The Scullin papers consist of correspondence, minutes, other memoranda, telegrams, cables, reports, roneoed items, statistics, cuttings, printed items and a petition. Apart from several letters and telegrams sent/received as Prime Minister, the collection relates almost entirely to Scullin's parliamentary work during and after the end of World War II. Legislation on taxation, banking, patents, social services and post-war reconstruction are the dominant subjects. The correspondence includes copies of the letters to the Prime Minister by others, letters from people seeking representations, and letters from people such as C.E.W. Bean, Professor D.B. Copland, Sir George Knowles, P.S. McGovern, B.A. Santamaria and L.F. Giblin.
Scullin served as the Labor Member for the House of Representatives for the Victorian seat of Corangamite from 1910 to 1913, and later for Yarra, from 1922 to 1949. Between 1928 and 1935 he was Federal Leader of the Labor Party. Scullin was Prime Minister between 1929 and 1932, during the Depression years. While he was Prime Minister Scullin held the portfolios for external affairs, industry and the treasury. He represented Australia at the Imperial Conference in 1930. After being Prime Minister he stayed in Parliament for 17 years and was an adviser to the governments of John Curtin and Ben Chifley. In 1942 he was one of a three-member Commonwealth committee on uniform taxation. Scullin was active in trade union affairs and the Labor Party for most of his adult life and is remembered as the first prime minister to choose the governor-general.