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Memento : Issue 19
Our research throws light on how government operated in the past and how some of its services were provided. When appraising shipping registration records recently, we were surprised to find that until 1981 all Australian ships were registered under the Imperial Merchant Shipping Act 1894 and therefore carried British nationality on the high seas. The Australian red ensign, the flag flown by Australian merchant ships, is described in this Act as the 'British Ensign defaced with stars'! During the debate for the Commonwealth Shipping Registration Act in the House of Representatives in 1981, Member for Shortland Mr Morris declared 'I would have rather described it as the British flag embellished by the addition of the stars of the Southern Cross'. In fact, as for most other Commonwealth countries, there was a great deal of Imperial legislation still in force in Australia well after Federation. One of the effects of the Statute of Westminster, 1931 was the repeal of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 -- an Act that disallowed colonial legislation 'repugnant' to Imperial statutes. Not only are shipping registration records a gateway into the history of Australia's legislative development, they also provide a launching point for genealogical and other research on the various ships that have plied the seas over time. Shipping registration records can lead researchers to lists of passengers or crew. Researchers will also find information on the fate of particular ships, numbers and types of ships, and at which ports they were registered. memento january 2002 14 One of our important roles is to appraise the records in our collection to determine how long they should be kept for future use. Appraisal involves looking at the functions of the agency that created the records, and carrying out extensive research to explain the wider context of the records. The records detail the size of a ship, who built it, where it was built, if it had been registered under another name previously, who owned it, its home port, when and sometimes why its registration closed -- lost at sea, sold to an overseas party or perhaps not eligible to be registered in Australia. Whether you are interested in historical context or genealogical research, our records can set you off on all sorts of voyages! Launching of HMAS Albatross, 1928--29 NAA: A1606,BG15/1,photo 8