The Kerr Palace Letters

The Kerr Palace Letters are a series of letters exchanged between Governor-General Sir John Kerr and Buckingham Palace during Kerr’s time in office.

The 212 letters were written between 15 August 1974 and 5 December 1977. They include attachments such as newspaper clippings, press releases, articles, speeches and booklets. A small number of telegrams are also included.

Most of the letters were exchanged between Kerr and Sir Martin Charteris, Private Secretary to the Queen. The Private Secretary passed the material to the Queen and usually responded on her behalf.

The Kerr Palace Letters provide an insight into:

  • the personalities and events of the time
  • political developments and public sentiment in Australia
  • the workings of the Australian Government and Parliament
  • the official duties and responsibilities of the Governor-General
  • the relationship between the Palace, the Queen’s Private Secretary and the Governor-General
  • constitutional issues, including the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam in 1975.

Read the Kerr Palace Letters

You can download the Kerr Palace Letters as PDFs or view them on RecordSearch, our collection database.

Use the correspondence summary for each part to find the letters you’re looking for.  

Part 1 (15 August 1974 to 8 October 1975)

Part 2 (10 October 1975 to 3 December 1975)

Part 3 (16 December 1975 to 27 May 1976)

Part 4 (8 June 1976 to 22 September 1976)

Part 5 (18 September 1976 to 14 July 1977)

Part 6 (19 July 1977 to 5 December 1977)

Background

Sir John Robert Kerr was Australia’s 18th Governor-General, holding the position from 11 July 1974 to 8 December 1977.

Kerr’s term is mostly remembered for his dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government and installation of the ‘caretaker’ Fraser Government on 11 November 1975.

During his term as Governor-General, Kerr communicated regularly with Buckingham Palace through the Private Secretary to the Queen. In August 1978, David Smith, Official Secretary to the Governor-General, deposited this correspondence into the custody of the National Archives of Australia.

Released to the public in 2020, the series of records consists of 212 letters in six files.

Most of the letters were exchanged between Kerr and Sir Martin Charteris, the Queen’s Private Secretary. David Smith occasionally sent letters, as did the Queen, her Deputy Private Secretary Sir Philip Moore and her Assistant Private Secretary Sir William Heseltine.

Key people represented in the letters

Other resources

Books and guides

Fact sheets

Our collection

RecordSearch, our collection database, has many Commonwealth records created by the Governor-General and the Whitlam and Fraser governments, including Cabinet records and Cabinet notebooks.

You can also explore the personal records of Sir John Kerr (CP 266), Gough Whitlam (CP 99) and Malcolm Fraser (CP 51).