Cabinet records

Records of Cabinet meetings document many of the major decisions in Australia's history.

Cabinet records are the formal records of submissions received and decisions made by Cabinet.

They are different to Cabinet notebooks, which contain notes taken by senior public servants during meetings of the Cabinet.

What Cabinet records does the National Archives hold?

The National Archives has records of Cabinet meetings dating back to Federation.

There was no formal process for recording Cabinet decisions before 1923. Cabinet records from this period have been pieced together from the notes of ministers and the prime minister.

The formal Cabinet recordkeeping process evolved from the 1920s to the 1940s. It wasn't until 1949 that the full structure of the Cabinet secretariat was in place. As a result, records dating from before 1949 may be inconsistent or incomplete.

Submissions and decisions

Cabinet records dating from 1919 and later contain submissions and decisions.

Submissions (also known as agenda) are proposals prepared by government departments that require a response from Cabinet. Cabinet business may also be generated by a memorandum.

Decisions (also known as minutes) document the Cabinet's responses to submissions. Each decision is filed with the submission it relates to. From 1949, they may also be filed in a separate series of decisions for each ministry.

Cabinet files

In 1958 the Cabinet Office began creating a file as each Cabinet submission was received.

These files contain background information on the decisions Cabinet made about each submission.

Other Cabinet records

Until 1919, submissions considered by Cabinet were generally returned to the responsible department with annotations to show the Cabinet's decision.

The National Archives has placed copies of these papers into series A6006.

A6006 also contains Cabinet papers from 1919 to 1960 that are not included in series of submissions.

Cabinet records by prime minister

Cabinet records become open to the public 20 years after the year in which they were created.

A prime minister's time in office may have multiple series of Cabinet records.

Viewing Cabinet records online

Digital copies of all Cabinet records between 1971 and 1980 are available in RecordSearch. Digital copies of many Cabinet records from other years are also available online.

If the Cabinet record you want to view is not available online, you can request a digital copy or view the paper record in our Canberra research centre. Like all Commonwealth records, we need to examine Cabinet records before making them available for access.