives are withheld if they contain information which if released would adversely affect:
(i) the present or future security of the nation;
(ii) relations between the Commonwealth and State Governments;
(iii) relations with the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries, foriegn powers etc.;
(iv) relations between the Commonwealth government and the community;
(v) the legitimate interests of the Commonwealth Government or of private citizens, business firms, institutions and associations.’

p. 5 – ‘It appears necessary, therefore to estaboish as closely as possible in this country an ‘open access’ date with general application to the majority of Archives but set early enough to protect the Government and citizens from embarrassment.’

p. 6 (and elsewhere) – ‘bona fide research scholars’

p. 7 – Recommendations. Includes ‘open’, ‘limited’ and ‘closed’ periods.

‘That Cabinet papers be not made available to the public until all Ministers connected with them are dead.’

‘Limited access means that the use of official documents shall be confined to qualified researchers and other bona fide persons - with the permission of the relevant department.

Closed access means that only in rare cases shall access be permitted. The use of official documents in such cases shall be confined to specialist researchers of maximum standing doing a project of national importance - with the permission of the relevant department.

Copied in full. 7 pp.

31 May 1956, C Costley-White (Commonwealth Relations Office, UK) to EJB Foxcroft, Australia House.

p. 1 – ‘the general rule is that members of the public are not granted access to official archives subsequent to the year 1902, with, however, certain exceptions.’

– Exceptions and private arrangements, ‘standing and reliability’ of author

p. 2 – creators given opportunity to ‘refresh their memory’

Copied in full. 2pp.

16 April 1956, File note by EJB Foxcroft

Record of conversation with Keith Hancock.

‘He did say, however, that some scholars are given a fairly ready access in a haphazard way when, for example, they came under sponsorship of someone like himself. This is often arranged more or less casually with the head of a major department, and there is often quite a deal of flexibility…’
‘…too wooden a rule should not be followed’

Copied in full. 1pp.

9 April 1956, EJB Foxcroft to Sec PMs.

‘Policy on Access to Commonwealth Archives’

Copied in full. 2pp.

27 February 1956, EJB Foxcroft to Sec, PMs.

More on UK policy.

Copied in full. 2pp.

Commonwealth Archives Committee, ‘Report and recommendations on the granting of access to Commonwealth archives for non-official research purposes’

There are lots of copies of this elsewhere.


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