Commonwealth Gazette 1901 to 1957

Commonwealth Gazette 1901 to 1957
Government gazette fully searchable and freely available online for the first time
2 March 2017

Trove has a wonderful new addition. Almost 60 years of the Commonwealth of Australia Government Gazette is now freely available online and fully text searchable for the first time.

Two Commonwealth agencies have worked in partnership to bring this wonderful resource to you: the Office of Parliamentary Counsel (OPC), which supplied the content; and the National Library of Australia, which digitised and made these important public records machine-readable so that they will live on into the future through Trove. Users can correct, tag and annotate the contents just as they can with digitised newspaper articles.

Each Gazette documents the day-to-day business of governing and administering the Commonwealth. Usually published weekly, they were the principal source of public information on current legislation, and contained notices required by law on decisions made by the various departments and courts.

First issue of Commonwealth of Australia Gazette

The subject matter of the Gazette ranges across all kinds of services and authorities, including defence, postal and telegraphic services, taxation and other forms of revenue, immigration, citizenship, trade and foreign affairs, national infrastructure and many others.

The issues of the Commonwealth Gazette now available on Trove date right back to the Federation in 1901, continuing through the First World War, the Great Depression, the Second World War, and finishing (for now) at the height of the baby boom and post-war reconstruction in 1957. More issues will be added in future years.

The very first issue of the Gazette, published on 1 January 1901, shows the proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia by Queen Victoria. There were also instructions on a range of protocols, such as directions for appointing the judiciary, what should happen were the Governor-General to become incapacitated, and who will form Her Majesty’s first government.

First issue of Commonwealth Government Gazette, 1 January 1901

Above: Proclamation of the Commonwealth of Australia by Queen Victoria published on the first page of the first issue of the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 1 January 1901, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24976232

Queen Victoria died just three weeks after Federation. A notice from Prime Minister Edmund Barton in an 'Extraordinary' issue of the Gazette on 31 January 1901 instructed the new King’s Australian subjects that they should wear "Deep Mourning" dress until 6 March 1902, and "Half-Mourning" until 17 April.

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 31 January 1901, page 13

Above: directions from the Governor-General as to dress during the mourning period for the late Queen Victoria, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 31 January 1901, p. 13, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24976244. Note the use of the Royal coat of arms. Australia did not have its own until 1908. 

Each Gazette provides information about many forms of interaction that ordinary people had with their national government. Some examples include:

  • notices about people becoming naturalised as citizens
  • results of public service exams
  • details of military service, commissioning, and decorations
  • post office and military tenders
  • despatches from the Secretary of State for the Colonies
  • patent and treasury statements
  • statements of receipt and expenditure for Territories

Family historians will find the names, dates, citations, as well as geographical and other kinds of information in these notices immensely useful, especially for details that are not easily available anywhere else, if at all.

Certificates of naturalisation were usually published in the notices section. Researchers can now find this information much more easily, and use it in combination with personal data from other sources, such as immigration records, electoral rolls, and births, deaths and marriages records, to build up a detailed picture of somebody’s life.

 Notices of naturalization, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 29 November 1929, p. 2628

Above: list of people granted Certificates of Naturalization (sic) on 20 November 1929, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 24 December 1929, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232543056

Public service examination results regularly appeared in the Commonwealth Gazette. Below is an example from 1911 for officers appointed to positions in Victoria. We see that the applicants were assessed on their capabilities for handwriting, dictation, English, and arithmetic. Was one of your relatives appointed as a telegraphist, or a messenger? How did they fare in their exam? What and where was their appointment?

Public service examination results, Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 8 July 1911

Above: results from public service examinations published in the Commonwealth of Australia Gazette, 8 July 1911, p. 1637, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-page24978359

The Commonwealth Gazette also offers a wealth of information about those who have served in the military. There were often notices advising promotions and decorations like the one below. Even small details can make a big difference for researchers. 

Appointment of officers in New South Wales Military Forces, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 14 June 1901

Above: notice of promotion of officers in the New South Wales Regiment, Royal Australian Artillery, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 14 June 1901, p. 101, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232126287

As well as information on individuals, there is much information to be gleaned about many organisations. There was once a body in Victoria called the Golden Square and Kangaroo Flat Rifle Club. An official notice of their change of name to the South Bendigo Rifle Club appeared in the Gazette after it had been approved by the Governor-General. The notice raises perhaps as many questions as it answers. Was it more than a mere recreational association? Did it play some role in the Victorian Defence Force? Why was vice-regal approval necessary? 

Notice of name change to South Bendigo Rifle Club, 12 June 1901

Above: notice of the Governor-General's approval of name change of the Golden Square and Kangaroo Flat Rifle Club to the South Bendigo Rifle Club, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 14 June 1901, p. 101, http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/24976333

Government notices are full of fascinating mysteries. Why is it, for example, that the Post Office has refused to deliver mail to Phillip Anderson of 61 Campbell Street, Newtown? There's a Trove prize for the person who gives us the answer.

Prohibition of delivery of letters by Post Office, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 14 June 1901

Above: notice of prohibition of delivery of letters to Phillip Anderson of 61 Campbell Street, Newtown, NSW, by the Postmaster-General, Commonwealth Government Gazette, 14 June 1901, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article232126290

We'd love to hear about any amazing discoveries that you make in the Commonwealth Government Gazette. You can tell us about them in the comments below, tweet them to us @TroveAustralia or write to us on our Facebook page.

Comment: 
Carmel Galvin has already found and tweeted us the answer to the post office refusal to deliver mail to Phillip Anderson. She says: Astrologer Phillip Anderson was operating a dodgy business, mail delivery was stopped to his address http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/202336962 Well done, Carmel!