Government publications guide

Overview and guide to government publications

Government publications provide background information to State archives as well as a useful entry point to identifying government agencies and records relevant to your research.


Government publications provide background information to State archives as well as a useful entry point to identifying government agencies and records relevant to your research.

We have a substantial collection of NSW government publications, however we don't hold a complete set of all government publications. For more publications and further details please consult the catalogue. Publications in our library are listed in the online public access catalogue (OPAC) available in the reading room.

Select list of publications

Statutes of NSW Parliament

Statutes, including acts, regulations, by-laws and ordinances are passed by both Houses of Parliament to regulate the government of New South Wales. They establish, regulate, alter, amalgamate or abolish the functions and activities of government and the agencies that perform them.

We hold copies of the Statutes of the NSW Parliament. Volumes are arranged chronologically. Each volume contains an index.

Parliamentary publications

Hansard of the Parliament of New South Wales

Hansard is the official record of the proceedings of parliament. We don't hold copies of Hansard. It is available at the State Library of NSW.

Votes and Proceedings and Parliamentary Papers

Votes and Proceedings (the minutes of the meetings of the Houses of Parliament) began publication in 1823 with the constitution of the Legislative Council. They were known as Votes and Proceedings, although they also contained the parliamentary papers.

The Parliamentary Papers are papers Parliament orders to be printed. Most Parliamentary Papers contain annual reports of government agencies. Other reports, such as the reports of Royal Commissions and Inquiries and reports required by legislation or ministerial direction are also included. In the earlier volumes particular papers presented before the Houses in answer to questions were also often printed — this often resulted in the printing of various statistics and correspondence.

They began publication in 1823 with the constitution of the Legislative Council and were known as Votes and Proceedings, although they also contained the parliamentary papers. After 1856 the Votes and Proceedings and Parliamentary Papers were divided into separate volumes.

Our holdings are incomplete particularly prior to 1856, for the period 1953-68 and after 1980.

Government Gazettes, 1832+

The NSW Government Gazette was first issued on 7 March 1832. Prior to this official notices were printed in the Colony's first newspaper, the Sydney Gazette. Government Gazettes contain the official notices of the New South Wales government. They include the proclamations of legislation and regulations (which indicate when they come into force). New Governments are proclaimed in the Government Gazette by usually listing the individual Ministers, the legislation for which they are responsible and the agencies they oversee. Other matters published in the Government Gazette include some transfers of land, establishment or restructure of agencies, senior government appointments and appointments to committees. The level of detail in the Gazettes has varied over time.

The Gazette is usually published weekly although there are often special issues. Indexes are published approximately quarterly and found in most bound volumes.

Format of copies
1832 to present
Original volumes held at the Western Sydney Records CentreDigitised copies available on the Trove website
February 2001 to present

NSW Government Directory

The NSW Government Directory (some issues are known as Directory of Administrative Services) was published in hard copy at irregular intervals from 1977 until 1998. The Directory lists the members of the legislature, the judiciary and the public sector. The public sector list is arranged by portfolio and summarises the government agencies for which the Minister was responsible and (after 1989) lists the legislation administered. Entries give brief details of the functions and structure of the agencies, their contact details including location and names of senior staff. Volumes are indexed. From 1998 the Directory was available online.

Annual Reports

Government agencies are required to produce Annual Reports informing Parliament about their activities during the preceding financial year. Prior to the Annual Reports (Department) Act 1985 and Annual Reports (Statutory Authorities) Act 1984 not all agencies were required to produce reports. Copies of current annual reports are available on most government agency websites.

Returns of the colony ('Blue Books')

The Returns of the Colony ('Blue Books') consist of sets of statistical returns of the Colony of New South Wales and of areas under its jurisdiction compiled annually from 1822 to 1870 by the Colonial Secretary for transmission to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London.

They record information on revenue and expenditure, taxes and duties, military and public works, population, imports and exports, exchanges, weights and measures, churches, schools and scholars, agriculture and manufacture, grants of land, gaols and prisoners, pensions and legislation. The Returns also include:

  • annual lists of officers employed by Government, including an alphabetical index, showing name, position, date of appointment, and salary.
  • lists of persons receiving land grants (or who purchased Crown Land), showing name, location and area of holding, and price.

The Returns from 1822-57 are available on microfiche in the reading room and as part of the *ARK.

Microform copies
  • Blue Books, 1822-57 are copied onto Fiche 438-613 *ARK.

For a detailed description of this series and listing of the microfiche copies please consult Blue Books (Returns of the Colony) 1822-1857 Guide.

Public Service Lists

Public service lists are a continuation of the annual list of government officers provided in the Returns of the Colony ('Blue Books'). They record the dates of appointment of officers to the service, when certain positions were established and basic information about government agencies.

From 1858 to 1861 the statistical Returns of the Colony ('Blue Books') contained a section listing members of the Executive Council, Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly; officers of the Civil Establishments, by department; an Ecclesiastical Return arranged by church; a return of pensions paid; and a list of foreign consuls. This section has been extracted from the Returns of the Colony and filmed with the Public Service Lists. There is an index to the officers of the Civil Establishments at the beginning of each year.

From 1862 onwards the Public Service Lists were published separately from the Returns of the Colony, with an index to contents and officers of the Civil Establishments. Detailed information about the 1858-1870 Public Service Lists is in the Record Series List for NRS 1286.

Microform copies
  • 1858-70: Fiche 807-819 *ARK
  • 1871-1960: Reels 3609-3620

Bureau of Statistics publications

The NSW Bureau of Statistics published statistical profiles of government and non-government activities such as demographics and primary and secondary production. Many of the earlier publications such as the Statistical Register of NSW were complied from the Returns of the Colony ('Blue Books').

Publications include:

  • Statistical Register of NSW, 1861-1955 (our set is incomplete)
  • Handbook of New South Wales statistics, 1885-88
  • Official Year Book of NSW (previously the Wealth and Progress of NSW), 1886-1955
  • Official Year Book of NSW, 1912-57

In 1957 the functions of the Bureau were transferred to the Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics, later known as the Australian Bureau of Statistics. For further information about these publications researchers should consult the catalogue.

Law Almanacs

Law Almanacs are published annually and include a calendar of court sittings for the year. Details of contents vary over time but may include lists of the Governors of NSW and the dates on which they assumed and retired from office, the names of judges of the Supreme Court, a directory of officers of the Courts, lists of legal practitioners; Calendars for the current, preceding and forthcoming years are included.

Police publications

Reports of Crime for police information, 1854-62

These reports contain details of crimes committed, persons to be apprehended, descriptions of stolen property and rewards offered, lists of regimental and ships deserters, and other police notices concerning recovery of property, apprehension of suspects previously sought, and dismissals of police officers for unsatisfactory conduct. Most Reports concern crimes committed in NSW, but a small number of notices from interstate, and extracts from the Victoria Police Gazette are also included. For further information and a list of records researchers should consult the catalogue.

Microform copies
  • Reels 3607-3608.

Police Gazettes, 1862-1982, NRS 10958

This publication contains information about crimes committed, criminals wanted, criminals apprehended, prisoners discharged, persons on good behaviour bonds, missing persons, and police appointments and promotions. For further information and a list of records researchers should consult the catalogue.

Microform copies of Police Gazettes up to 1930 are available in the reading room.

Microform copies
  • 1862-99 - Reels 3129-3143
  • 1900-30 - Reels 3594-3606

Police Gazettes that are more than 70 years old are open to public access. You can consult the Register of Access Directions to confirm the public availability of records.

Reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works was established by the Public Works Act 1888. The Committee investigated and reported on all major proposed public works except defence works).

Reports were submitted to Parliament, which then decided if the work would proceed. We hold copies of the reports for 1888-1930. A complete listing of reports in our collection is available in [COD 229] available in the reading room.

*ARK signifies that a copy of the record or guide is part of the Archives Resources Kit and is held by the community access points.