Leaders of the National Archives

Ian Maclean, 1944–1968

Ian Maclean was born in 1919 and educated in Melbourne. During World War II he served with the AIF in an anti-aircraft unit in New Guinea. In 1944 he took up the position of Archives Officer in the Parliamentary Library, a position which made him the first archivist appointed by the Commonwealth Government. He later became Chief Archives Officer within the Archives Division of the newly established Commonwealth National Library (1952–61), and Chief Archivist with the Commonwealth Archives Office (1961–68) when the Division was separated from the National Library.

In 1968, Ian MacLean left the Commonwealth Archives Office to become Principal (Civil) Archivist for the South East Asian Treaty Organisation (SEATO). He later worked as Assistant Keeper, Public Records Office of Victoria (1975) and Principal Archivist, Archives Authority of New South Wales (1976–80). He retired in 1980.

Ian Maclean received an award (AM) within the Order of Australia in 1996, for service to the Australian Archives and the archival profession.

The National Archives established the Ian Maclean Award for archival professionals in 2004. The award is offered to individuals interested in conducting research that will benefit the archival profession in Australia and promote the important contribution that archives make to Australian society

Keith Penny, 1968–1970

Keith Penny was born in November 1929 in Liverpool England. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Diploma in Administration at Liverpool University, he moved to Australia. Keith Penny then studied at the Australian National University, where he received a PhD. His doctoral dissertation was titled Factors in the Administration and Use of Australian Departmental Archives (29mb PDF).

Dr Penny became the Chief Archivist of the Commonwealth Archives Office in 1968 and remained in that position until 1970. He then moved to the position of Assistant Director-General, Records Administration, where he remained until his retirement in 1994.

Keith Pearson, 1970–1971

Keith Pearson was born in Canterbury, New South Wales in 1930. He was educated at Canterbury Boys High School before completing a Bachelor of Arts and Graduate Diploma in Public Administration at the University of Sydney.

He joined the Public Service in 1947. During his long career as a public servant he was Private Secretary to Treasurer Harold Holt and, later, Assistant Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Department. He served as the Director of the Commonwealth Archives Office from 1970 to 1971.

John Dunner, 1971–1975

John Peter Dunner was born in 1924. He was educated at the Canberra School of Commerce before joining the Public Service. He worked for the Commonwealth Treasury Office, then later served as the Assistant Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, before becoming the Commonwealth Archives Director in 1971.

John Dunner oversaw the change from the Commonwealth Archives Office to the Australian Archives, before retiring from the Public Service in 1975.

Robert Neale, 1975–1984

Robert Neale was born at Werribee, Victoria, in 1919. He was educated at Melbourne Boys High School and the University of Melbourne, graduating with First Class Honours in History in 1939. He commenced a teaching career at Mildura, but this career was interrupted by service in the Second World War.

After the war he joined the History Department of the University of Queensland, becoming a professor in 1965. In 1970 Professor Neale was appointed Editor of Historical Documents in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Canberra. His main task was to oversee the publication of the series Documents on Australian Foreign Policy 1937–49.

In 1975 Professor Neale became the first Director-General of the Australian Archives, a position he held until his retirement in 1984.

Brian Cox, 1984–1989

Brian Field Cox was born in 1933. He attended Canberra Grammar before moving to Sydney to complete his university education.

After completing a university degree he joined the Public Service. While working at the Division of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Brian Cox received honours, Member of the Royal Victorian Order and Order of the British Empire for his public service.

Brian Cox was Director-General of the National Archives from 1984 to 1989. He then became the Electoral Commissioner until his retirement in 1997.

George Nichols, 1990–2000

George Ernest Nichols was born in Tasmania in 1945. He attended St Patrick’s College in Launceston and went on to study history at the University of Tasmania, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) in 1966.

The following year, George Nichols joined the Australian Public Service. He served primarily in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, in the roles of Assistant Secretary Cabinet Office (1979), First Assistant Secretary Cabinet Office (1984) and First Assistant Secretary Parliamentary and Government (1986).

George Nichols was appointed to the position of Director-General of the Australian Archives in 1990. He remained in that position until his retirement in 2000. He continues his interest in public recordkeeping serving as Chairperson of the Territory Records Advisory Council in the Australian Capital Territory while also pursuing personal research and travel interests.

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich, 2000–2003 (Acting)

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich was born in Bombay, India. She spent the majority of her childhood there, attending the Presentation Convent in Kodaikanal. She migrated to Australia in 1972 and attended Turramurra High School in Sydney. She graduated from Macquarie University with a Bachelor of Arts (Hons).

Anne-Marie Schwirtlich joined the Public Service in 1978 and worked in various departments including the National Archives, National Library and the Australian War Memorial. During this time she also graduated from the University of New South Wales with a Diploma in Archives Administration.

She was appointed Acting Director-General of the National Archives after the retirement of George Nichols in October 2000. She left the Archives in 2003 to take up the position State Librarian and CEO of the State Library of Victoria.

Ross Gibbs, 2003–2011

Ross Gibbs’ career in archives began in the Australian Manuscripts Collection of the La Trobe Library in the State Library of Victoria in the early 1970’s. From 1991 until early 2003 he was Keeper of Public Records and Director of Public Record Office Victoria. He has been a member of the Australian Society of Archivists since 1991.

Ross was the representative for Asia and Oceania on the International Conference of the Round Table on Archives (CITRA). He was also a member of the course committees at the School of Business Information Technology at RMIT University, the School of Computer and Information Science at Edith Cowen University and the Centre for Cultural Material Conservation at the University of Melbourne.

His membership of the Collections Council of Australia was as Convenor of the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA).

He was also President of the Australian Council of Archives and was the only archives member to hold the position of Deputy Chair of Visions Australia, the Australian Government’s funding body that facilitates access to the nation’s cultural collections, including archives.

Ross had a strong and long standing commitment to making better known and more accessible the extensive collections of Australia’s archives.

Stephen Ellis, 2011–Jan 2012 (Acting)

Dr Stephen Ellis was with the National Archives from 1983 until 2012. Building on an academic career including postgraduate qualifications in history and information technology, Stephen worked on a wide range of operations and development projects with the National Archives.

In his role as head of the Operations and Preservation branch, Stephen ensured that the national archival collection was managed in such a way that it remains stable and accessible over time. This included managing the preservation of the records. For Stephen, a highlight of this role was the variety of activities that the branch covers and the wide range of skills that his staff brought to their work.

Stephen was involved in the development of electronic records policy since the early 1990s. He was instrumental in the design and later redevelopment of the National Archives' computerised control system for records, RecordSearch, and its deployment over the worldwide web.

Stephen had extensive experience in the management and review of archival operations including in roles as Director of the National Archives' Sydney office in the 1980s and subsequently as director of the Archives’ custody and preservation programs.

David Fricker, 2012–current

David Fricker joined the National Archives as Director-General on 1 January 2012. In his previous role, as Deputy Director-General, Corporate and Strategy with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), he was responsible for their strategy, security, strategic intelligence, legal advice, corporate governance, records management, ICT, HR, Parliamentary relations, public affairs and the new ASIO central office project.

David began his career at the Australian Customs Service in 1979 after completing a BA in Computing Studies. He held many positions within Customs, managing major innovative border management projects for passenger processing and cargo control.

In 1987 he moved to the private sector, joining Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) as a Senior Consultant and Account Manager, working with CSC's clients in the Defence, Science, Immigration and ACT Government sectors on Information Management, Strategic Planning and Project Management.

In 1993 David founded Business Synetics, a consultancy company providing Strategic Planning, Systems Architecture and Business Process Improvement services to a broad range of Federal Government agencies including Treasury, Health, Immigration and the intelligence community.

He left Business Synetics in 2002 to join ASIO as it was embarking on an extraordinary period of growth and change. For five years he held the position of CIO, driving innovation in technical infrastructure, analytical capability and electronic records management. He was appointed to the position of Deputy Director-General in July 2007.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019