Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Thursday, February 03, 2011

NSW Cabinet Records

In response to New England & Archives Outside, Fiona Sullivan kindly responded with some detailed comments. This post deals with one part of her response.

In my post I asked about NSW cabinet records. She wrote:

Some of the information that you are seeking can be found in State Records search engine Archives Investigator( http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/ ) by looking at the Agency registrations for the Cabinet Office ( http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\48 ) and Department of Premier and Cabinet http://investigator.records.nsw.gov.au/Entity.aspx?Path=\Agency\10 . These Agency registrations also contain listings of some of the series that we hold which in turn have additional information. As a general rule agency registrations are a good place to start when doing this king of research. There are also a number of record series from the Cabinet Office in State Records collection that are unprocessed, additional steps are required to gain access to these so I would suggest consulting with a public access archivist before you visit.

I did some digging around following Fiona's leads. I thought that I might report on the results since they are likely to be of general interest.


Cabinet records are held at the Western Sydney Records Centre: 143 O'Connell Street, Kingswood 2747, NSW Australia - Telephone +61 2 9673 1788. You will need to visit there if you want to access the originals. You will also need a reader's ticket if you want to access originals. This can be obtained on-line.

Centre hours are Monday to Friday 9.00 am - 5.00 pm, Saturday 10.00 am - 4.00 pm, Sundays and Public Holidays - Closed.

You can get to the centre by car (there is parking) or by a train/bus combination. However, Sydney is a bloody big, sprawling city, so you need to allow time. Depending on traffic, it is about an hour fifteen driving time from where I live. For out of towners, it is about an hours drive from the airport.

I haven't calculated public transport times properly, but it appears to be about an hour 50 each way from where I live. It would be a little less from the airport: here you would catch the airport line to Central, train to Penrith or St Marys and then a bus. Whichever way, you need to allow time. There are no shops nearby, so bring lunch. There is a reader's room with free tea and coffee, a fridge and a microwave.

To save time, you can pre-order records. You need to allow at least two days.

Role of Cabinet

I was specifically interested in the cabinet records because of the role of cabinet as the supreme decision making body. Parliament has final authority, but cabinet determines what goes to Parliament.

I had a problem with the records before because of lack of information about the changing way the NSW cabinet works, about the way decisions were made and recorded. To my mind, this remains an issue.

Cabinet Records

Records are kept in series and by agency.

The Cabinet Office was created on 1 Jan 1921, expiring on 27 Apr 2007. Its role was then taken over by the Department of Premier and Cabinet.

The Cabinet Office agency record (link above) provides details of various series. The first cabinet records date from 1921. I have no idea as to what records existed before this date, nor indeed when cabinet actually first emerged in NSW. There may be an administrative history of NSW that can answer these types of questions. If so, I have yet to find it.

As is the case at Federal level, information becomes more detailed (and useful) with time. Reading the records details with my public policy and historian background, I can see elements in the records that may well help answer questions for me.

To illustrate, let me take an example not apparently connected with my New England history focus. I quote from the NSW Archives material:     

With separation of the Cabinet Office from the Premier's Office in 1988, its new head (Gary Sturgess), acquired responsibility for policy development and for the servicing of the Cabinet.

Sturgess was particularly influential, focusing, with the full support of the Premier, on the ‘big picture’ policy issues. He drew up the major policy blueprints for corporatisation in 1988, the policy-management-regulation splits underlying the 1991 reorganisation, assembled the bureaucratic and political interstate and Commonwealth support for Greiner’s federalism initiative in 1990 and drafted the 1992 "Facing the World" document and the Guarantee of Service.

Without going into all the details or providing the links, at the time we are talking about, I was writing a fair bit on changing approaches to public administration. NSW was one of our case studies. Today, I am doing the same again, reprising previous interests from a different perspective. So the Sturgess period is of particular interest.

Does it link to my current New England interests? Well, it does, because it is part of the social change process that I am writing on at present. The Greiner/Sturgess period had very particular on-ground effects. But that's another story!     


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