Arrival records (including assistance with residence status)
Passenger records document the movement of people into and out of Australia. These records are well known and well used sources of genealogical information.
- Before 1948, the captain or master of all passenger ships and aircrafts was required to provide Custom authorities with a list of passengers arriving in or leaving from a port.
- From 1948, cards filled in by the passengers were introduced.
- From the 1960s cards increasingly replaced lists, especially for those arriving by air.
What passenger records do we have?
The National Archives holds comprehensive passenger records for ship and aircraft arrivals and departures for all Australian ports from 1924, when passenger arrivals became an Australian Government responsibility. For general information about passenger records held in the National Archives see:
- Passenger records held in Adelaide
- Passenger records held in Brisbane
- Passenger records held in Canberra
- Passenger records held in Hobart
- Passenger records held in Melbourne
- Passenger records held in Perth
- Passenger records held in Sydney
Most passenger vessels from Europe made Fremantle, Western Australia their first port. Passenger lists for Fremantle include all passengers on board (including people disembarking in other Australian ports), so they are a particularly rich resource for family historians.
You can search arrivals by ship into Fremantle and other Western Australian ports between 1898 and 1964; or arriving at Perth airport 1944‒64, via our passenger arrivals index.
Searching passenger records
Unfortunately, there are no comprehensive name indexes for passenger records. To effectively search for family members you need to know how and when they arrived.
- For arrivals by sea between 1898 and 1964 (arriving in, or travelling through, the port of Fremantle or other Western Australian ports), and arrivals by aircraft between 1944 and 1964 (to Perth Airport or travelling through), try searching the passenger arrivals index. Go to Search the collection and then RecordSearch. Select the 'Passenger arrivals index' tab at the top right of the screen.
- For arrivals by sea and air from 1965-1972 go to Search the collection and then RecordSearch. Select Advanced search, then Items. In the keyword field enter the year of arrival, for example 1965, and in the series field enter A1197. The records are arranged alphabetically in six-month batches.
- For other arrivals, you need to know the port or airport of arrival, the name of the vessel or aircraft number, as well as the month and year the vessel arrived. If you are unable to identify the date of arrival within two months, your search could be very time consuming.
- For arrivals after 1972, please complete and submit our Passenger arrival records inquiry form.
- For most arrivals earlier than 1924, you will need to contact state government archives.
Assistance with resident status
The National Archives of Australia does not hold records which identify your current resident status. This information is held by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP).
If you arrived in Australia before the mid-1980s and have not departed the country since, DIBP will require you to provide a record of your first arrival into Australia. Information on how to obtain evidence of your status in Australia is available on DIBP's website. The National Archives may be able to assist you to find details of your arrival into Australia.
If you have not been able to find a record of your arrival via the search methods above, please complete and submit our Passenger arrival records inquiry form.