Disposal prohibited unless authorised
Agencies and local councils must only dispose of official records in accordance with a determination made by the Director of State Records with the approval of State Records Council.
Records, including emails and data in business systems, cannot be destroyed, transferred to State Records' custody, or given to parties outside of State or Local Government without authorisation.
Authorisation is given through a disposal schedule, or a transfer of ownership and custody schedule. A disposal determination can also be in the form of a briefing to State Records Council.
Records should not be abandoned, sold, nor damaged or altered without authority.
Transfer of records between agencies as part of machinery of government changes does not need to be authorised under the State Records Act.
Authorisation is not required for the following normal administrative practices:
- sending correspondence to external parties outside of government
- destroying drafts not required for further use or reference
- records that do not relate to agency or council business e.g. junk mail, emails of a personal nature e.g. lunch arrangements, footy tipping.
Type of disposal schedules
Disposal schedules are used for authorising disposal of records created from a specific date. There are:
- General Disposal Schedules (GDS) - these are developed to cover records common to all agencies or councils, or to a specific sector
- Records Disposal Schedules (RDS) - these are developed to cover unique records of an agency's core business.
Agencies usually develop an RDS to cover all of the unique records that they hold and are still creating which are not covered by a GDS.
Sometimes an RDS is developed to cover a specific set of records, such as to get approval to destroy administrative records which were created after 1900 and are over 50 years old and are not covered by a general disposal authority.
Development of disposal schedules
Agencies and State Records develop disposal schedules through analysis of the business functions, activities and processes of government and an appraisal of the requirements for evidence (in the form of records) of those activities and processes. State Records' Appraisal Standard specifies the steps required to appraise records.
Most records are only required for a period of time, after which they can be destroyed. These are known as temporary records, even if they need to be kept for 100 years.
A few records have enduring value as an archive of State and Local Government. These are known as permanent records. All pre 1901 records are permanent due to their rarity.
Permanent records should meet the criteria in State Records' Appraisal Standard.
Disposal schedules identify which records have temporary value, and how long they must be kept, at a minimum, before an agency or council can destroy them.
They also identify permanent records which are required to be transferred to State Records' custody when they are over 15 years old or no longer in administrative use by the agency.
Retention periods are minimums
Disposal schedules identify the minimum periods records must be kept.
Agencies and councils must keep records longer than the minimum periods where there is a disposal freeze, for example if a Royal Commission is established and records are likely to be needed as evidence. Several general disposal schedules function to freeze disposal of official records:
- GDS 16 - Native Title Claims
- GDS 27- Records Required for Legal Proceedings Relating to Alleged Abuse of Former Children Whilst in State Care and/or of Relevance to the Child Protection Systems Royal Commission and
- GDS 32 - Records of Relevance to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Agencies and councils should keep records longer than the minimum periods where they are aware of actual or likely legal or statutory requests for access to the records, for example, legal discovery for an impending legal matter, or once a Freedom of Information (FOI) application has been lodged.
Agencies and councils are also responsible for ensuring records are retained to meet any changing legal or business requirements, for example as a result of new legislation or regulation or when functions, activities or processes change.
Sentencing - Applying retention periods to records
Sentencing is the process of applying retention periods in an approved disposal schedule to actual digital or physical records.
Sentencing determines whether a record needs to be retained temporarily and for what period or permanently.
Sentencing can happen when a record is created because the retention period is based on the requirements for evidence of the activity or process generating the record.
If not applied when the record is created, the sentence is often applied when records are removed from current recordkeeping systems, for example during a system migration or when making space in a compactus.
Transfer of inactive records
Permanent value records are to be transferred to State Records once they are 15 years old or no longer needed for current administrative purposes, subject to the transfer standard.
Destruction of records
Agencies are responsible for approving the actual destruction of records.