Prime ministers of Australia – Fact sheet 70

Between January 1901, when Edmund Barton was appointed Australia’s first Prime Minister, and 1991, there have been 23 prime ministers of Australia.

The National Archives has prepared a fact sheet on each of the prime ministers in this period describing records held about them in the National Archives collection.

Prime ministers of Australia, 1901–91

PeriodPrime Minister

1901–03

Edmund Barton

1903–04, 1905–08, 1909–10

Alfred Deakin

1904

John Christian Watson

1904–05

George Houstoun Reid

1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15

Andrew Fisher

1913–14

Joseph Cook

1915–23

William Morris Hughes

1923–29

Stanley Melbourne Bruce

1929–32

James Henry Scullin

1932–39

Joseph Aloysius Lyons

1939

Earle Christmas Grafton Page

1939–41, 1949–66

Robert Gordon Menzies

1941

Arthur William Fadden

1941–45

John Joseph Ambrose Curtin

1945

Francis Michael Forde

1945–49

Joseph Benedict Chifley

1966–67

Harold Edward Holt

1967–68

John McEwen

1968–71

John Grey Gorton

1971–72

William McMahon

1972–75

Edward Gough Whitlam

1975–83

John Malcolm Fraser

1983–91

Robert James Lee Hawke

Prime ministers' records

The National Archives holds records relating to all prime ministers. These include:

  • Commonwealth records relating to the official duties of the prime minister or to the person in an official capacity before or after serving as prime minister. These comprise records created or received by bodies such as Cabinet, or government departments or agencies.
  • Personal collections relating to their official duties as prime minister or in other official capacities. These are records assembled or created by or for the person.

The Archives holds personal records of a number of prime ministers, although several significant prime ministerial collections have been deposited with major collecting institutions such as the National Library of Australia, a prime ministerial library or a state or university library.
There are no collections of personal records held for the first five prime ministers (Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, John Watson, George Reid and Andrew Fisher) or for the short term Country Party Prime Minister Arthur Fadden (1941). The fact sheets on these men refer principally to records held by the Archives about them and their period in parliament.

Public access to the records

The Archives Act 1983 provides a right of access to Commonwealth records once they enter the open access period. While the Act does not apply to personal records deposited with the Archives by individuals, it does apply to any Commonwealth records which form part of a personal archives collection. Public access to the non-Commonwealth component of a personal collection is determined by the depositor. Reference staff will be able to advise you of the access conditions that apply to the personal records of individual prime ministers. In some cases the records are very old and fragile, and access may be given to a copy rather than the original record.

Sources of information about records of prime ministers

The National Archives has prepared a number of publications that provide information about the life and times of each of Australia’s prime ministers and the archives collections that contain information about them. 

Website

The Australia's Prime Ministers website includes copies of significant records relating to each prime minister.  

Research guides

The following guides are available to download in pdfs or purchase as print publications.

Other collecting institutions

The National Film and Sound Archive holds film of every Australian prime minister (except for John Watson), as well as recorded sound of all but five – Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, John Watson, George Reid and Andrew Fisher.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017