Australia and the United Nations – Fact sheet 88

The United Nations was established to present a united front of allied strength against the axis powers in World War II. By October 1943 it had been proposed that the UN become an instrument for promoting international peace. In late 1944 representatives from China, the UK, the USSR, and the USA met at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington DC to draw up a series of proposals for the new organisation. These proposals were circulated for comment among all states at war with the axis powers. Forty-six states sent delegates to the conference which convened at San Francisco on 25 April 1945 to draw up the charter of the United Nations. The charter was signed on 26 June 1945.

According to the United Nation's charter, the primary objective of the organisation is the maintenance of international peace and security. The UN has five principal organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice, all supported by a Secretariat. The General Assembly is the only body on which all members are represented. The Security Council consists of some permanent members and other members elected for a fixed term.

Australia, as a founding member state, and as the country which provided the third President of the General Assembly (Dr HV Evatt – see below), has had an extensive and continuing relationship with the UN. This is reflected in the series created by the following agencies.

Australian agencies involved with the United Nations

Agency titleDateAgency no.

Australian National Advisory Committee for UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation)

1947–ongoing

CA 1411

Australian Mission to the United Nations (New York)

1946–ongoing

CA 2758

Australian Delegation, UN Special Committee on the Balkans

1947–52

CA 4431

Australian Consulate – General and Permanent Mission to the Office of the UN, Geneva

1949–ongoing

CA 8164

UN Commission on Indonesia, Djakarta/Jakarta

1947–51

CA 8237

External Affairs/ Foreign Affairs records

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (formerly the Department of External Affairs) has had extensive relations with the UN, documented in the following series. Most items in these series are listed on RecordSearch which includes item level data. The database is available in all reading rooms.

External Affairs/ Foreign Affairs records

Dr Herbert Vere Evatt

Possibly Australia's most notable delegate to the UN was Herbert Vere Evatt (CP 7) who played a major role in the development of the UN Charter, was President of the UN's General Assembly in 1948–49, was the first chairman of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission and was the chairman of the United Nations Palestine Commission in 1947. Many records relating to Dr Evatt's work at the UN are listed on the RecordSearch database and can be identified using the keyword 'Evatt'.

Other Australian delegates to the United Nations

DelegatePerson no.Dealings with the United Nations

Kenneth Bailey

CP 71

Attended San Francisco Conference, General Assembly, 1946–69

Esma Banner

CP 585

Served on UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration and International Refugee Organisation, 1944–51

Garfield Barwick

CP 651

Leader Australian delegation during 1960s, member Court of Justice, 1973–74

William Clifford

CP 416

Member of many UN committees and councils, 1964–75

Herbert Coombs

CP 119

Delegate to UN conference onTrade and Employment, 1947–48

Ruth Dobson

CP 561

Attended meetings of the UN General Assembly, 1950–53

James Halligan

CP 159

Representative at Trusteeship Council 1948, 1949, 1952

Leonard Harris

CP 675

UN International Telecommunications Union, 1946–60

Sir Paul Hasluck

CP 115

Head of Mission to UN, 1945–46, 1964–69

William Hodgson

CP 80

Attended San Francisco Conference, Head of Mission to the UN in New York , served on many UN committees, 1945–49

Geoffery Kesteven

CP 638

Fisheries advisor to UN, 1945–70

Dudley McCarthy

CP 44

Member Trusteeship Council and Minister to UN, 1963–66

Charles Morton

CP 280

Delegate to UN Conference on Trade and Employment, 1947–48

James Plimsoll

CP 452

Australian permanent representative to the UN, 1959–63

Arthur Tange

CP 229

First Secretary Australian Mission to the UN in New York, 1946

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016