Agencies are required to make public access determinations for records at the time of transfer of the records to State Records' custody.
A public access determination is made by the agency responsible for the records, in consultation with the Director of State Records, to indicate whether they the records are:
- open to public access immediately or
- open to public access after a specified period, once their sensitivity has diminished.
Agencies may also be approached to make or amend a public access determination for records already in our custody.
State Records does not provide access to records in our custody without a public access determination.
State Records cannot provide access to records restricted under a public access determination unless this is authorised by the agency. Some agencies provide public researchers with access authorisation letters to provide access to restricted records.
Archives should be openly accessible where possible
Records transferred to State Records' custody are usually over 15 years old and there is an expectation that any personal or commercial sensitivity in the records will diminish over time.
Records from the nineteenth and early twentieth century for example (records over 100 years old) should generally be openly accessible to the public.
In rare cases, the records need to be restricted for a longer period.
Reasons for restricting access
Reasons for restricting public access to archives may include:
- the protection of personal information
- continuing information security needs
- ongoing commercial confidentiality or
- legislative requirements (although these requirements may only apply to current records, not indefinitely).
A public access determination that restricts access to records in our custody does not prevent a person from applying to the agency for access to the records.
How to make a public access determination
To make a public access determination at the time of transfer, agencies will complete the tab of the Records Access and Description List.
If the records are already in our custody State Records will send through a Public Access Determination template with a request to complete and authorise the determination.
A public access determination can apply to:
- a broad range of records from an agency, including from multiple systems (a blanket determination)
- a set of records from the same recordkeeping system (a series)
- a specific set of records from a recordkeeping system transferred at the same time and with the same access requirements (a consignment).
To satisfy the requirement to consult with the Director, agencies should refer to the Public Access Determinations Guideline prepared by State Records.
The Public Access Determination is to be authorised by a senior agency representative.