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In January 1901 six Australian colonies united to form a federation: the Commonwealth of Australia. The celebrations and commemorations marking the birth of the new nation showed a popular spirit embracing a common destiny. The road to nationhood was, however, a long series of conferences, conventions, debates, discussions and referenda. By publishing this Guide we aim to make the records of the New South Wales Government more accessible to all those interested in the federation process. We believe this Guide is a valuable resource for helping to understand the interaction between the people of New South Wales and their Government on the journey to Australian nationhood.

Gail Davis, Senior Archivist, Research and Publications, deserves special mention for her detailed work in researching and compiling the Guide.

David Roberts

Dr Shirley Fitzgerald
Chairperson of the Board


The archives of the State of New South Wales are a unique and irreplaceable part of our community's collective memory and cultural heritage. They document the business of government in New South Wales, and its interaction with individuals and groups in our society, from the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788 until today.

About this Guide

The Commonwealth of Australia is celebrating the Centenary of Federation in 2001. This Guide aims to make the records concerning the process of federation in New South Wales more accessible to researchers by bringing together records from the holdings of State Records. The records highlight New South Wales’ role in the making of the nation of Australia.

In 1998 Australian Archives now the National Archives of Australia published Federation: The Guide to the Records which described records held in public and private organisations throughout Australia and included records from State Records then know as the Archives Office of New South Wales. This Guide complements it and identifies New South Wales official sources in more detail.

The Guide lists the main record series in our collection relating to federation such as the Colonial Secretary, Executive Council, the Governor, and the Premier's Department. It also includes record series from other agencies that may be useful in studying federation. A brief description of the functions of the main agencies has been included. Full descriptions of these and other agencies listed may be found in Archives Investigator, our on-line archives information and access system. The records covered in this Guide date from the 1840s through to the naming of the federal capital in 1913 and the outbreak of World War I in 1914.

The Guide also includes records relating to the celebrations in 1901 and the 50th Anniversary in 1951 and to the selection and establishment of the federal capital. In addition, a Federation Timeline listing the significant events between 1846 and 1927 that marked the road to federation is included. The Guide finishes with a short bibliography.

This Web of the Guide version will be updated when further records are identified.

The Guide

The Guide provides background information on the federation process in Part 1: The Road to Federation and Beyond in three significant time periods, 1840–79, 1880–1900 and 1901–14. Part 2: Celebrating Federation describes the Federation celebrations in 1901 and 1951. Part 3: A New Seat of Government traces the search for and foundation of Australia’s capital. Each part then lists the New South Wales government offices and series of records created and maintained by them that may be useful to the researcher. The agencies are arranged alphabetically and the record series are listed chronologically underneath them.
The entries

Archives are usually part of a series of items created or maintained by an organisation, institution or individual. The State archives described in this Guide are arranged according to the Government agency that created and maintained them.

The entries list 'record series' and, for some series, individual record items. Each series entry gives the title and date range of the record series, the quantity and location. This is followed by a brief description of its contents. In the right hand column the series number and in some instances the individual item numbers are given. Where the item numbers have been imposed they appear in square brackets. The series number and individual item numbers are required when requesting records from State Records or citing them in written work and publications. Where the records have been microfilmed or are available in photocopied format (COD) the microform fiche, reel and/or COD numbers are provided.

Some record series are Special bundles that contain correspondence and papers on a particular topic which because of its significance or quantity of correspondence generated were extracted from the main correspondence series. They were often given a general title that may belie the diversity of material contained in the bundle. While our descriptions have focused on matters relating to Federation, the bundles may in some instances contain information on other matters. Special bundles are usually listed chronologically by the last date and care should be taken when perusing a Special bundles listing as some cover a large date range. Where this is the case we have listed the bundle in each relevant section to assist the researcher. The contents of many Special bundles have not been described previously.

The listing of records in the Guide is not definitive and researchers wishing to undertake in-depth research should consult the correspondence systems and other records of the agencies and related agencies that are listed in The Concise Guide to the State Archives of New South Wales. Where additional records are received or come to light they will be listed in Archives Investigator.

Access to the records

The State Records Act 1998 establishes a general entitlement to access to State records that are at least 30 years old. The records listed in this Guide are all open to public access. Access to original (uncopied) State archives is by Reader's Ticket
Citing State archives

When you reproduce or refer to State archives in a publication or paper, you should cite them accurately. Archives in Brief No. 10 Citing State archives, which is also available in the reading room, provides full details.
Publishing State archives

If you are considering publishing State archives, either entire documents or extracts from them, you must apply in writing to State Records to obtain written permission and you must acknowledge State Records as the source of any documents, extracts or quotations.

Archives in Brief No. 11 Guidelines for publishing State archives, which is also available in the reading room, provides full details.
Location of records

Original records are viewed at the Western Sydney Records Centre at Kingswood. This Guide lists the current location of the records at the time of publication. It is possible that in the future the location of records may change. Records that have been copied onto microform are available in the reading room.