A wide range of types of records were created by various government and non government welfare organisations at different times in different jurisdictions. Gather some context and develop your understanding of why they were created, what they were used for and what kinds of information they can include. If you can closely ‘read’ records, you can often find keys to other files or documents you might be able to ask about and apply for access to. Below are some examples.

Record of transfer of a child to Turana Training Centre, 1965
– ‘Remand Centre Turana record no 2325’, Exhibit for Case Study 30, August 2015, Melbourne, URL: http://childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits/404f8386-a4de-4a6a-bea3-dd3a850b0b73/case-study-30,-august-2015,-melbourne (accessed September 2016)


South Australian State Ward Index Card, 1907-1909 – courtesy State Records of SA
– courtesy State Records of SA

  • Government files tend to be created in ‘reverse date order’ and should be read from back to front. Each new folio or document page was placed on a file on top of the previous one, so that the oldest document is at the back, and the newest at the front of the file.
  • Request that all documents are copied with file covers and full references so you know what the record you have is.
  • Go to the State & National Archives records’ descriptions, or use Find & Connect records’ descriptions to understand who created a record or document and what its purpose was.
  • Read between the lines – notice references to other documents, names of people, places, dates and events. Use these keys to apply for further records.
  • Note the names of institutions, the names of staff and the name of the department/organisation at the time – these may also hold keys to further information.