A brief history

The nucleus of the State Records Office (SRO) collections is the Colonial Secretary's Office records which were acquired in 1903 by the first Librarian of the then Public Library, Dr James S. Battye.

Other records were later collected by Dr Battye during the course of writing his various publications.

Concern about the destruction of valuable records prompted the formation of the Public Records Committee (chaired by Dr Battye) in 1923. This committee was revived as the State Archives Board in 1929 and survived until 1943. In March 1945, Mollie Lukis was appointed as the first Archivist and the Archives Branch operated as such until the establishment of the J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History in 1956. From that time until 1988 the State Archives and the Battye Library were administered as one co-located unit.

With the growth in interest of the role of government archives and accountability, in May 1988 the State Archives was established as a separate Directorate of The Library and Information Service of Western Australia (LISWA).

In 1990 the State Archives established a Records Management Branch, (now called State Information Management Services), to enable it to engage more actively in records management matters at both State and Local Government level. To better reflect its ongoing commitment to providing recordkeeping and archival services to government agencies and the public, the State Archives was renamed the Public Records Office in 1995. Responsibility for private archives was transferred to the Battye Library in 1996.

In April 1999 the Minister for the Arts officially christened the Office with its current name. This coincided with the Office's move to the ground floor of the Alexander Library Building.

The passing of the State Records Act in November 2000 and the subsequent establishment of the State Records Commission has begun a new chapter in the history of the State Records Office. The most notable development to date being the achievement of independence from LISWA, with the State Records Office attaining status as an independent agency operating within the sphere of the Department of Culture and the Arts.

For a more detailed history of the development of the State Records Office of Western Australia the following sources located in the J.S. Battye Library are recommended:

Towards a State Archive in Western Australia, 1903-1945 / by Michael Nind
Published in Early Days (Vol. 11, Pt. 3) in 1997 this article provides a concise account of the developments that led to the appointment of Mollie Lukis in 1945 as the State's first Archivist.

The Pre-history of the State Archives : address / by Sir Paul Hasluck
Transcript of an address given by Sir Paul Hasluck in March 1982 to the Friends of Battye Library. The original audio recording of the address is also available from the Battye Library Oral History Collection (OH1091)

The State Archives of Western Australia / by Tom Reynolds and Christopher Coggin
Published in Western Perspectives: Library and Information Services in Western Australia (edited by Robert C. Sharman and Laurel A. Clyde) in 1990 this article takes the story up to 1990.