Posters – Fact sheet 131

Posters have been used for well over a century as an inexpensive, eye-catching and easily distributed way of selling a product or policy, promoting awareness, reminding people to do something, and encouraging certain kinds of behaviour. They are vivid, immediate and evocative.

The Commonwealth government was quick to realise the value of posters as a communications tool. Some of the earliest posters were those created by the Chief Electoral Officer to remind Australian electors to vote and to instruct them how to cast a legal ballot. Since then the Commonwealth has used posters to encourage people to do all manner of things including to:

  • buy bonds
  • visit Australian tourist attractions
  • celebrate centenaries
  • conserve water
  • enlist in the armed forces
  • understand and use decimal currency
  • immunise their children; and
  • drive safely.

The Archives' collection contains posters produced by the Commonwealth for all of these purposes and more. We also hold some posters published by State governments, private enterprise and by governments overseas. The tables that follow provide you with a glimpse of the range of material in our collection.

Selected subject list of posters

Centenaries and celebrations

Defence and war

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemBeaufort Division posters1939–45MP1472/1, 22 PART 1
SeriesCamouflage posters1940–44MP222/2
ItemCareless talk costs lives [colour]1940–41SP112/1, 426/4/2
ItemCopies of "salvage" pamphlets1942–45MP15/8, NN
SeriesHistory of Commonwealth Rationing Commission1943–50B5641

Education

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesAustralian Outline [educational posters, colour]1949–56C3179

Elections and referendums

Entertainment

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemVictoria Hall poster [colour]1886A1786, 2776B
ItemThe Wonderful Performing Fleas [colour]1889A1786, 4029B

Entertainment

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemBaby Week [colour]1920A1861, 4439
ItemMosquitoes [NSW Government poster, b&w]1928A1, 1928/5982

Immigration

Postal Services

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPost Office posters1963–88C3960

Recruiting

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPosters and photographs1941–84C2829
ItemJoin the Girls Training Corps [British, colour]1942–44A705, 151/30/120

Shopping

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemMadame Dean's Spinal Supporting Corset [b&w]1890A1786, 4378B
ItemEmmerson and Companies Sale [colour]1901A1786, 9556B

Sport

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
ItemGrand Anzac Sports Meeting – Canowindra [b&w]1927SP459/1, 441/1/170
SeriesCricket at Canberra – Visit of MCC team [b&w]1937AA1970/853

Travel

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesAustralian travel posters [colour]1930–40M948
SeriesAustralian travel posters [colour]1960–B4945

Posters created by the Commonwealth Advertising Division on behalf of Commonwealth agencies

In 1941 the Commonwealth Advertising Division was established with offices in Sydney and Melbourne. The Division, which operated until 1970, and its successors coordinated the Commonwealth's advertising. The posters created by the Division are for diverse campaigns including for the Egg Board, Road Safety Authority, Victory Bonds, and women in war.

Commonwealth Advertising Division, Sydney

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPosters and pamphlets for Commonwealth agencies1942–51C934
SeriesAdvertising material1950–52SP130/1
SeriesPosters1950–61SP545/3
SeriesBooklets and posters1958–65SP813/2
SeriesReprints of press advertisements1960–67SP968/2

Commonwealth Advertising Division, Melbourne

 Title or description of recordDate rangeSeries number
SeriesPosters relating to advertising files1941–53MP224/1
SeriesPosters relating to advertising files1950–74MP1567/1
SeriesProofs of posters1945–65MP878/2

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014