John Howard Reading Room Opens at UNSW Canberra

Media release: Friday, 29 August 2014

The John Howard Reading Room at UNSW Canberra was officially opened today by Mr Kerry Stokes AC, with the Hon John Howard OM AC attending the ceremony among other guests.

The new Reading Room, named in honour of Australia's second longest-serving Prime Minister, will enable viewing and research of items held in the UNSW Canberra Library's Special Collections, including Mr Howard's personal papers.

The UNSW Canberra Special Collections are nationally significant, with a focus on Australia's experience of armed conflict and contemporary Australian literature. They comprise more than 350 manuscripts; 13,000 rare items; an array of audio-visual materials and photographs including one of the largest ship photographic collections in the country.

Mr Howard's extensive collection of personal papers and associated Commonwealth records are a significant part of the National Archives' collection and are being progressively transferred to their new home at UNSW Canberra in a unique partnership between the National Archives of Australia and UNSW Australia under the Archives Act 1983. When the transfer is complete, the collection will be one of the largest body of prime ministerial papers held anywhere in Australia.

Speaking at the opening, UNSW Chancellor Mr David Gonski AC said: "UNSW is proud to provide the perfect home for the former Prime Minister's collection in the John Howard Reading Room.

"Access to this significant collection will enrich and inform research on one of the most significant periods in Australia's recent political and military history," Mr Gonski said.

"2014 year marks the 40th Anniversary of my election to federal Parliament. I am delighted that the transfer of my personal papers to UNSW Canberra at ADFA is taking place. I hope they will provide a valuable and accessible resource to those interested in my time in the federal parliament, especially in the areas of defence and security," said Mr John Howard.

"The partnership between the National Archives and UNSW will deliver enhanced access to the John Howard Collection for the researchers and the Australian community', said the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia, David Fricker.

"While the records will always remain part of the National Archives' collection, we are delighted that UNSW will facilitate this seamless access through the UNSW Canberra Library."

During the opening ceremony Mr Kerry Stokes said: "This Reading Room adds to John Howard's considerable legacy and is a very valuable asset for the Australian community. Anyone with an interest in public affairs will applaud the transfer of John Howard's personal papers to UNSW Canberra so that scholars and students are given access to writing of someone with such historical significance so soon after he left public office – what a rare privilege."

Professor Michael Frater, Rector of UNSW Canberra said: "The John Howard Reading Room provides the Australian community with a well-equipped place to further the research of Australian history, politics and society.

"Both the reading room and the UNSW Canberra Special Collections signify the depth and the breadth of the scholarly activity at UNSW Canberra and the importance we attach to the study of Australian history, politics and economics," said Professor Frater.

The John Howard collection will be housed and made available at UNSW Canberra Academy Library through the John Howard Reading Room and online.

The exhibition, The Road to the Lodge, also opens today at the UNSW Canberra Library. This exhibition highlights some of the materials that are being transferred to UNSW Canberra as part of the John Howard Collection and marks the 40th anniversary of Mr Howard's election to federal parliament. 

More information: Details of the UNSW Canberra Special Collections and John Howard Collection can be found in the John Howard Reading Room Fact Sheet.

Contact information

  • Natalia Komarova (UNSW Canberra)
    t (02) 6268 8760 m 0468 989 181 e publicrelations@adfa.edu.au
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014