Public Record Office Victoria is the archives of the State Government of Victoria. We hold approximately 100kms of records from the mid 1830s to today.
These exhibitions were created using records from the collection, and help tell the story of Victoria and Victorians.
Fast facts about petitions
• The wording of petitions must be respectful and not offensive
• People who sign the petition must include their name, signature and address
• All signatures must be handwritten; photocopies and scanned signatures are not allowed
• Only people who live in Victoria can sign petitions presented to Victoria's Parliament
• A petition can not be sent directly to Parliament but must be given to a Member of Parliament who agrees to present it; the Member who presents a petition does not have to agree with its contents
• Biggest petition presented to the Victorian Parliament: Terminal Gate Pricing, 1995 - 65,588 signatures (a terminal gate price is a wholesale price for bulk supply of petrol)
Sly grog shanty
The consumption of alcohol triggered a number of petitions during Melbourne's early development.
In this S.T. Gill water colour diggers lie and stand around in front of a tent at the side of a road. Illegal alcohol could be purchased under the respectable guise of a meals and soup tent.
Beer Bill Petition
Presented by William Jones MP
In the 1850s, the Victorian Government made it illegal to sell alcohol on the goldfields. This was done to reduce lawlessness and drunken disobedience.
This petition, presented by residents of the County of Evelyn (in the Yarra Valley), supported a bill before Parliament that would legalise the sale of colonial- manufactured beer in restaurants and other establishments.
Petitioners reminded Parliament of the laborious nature of their work, which caused “great waste of body and much thirst”. They claimed that throughout the goldfields the water was “most unwholesome”, and public drinking houses were “many miles distant from the populous localities”. They were confident that legalising the sale of ‘colonial beer’ would have a beneficial effect, reducing the consumption of spirits and the popularity of unlawful liquor (‘sly grog’).
Barmaids and Seduction 1884
Presented by William Anderson MP
In the late 19th century, public drinking houses (hotels or pubs) were unpopular among church leaders and groups such as the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. A particular concern for these moral campaigners was the employment of women as barmaids. They claimed that barmaids were hired primarily as sexual objects to entice male drinkers, and argued that this was degrading to women.
In 1884, a Royal Commission recommended that the employment of barmaids be prohibited. Its report found, among other things, that many bars in Melbourne were virtual “brothels in disguise”. This petition from the Presbyterian Church supported the recommendation of the Royal Commission.
Employment of women in pubs was banned in Victoria in 1916 and was only permitted again in the late 1960s.
Kew Lunatic Asylum
Residents of the suburb of Kew, Melbourne, Australia, expressed their "astonishment and alarm" at plans to build a lunatic asylum in their local area. They claimed that the asylum would affect their lifestyle and property value. Despite their opposition, the Kew Asylum was opened in 1871, and operated for decades.
Divorce Cases in Newspapers 1884
Presented by Henry Wrixon MP
In general, court proceedings are open to the public and may be reported in the press. Here, the Melbourne Diocese of the Church of England petitioned Parliament to prohibit publication of cases brought before the Divorce Court. They argued that publication of these details familiarised the young with “impurity” and pollutes the “atmosphere of social life”.
Baking on Sundays, 1979
Presented by Jeffrey Kennett MP
In 1857, bakers petitioned Parliament to prohibit Sunday baking so that they could observe the Christian Sabbath. In this petition, 120 years later, residents of Melbourne complained that some large Melbourne bakeries had stopped making fresh bread on Sundays. They reminded MPs that legislation permitted the baking and distributing of ‘Sunday bread’ and requested that action be taken to ensure that it remained available.
Victorian Football League Sunday Matches 1981
Presented by John Cain (junior) MP
Several petitions in this exhibition deal with the issue of commerce and availability of public entertainment on Sundays. Here, petitioners opposed the introduction of Sunday VFL matches, claiming it would “severely affect Victorian family life”. The Victorian Government opposed Sunday VFL matches throughout the 1980s. However, by the end of the decade, Sunday matches had become entrenched.