Persons of Interest? View the digitised ASIO files from the NAA

The first two episodes of the SBS documentary Persons of Interest have been aired, portraying to a wide audience the level of surveillance undertaken against potential ‘subversive’ people in Australia by ASIO between the late 1940s and late 1970s.  The documentary, by Hadyn Keenan, uses a lot of recently opened ASIO files from the National Archives of Australia, many of which were opened via Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the people surveilled. Many of these files have also been digitised by the National Archives and are available for public reading. Using the new features of the NAA website, I have posted the links to a few files relating to the people discussed in Persons of Interest.

There are many files on the Milliss family that have been digitised. With all of the files I have linked to, I have only linked to volume 1, but a search through the NAA catalogue will show that there are numerous files. Firstly, there are the files of Bruce Milliss, the father of Roger and David, who was an ardent Communist Party of Australia member and then became a supporter of Mao in the breakaway CPA (Marxist-Leninist). (Click on pic for link to NAA file)

Bruce Milliss

There are also numerous digitised files on Roger and David Milliss, although the file on Suse Milliss has not been digitised.

Roger Milliss

David Milliss

There are also more than 15 files on founder of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist), Ted Hill, that have been digitised, as well as one on the CPA (M-L) from 1968.

Hill file

CPA ML

Bob Gould was another CPA member mentioned in the documentary whose files have been digitised.

Bob Gould

There are many files on the CPA that have been digitised, but coinciding with the forthcoming episode of Persons of Interest on the Aboriginal rights movement, here is a file on the CPA’s work on Aboriginal rights.

CPA Aborigines

ASIO kept tabs on the Aboriginal rights movement, particularly those involved in the founding of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy in January 1972, including activist Gary Foley.

Tent Embassy file

Gary Foley

But nearly all social movements that arose in the 1960s and 1970s were surveilled, including the anti-Vietnam War campaign and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Moratorium file

AntiApartheid

Prominent activists from these campaigns and other movements/groups were surveilled, with massive files created by the day-to-day following of these activists. A number of these have been digitised in recent years following FOI requests. These include the Burgmann sisters, Meredith and Verity, who were involved in the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the campaign against the Springboks in 1971, as well as Rick Kuhn, a leading member of the Australian Trotskyist group, the International Socialists (following the Cliffite IS/SWP from the UK), and CPA youth member (and future Professor) Ann Curthoys.

Meredith Burgmann

Verity Burgmann

Rick Kuhn

Ann Curthoys

These are only a few of the many digitised ASIO files that people can access through the NAA catalogue. It is worth having a search for other well-known activists. If the files has been digitised, you can view it on the NAA’s new file-viewer, SODA.

Just type in the URL: http://soda.naa.gov.au/record/ [barcode of file] /1

Now have some fun!

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4 comments

  1. Cool, I applied for and received the ASIO file on my father (all 26 pages) about 14 years ago. Just went through it again and it contains my birth notice that had been published in Tribune, the CPA newspaper, as well as a sheet with handwritten registration details of my birth : parents names, when married, and my sibling (who was 4 years old) – perhaps these details were taken from my birth entry from the Registry of births, deaths and marriages.

    So it appears I have been in ASIO’s sights since I was born…..just as well I engaged in radical student protest activities in my youth in the 70s and 80s. I know the Police special Branch kept tabs on me as 15 years ago I applied for and received my special branch file – several index cards on my mostly pedestrian activities of attending demonstrations, and being a registrant of premises for a left bookshop. Really? Enemy of the state?

    The real joke is that they actually thought at any time my father or my self were a threat to the state? More like active citizens with a strong moral compass. Oops, I forgot, they don’t like citizens getting too active, it might be a communist or anarchist plot to subvert society.

    Must be time to request my own ASIO file to have a laugh at them trying to dig up dirt and document my life.

    Here is a scan of my birth details page:

    PS: you should also add anarchism to the tags on this page as well. (yes, there were anarchists around who were under surveillance)

  2. Allison, you go to the Record Search page of the NAA:
    http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/ and type in, for example, Jack Mundey

    If you type this search term in, you get this: http://recordsearch.naa.gov.au/scripts/AutoSearch.asp?O=auto&K=Jack+Mundey

    Click on the column ‘digitised item’, which will bring all digitised files to the top. Unfortunately, there are none for Jack Mundey.

    So using another search term, for example, ‘Eric Aarons’, you will see that there are several digitised files relating to Eric Aarons. Clicking on the control symbol column will take you to an item listing page, with one sectio being the barcode. For the 1957-1963 digitised file on Aarons, the control symbol to click is ‘152’ and then the item listing page shows that the barcode is ‘8194890’.

    The best way to view digitised files from the NAA is to go to their new pdf viewer http://soda.naa.gov.au. So type in: “http://soda.naa.gov.au/record/”, then paste the barcode number, then add “/1”.
    So for that Aarons file, the URL would be:
    http://soda.naa.gov.au/record/8194890/1

    You can then convert these files into pdf and print them/email them/whatever.

    Hope this helps.

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