Prime ministers of Australia – Fact sheet 70

Between January 1901, when Edmund Barton was appointed Australia’s first Prime Minister, and 1997, there have been 25 prime ministers of Australia who commenced their term in the open period.

The National Archives has prepared a fact sheet on the following prime ministers in this period describing records held about them in the National Archives collection.

Prime ministers of Australia, 1901–2007

PeriodPrime Minister


Edmund Barton

1903–04, 1905–08, 1909–10

Alfred Deakin


John Christian Watson


George Houstoun Reid

1908–09, 1910–13, 1914–15

Andrew Fisher


Joseph Cook


William Morris Hughes


Stanley Melbourne Bruce


James Henry Scullin


Joseph Aloysius Lyons


Earle Christmas Grafton Page

1939–41, 1949–66

Robert Gordon Menzies


Arthur William Fadden


John Joseph Ambrose Curtin


Francis Michael Forde


Joseph Benedict Chifley


Harold Edward Holt


John McEwen


John Grey Gorton


William McMahon


Edward Gough Whitlam


John Malcolm Fraser


Robert James Lee Hawke


Paul Keating


John Winston Howard

Prime ministers' records

The National Archives holds records relating to all prime ministers. These include:

  • Commonwealth records relating to the official duties of the prime minister or to the person in an official capacity before or after serving as prime minister. These comprise records created or received by bodies such as Cabinet, or government departments or agencies.
  • Personal collections relating to their official duties as prime minister or in other official capacities. These are records assembled or created by or for the person.

The National Archives holds personal records of a number of prime ministers, although several significant prime ministerial collections have been deposited with major collecting institutions such as the National Library of Australia, a prime ministerial library or a state or university library.

There are no collections of personal records held for the first five prime ministers (Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, John Watson, George Reid and Andrew Fisher) or for the short term Country Party Prime Minister Arthur Fadden (1941). The fact sheets on these men refer principally to records held by the National Archives about them and their period in parliament.

Public access to the records

The Archives Act 1983 provides a right of access to Commonwealth records once they enter the open access period. While the Act does not apply to personal records deposited with the National Archives by individuals, it does apply to any Commonwealth records which form part of a personal archives collection. Public access to the non-Commonwealth component of a personal collection is determined by the depositor. Reference staff will be able to advise you of the access conditions that apply to the personal records of individual prime ministers. In some cases the records are very old and fragile, and access may be given to a copy rather than the original record.

Sources of information about records of prime ministers

The National Archives has prepared a number of publications that provide information about the life and times of each of Australia’s prime ministers and the archives collections that contain information about them. 


The Australia's Prime Ministers website includes copies of significant records relating to each prime minister.  

Research guides

The following guides are available to download in pdfs or purchase as print publications.

Other collecting institutions

The National Film and Sound Archive holds film of every Australian prime minister (except for John Watson), as well as recorded sound of all but five – Edmund Barton, Alfred Deakin, John Watson, George Reid and Andrew Fisher.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019