In October 2021, State Records held an information session on the Transfer of Official Records Standard
State Records only accepts transfers of official records of enduring value (permanent) which are:
- older than 15 years, and
- no longer required for current administrative use
in accordance with the Transfer of Official Records Standard.
Records proposed for transfer must be identified as permanent in either a Records Disposal Schedule (RDS), covering agency specific records, or in a General Disposal Schedule (GDS) covering common types of records.
Transfers of permanent value records are prioritised, with the highest priority given to records which:
- are open to public access
- are at risk of loss or damage
- date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Transfers of permanent value records will be postponed if the records are:
- younger than 15 years
- in current administrative use (regardless of age)
- closed to public access, and will not be publicly accessible for more than 15 years (regardless of age)
- digital (until State Records has the capability to transfer digital records)
- hard copy records which have been scanned and may be destroyed under GDS 21.
Exceptions to Transfer Standard
We may consider exceptions to the Transfer Standard where:
- the records are less than 15 years old and open to the public, OR
- the records are at risk of loss or damage,
- AND the agency does not require ongoing access to the records for administrative use
This includes Cabinet submission files and notes (both from Minister's Offices and from the department), and Minister's Offices records in the lead up to an election unless there is a digital copy (in which case the digital copy will be deemed the official record).
What does older than 15 years mean?
All records within the file must have been created at least 15 years ago. For the purposes of the standard:
- We will review the end dates of consignments (the set of records proposed for transfer at the same time) and the end dates of files in the consignment list (the list of items proposed for transfer) to calculate the 15 years
- All parts / volumes of a file will be treated as a single entity, so the date when the last part was closed will be used to calculate the 15 years.
Suggestions for agencies:
- Avoid incorporating older records into new systems, as this will extend the transfer period (and is not good practice besides)
- Close files promptly when matters are no longer active
- Avoid keeping files ‘live’ for longer than needed – create separate annual files for ongoing matters
- Avoid creating files with many parts / volumes – create separate files for different activities or processes
- Create separate consignments of records for transfer so that consignments proposed only contain records older than 15 years, and then propose new consignments annually as the records in your custody age.
What does no longer required for current administrative use mean?
The records are no longer being added to, used or accessed, including access through Freedom of Information. For the purposes of the standard, we will:
- review the access determination and assess whether the restriction period is likely to require the agency to loan records for access
- review past loans to identify whether similar records have been retrieved or accessed
- require agencies to certify that they no longer need to access the records (unless there are exceptional circumstances) when records are transferred.
Suggestions for agencies:
- Keep digital records so that records can be more easily accessed without requiring physical access
- Stop printing and saving records on physical files, reducing printing, labour and storage costs
- Dispose of hardcopy source records that are scanned and saved into systems in accordance with GDS 21 conditions
- Retain hardcopy files which are routinely accessed on site or in offsite storage, including with Approved Storage Providers (ASPs)
- Dispose of temporary records promptly to reduce storage costs, where there are no further reasons to retain the records such as a disposal freeze or legal matter.
Tips for agencies managing records
- Keep records digitally. Do not print records for filing, and ensure business systems have basic records management controls. Benefits of keeping records digitally include: a) reduces costs of printing, filing, storage and access, b) enables records to be easily accessed without requiring the physical object.
- Organise records efficiently. File records relating to transactions or cases separately, rather than mixing records on the one file; create separate files if the information has significantly different retention periods or access restrictions; and send records to offsite storage with accurate listings of file contents, date ranges, sentencing against RDS and GDS references and box records with similar destruction dates together. Benefits of efficient organisation of records include: a) temporary records of short term value can be destroyed promptly; b) access restrictions can be more easily managed; c) permanent records in offsite storage can be prepared for transfer more easily when they are no longer required for current administrative use.
- Dispose of temporary records promptly. Destroy records once minimum retention periods have been reached, unless there is reason for retaining the records longer such as a legal matter, FOI or disposal freeze. Benefits of prompt disposal include: a) reduces costs of storage; b) avoids records having to be re-sentenced when disposal schedules are updated; c) ensures records are disposed of before a disposal schedule expires; removes obligation to search these records in response to access requests.
- Transfer oldest permanent records first. Transfer the oldest permanent records first (as long as they are no longer required for current administrative use), especially nineteenth and early twentieth century records that are publicly accessible, without any access restrictions.