1. Statement of significance
The Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne is of historic significance for its association with the Rt Hon. Malcolm Fraser, AC, CH, the Prime Minister of Australia from 1975–83. The collection also provides insights into one of the most controversial events in Australian political history: the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1975.
The collection has rich research potential. It covers not just the life and career of Malcolm Fraser himself, but also the story of political life and party politics in mid-twentieth century Australia. It also reflects aspects of Australian history – immigration and multiculturalism; reconciliation and relations with Aboriginal Australia; labour relations and the environment – more broadly.
In 2004, Malcolm Fraser designated the University of Melbourne the official custodian of his personal papers.
The bulk of the collection has been transferred to the University of Melbourne from the National Archives of Australia, with the first transfer taking place in March 2005. Additional transfers were completed in February 2006 and January 2007. The final transfer – of audio-visual material – is expected to take place in late 2008.
In time, Mr Fraser’s library will also be transferred to the University of Melbourne and be housed in the Malcolm Fraser Room within the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law at Melbourne Law School, where Mr Fraser is a Professorial Fellow.
The collection will ultimately consist of all Mr Fraser’s personal papers from both his pre-ministerial and post-ministerial activities. It will also include non-Commonwealth records acquired or created during his parliamentary career. The collection will continue to grow as further material is transferred from both the National Archives of Australia and Mr Fraser’s home and office. Commonwealth records will remain at the National Archives of Australia.
The Malcolm Fraser Collection includes:
Photographs. These include photographs taken by Malcolm Fraser’s father, (John) Neville Fraser, as well as several hundred photographs of official overseas and domestic visits undertaken by Mr Fraser as Prime Minister of Australia. There are also photographs taken by Mr Fraser himself while on these visits. Forty-six photographs of Mr Fraser with various world leaders are held in Mr Fraser’s office in Melbourne, but will be transferred to the University of Melbourne at a later date. Many of these photographs – including those of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Snr and Margaret Thatcher – are signed.
Speech notes and transcripts of speeches, from Mr Fraser’s 1954 pre-selection speech until the present day.
Some papers of Sir Simon Fraser, Mr Fraser’s grandfather. Simon Fraser was a member of the Victorian Upper House (the Legislative Council) and a participant in most of the Federation conferences which preceded Australian Federation. He was a foundation Senator for Victoria until 1913.
Papers of Mr Fraser’s father, Neville Fraser, including his World War I diaries.
- Papers of Mr Fraser's mother, Una Fraser.
Correspondence from individuals or interest groups associated with Mr Fraser’s former constituency, the electorate of Wannon in Victoria’s Western District. The series covers Mr Fraser’s entire twenty-eight years in federal politics (1955–83).
Records relating to Mr Fraser’s role as a founding member of the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group.
Press releases, cuttings, board papers and other records from CARE Australia, Australia’s largest non-political and non-religious overseas aid organisation. Mr Fraser founded CARE Australia in 1987.
Some individual items deserve to be singled out:
The war diaries of Neville Fraser. Malcolm Fraser’s father, Neville Fraser, kept a detailed diary from 1913 until 1918. At the beginning of World War I Neville joined the Royal Field Artillery and went on to fight at the Somme, Ypres and Messines Ridge. Professor Peter Pierce (Professor of Australian Literature at James Cook University) has written that the diaries, which amount to nearly 100,000 words, ‘are written with panache and intelligence and are clearly of a publishable standard’.
Magdalene College Memorial Album (1909–14). Described by Professor Peter Pierce as ‘superb’, this album contains fine gelatine prints of the college, Oxford, students and sporting events.
Oodnadatta to Katherine by car. This collection of more than 200 images records a car trip undertaken by Neville Fraser and others in 1924. It is accompanied by a twelve-page typed diary.
While the Malcolm Fraser Collection has its own distinct identity, for access purposes it is managed by the University of Melbourne Archives. The vast majority of the collection has been listed, and copies of the lists are available for consultation in the Cultural Collections Reading Room in the Baillieu Library.
Records under thirty years old are restricted, in accordance with both the usual practice of the National Archives of Australia and the wishes of Mr Fraser himself. Records more than thirty years old are open.
A selection of photographs and speeches from the collection has been digitised. These are accessible on the Malcolm Fraser Collection web site.
Recent research using the collection includes:
Malcolm Fraser’s memoirs/biography to be published by Melbourne University Press in 2009
An ARC-funded study of the development of the Family Law Act and the Family Court of Australia
Doctoral theses on political speeches in Australian federal election campaigns and the Fraser’s government’s responses to asylum-seekers
Volume 1 of Jenny Hocking's biography of Gough Whitlam
A history of Wakool Shire Council (of which Malcolm Fraser’s father was an active member).
4. Comparison with other collections
The Malcolm Fraser Collection is unique, but can be compared with a number of other prime ministerial collections held throughout Australia. These include the John Curtin Prime Ministerial Library at Curtin University of Technology; the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Library at the University of South Australia; the Alfred Deakin Prime Ministerial Library at Deakin University; the Whitlam Institute’s Prime Ministerial Collection at the University of Western Sydney and the papers of Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, William McMahon and John Gorton at the National Library of Australia. These collections differ enormously in their size and composition, but together represent an important documentary record of Australia’s political history. In most cases, official records of these Prime Minsters remain at the National Archives of Australia.
5. Significance of the collection
The collection is of historic significance because of its association with Malcolm Fraser and the political events of 1975. Mr Fraser was Prime Minister of Australia from 1975–83 and came to power as a result of one of the most contentious episodes in Australian history: the dismissal of the Whitlam Labor Government. Mr Fraser continues to have a prominent role in Australian society as a writer and commentator on issues such as multiculturalism, reconciliation with indigenous Australians, human rights and the Australian government’s responses to asylum-seekers.
The collection has significant research potential in the areas of policy-making and government. As it comprises Mr Fraser’s personal records, it includes information and insights absent from the official working papers of government.
More generally, the collection is a ‘reflection of an era’. It includes material relating to many of the key questions that have faced Australian governments and society since the mid-1950s: reconciliation and relations with Aboriginal Australia; immigration and multiculturalism; Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War; labour relations; the rural economy; human rights; and the environment. There is also material relating to Mr Fraser’s activities with CARE Australia and his recreational interests: photography, fishing and vintage cars.
The collection as a whole is unique, while several individual items are of great rarity. Foremost among these are Neville Fraser’s Magdalen College Memorial Album and his World War I diaries.
Dr Caitlin Stone
Curator, The Malcolm Fraser Collection at the University of Melbourne
12 December 2008
1. Unpublished materials
Pierce, Peter, [Description of items donated by Malcolm Fraser under the Cultural Gifts Program], 25 April 2005.
University of Melbourne Archives, Malcolm Fraser Collection, Acc. No. 105/35, Diaries of John Neville Fraser.
University of Melbourne Archives, Malcolm Fraser Collection, Acc. No. 105/36, Magdalen College Official Alumni Photographic Gift Album, University of Oxford, 1909–14.
University of Melbourne Archives, Malcolm Fraser Collection, Acc. No. 105/36, Oodnadatta to Katherine by car [album], 1924–5.
2. Published materials
Ayres, Philip 1987, Malcolm Fraser: a biography. Richmond, Vic.: William Heinemann Australia, 1987.
Nelson, Michael, ‘Presidential libraries are valuable reflections of their eras.’ The Chronicle of Higher Education 51, no. 12 (2004), accessed online http://chronicle.com/prm/weekly/v51/i12/12b01501.htm.
Rintoul, Stuart, ‘Malcolm to the letter.’ The Australian, 13 May 2005.
Rood, David, ‘A Machiavellian streak revealed in Malcolm Fraser’s files.’ The Age, 6 May 2005.
Russell, Roslyn, Significance: A guide to assessing the significance of cultural heritage objects and collections. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia on behalf of the Heritage Collections Council, c. 2001.