Identity area

Reference code

AU WA S4148




  • 1837 - 1869 (Accumulation)
  • 1834 - 1905 (Creation)

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Name of creator

AU WA A103 - COLONIAL SECRETARY'S OFFICE (1828-12-30 - 1924-04-16)

Administrative history

The Colonial Secretary's Office can be said to have originated with the appointment of Peter Broun as Colonial Secretary on 30 December 1828. However, Broun's letter of appointment of that date from the Colonial Office provides no reference to the duties connected with the office - it was simply intimated to him that he would receive half salary from the date of embarkation and full salary on arrival in the Colony.

The earliest records of the office are copies of letters written by the Colonial Secretary during the voyage, mainly instructions for other members of the Civil Establishment issued under the Lieutenant-Governor's signature, included among them being "Regulations for the Colonial Secretary's Office" dated 16 May 1829. These related chiefly to the internal organisation of the office and the keeping of records. The functions of the Colonial Secretary as the chief administrative office were indicated in the instructions to other officials who were informed "All Applications or Reports to the Governor to be invariably made through the Colonial Secretary's Office".

After Governor Stirling's return from England in 1834, new instructions were issued for the conduct of the official business of the Government. In connection with the Colonial Secretary's Office, it was stated "The main object contemplated in the Establishment of the Colonial Secretary's Office is to conduct the Correspondence of the Governor with the several Departments of the Public Service, and also with Colonists, collectively or individually". Instructions then follow about the regular daily attendance of the Colonial Secretary on the Governor to dispose of business and detailed rules are given for the keeping of records.

How little the Colonial Secretary's Office altered during the years can be seen by comparison of the remarks quoted above with regulations issued forty years later: "In the Colonial Secretary's Office shall be conducted subject to the previous rules, the general correspondence of the Governor with the departments of Government and the public. Subject to the previous rules, the Colonial Secretary shall be the official channel of communication to and from the Governor and the Governor's orders shall be conveyed 'by direction' under his hand".

In addition to the work of his own office, the Colonial Secretary was for two years after the foundation of the Colony required to act as Treasurer, but he was relieved of this responsibility when an Assistant Commissary General was appointed in 1832. From 1834-1839 he was Clerk to the Councils and he acted as Registrar of Deeds until 1846. Also, prior to 1846 when a Colonial Auditor was appointed, a board of three members with the Colonial Secretary as Chairman was responsible for Audit. When other officials took over these various posts, the records directly relating to them were transferred by the Colonial Secretary to the new offices.

The Colonial Secretary was, from the beginning of 1832, a member of both Executive and Legislative Councils. Until the middle 1870's, the Commandant of the Military Forces took precedence over other Council members and presided at Council meetings in the Governor's absence, but after 1873 the Colonial Secretary occupied this position and also, when the Legislative Council became partly elected in 1870, was the leader of the Government in the Legislative Council.

Western Australia ceased to be a Crown Colony in 1890 and on 29 December of that year, the first Ministry under Responsible Government took office, one of the Ministers being the Colonial Secretary. The administrative head of the office from that date was the Under Secretary.

It was not until 1924 that the Minister in charge of this office became known as the Chief Secretary instead of Colonial Secretary, and the title of the office was changed accordingly.

During the years 1890-1900 the Premier, Sir John Forrest, was also at times Colonial Secretary and at these periods the Colonial Secretary's Office files include communications signed by him as Premier.

After Western Australia was granted responsible government the Colonial Secretary was still at the head of an organisation controlling widely diversified affairs such as Customs, Post Offices, Defence, Police, Shipping, Immigration, Education, Aboriginal affairs, Fisheries and many others. These however had the status of sub-departments and kept their own records. Some functions passed to Federal control at later stages, others became departments under their own Ministerial heads. During 1890-1900, work within the Colonial Secretary's Office itself was confined to matters affecting the lives and welfare of the people. It was in fact what might be called the "Home" Department, dealing with hospitals and health, charitable organisations, child welfare, Aboriginal protection, control of newspapers, public holidays, consular matters, etc.

The Colonial Secretaries for Western Australia were:

  • Peter Broun (Brown): 30 December 1828 - 1846

  • George F. Moore: 1846 - 1847

  • Hon. R.R. Madden: 1847 - 1849

  • Hon. C.A.J. Piesse: October 1850 - March 1851

  • T.N. Yule: March 1851 - 1852 (Acting)

  • Fred P. Barlee: July 1855 - July 1875

  • Sir Roger T. Goldsworthy: August 1877 - 1880

  • Rt. Hon. Baron Gifford, V.C.: September 1880 - 1883

  • Sir Malcom Fraser: 1883 - 1890

  • Sir George Shenton: December 1890 - October 1892

  • Hon. S.H. Parker: October 1892 - December 1894

  • Rt. Hon. Sir John Forrest: December 1894 - April 1898

  • Hon. George Randell: 28 April 1898 - 27 May 1901

  • Frederick Illingworth: 27 May 1901 - 21 November 1901

  • Matthew Lewis Moss: 21 November 1901 - 23 December 1901

  • Frederick Illingworth: 23 December 1901 - 1 July 1902

  • Walter Kingsmill: 1 July 1902 - 10 August 1904

  • George Taylor: August 1904 - June 1905 (Acting)

  • John Michael Drew: 7 June 1905 - 25 August 1905

  • Walter Kingsmill: 25 August 1905 - 7 May 1906

  • James Daniel Connolly: 7 May 1906 - 7 October 1907

  • John Michael Drew: 7 October 1911 - 27 July 1916

  • Hal Pateshall Colebatch: 27 July 1916 - 17 April 1919

  • Charles Arthur Hudson: 17 April 1919 - 17 May 1919

  • John Scadden: 17 May 1919 - 25 June 1919

  • Frank Tyndall Brown: 25 June 1919 - 22 August 1922

  • Richard Stanley Sampson: 22 August 1922 - 15 April 1924

Name of creator

AU WA A278 - REGISTRY DEPARTMENT (1881-01-01 - 1896-01-01)

Administrative history

The Registry Department was responsible for the registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages within the Swan River Colony.

The Department was also responsible for the collection and reporting of statistical information. (A Government Statistician was first appointed in February 1896 in the succeeding Registrar General's Department).

Name of creator

AU WA A279 - REGISTRAR GENERAL'S DEPARTMENT (1896-01-01 - 1901-01-01)

Administrative history

The 1894 Act repealed the 1841 Act to register births, deaths and marriages and allowed for the establishment of District Registrars each with a defined district. From 1906 births, deaths and marriages are recorded by district and number. With the establishment of the Commonwealth combined with the Government Statisticians Office until 1957.

Name of creator


Administrative history

Previously the Registrar General's Department, it combined with the Government Statisticians Office upon federation in 1901. The Department remained as such, and responsible to the Colonial Secretary's Office and its successor, the Chief Secretary's Department until 1957 when the two functions were split. The Registrar General's office was created to operate as a Division of the Chief Secretary's Department and its successors.

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The term "Blue Books" refers to the colour of the covers of these bound statistical returns and was the term in use throughout the 19th Century by the British Government for official reports of Parliament and the Privy Council.

The Governor of each of the British colonies was required to submit an annual Book of Returns (i.e. Blue Book) to the Colonial Office in Great Britain. Prior to 1837, the manner in which Returns were completed was deemed unsatisfactory. During the period, several Colonial Assemblies applied for copies of the Returns. Accordingly, the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Lord Glenelg) sent a despatch to Governor Stirling on 26 January 1837 (COD 33 of 1837) informing him that a triplicate copy of the annual Blue Books was to be laid before the Legislative Council of Western Australia. The original and duplicate copies were to be sent to the Colonial Office.

It is from this date - 1837 - that the State Records Office holds the triplicate copy of the Blue Books. The volumes are bound and consist of standard printed forms which have been completed by the Colonial Secretary's Office. Each volume provides an annual summary of statistical information relating to the Swan River Colony, as well as a list of officers employed within the Colony. The information spans: returns on taxes, duties and fees, revenue and expenditure, statements on public debt, a list of laws proclaimed, a list of the civil establishment, population returns, ecclesiastical returns, import/exports, shipping summaries, agricultural and manufacturing returns, summaries of land grants, criminal statistics and more.

The State Records Office holds the triplicate copy of the Blue Books for the period 1837-1869.

Between 1870-1905, the Government Printer in Western Australia printed the Blue Books. In 1896, a new statistical publication commenced called the Statistical Register. In 1896 and 1897, the Blue Books again appear in separate volumes but only contain details and listings of the officers of the administrative, legislative and civil establishments. Statistical information appears in the annual Statistical Registers which continued until 1967/68. The Blue Books ceased in 1905 with the functions being taken over by the Public Service List which commenced in 1909.

(The volumes in this Record Series were previously listed at the State Records Office at reference: AN 140/5; Accession 1855).


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Archivist's note

Copies: Microfilm copies of these volumes are available for viewing at the State Library of WA.

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