Records underpin good service delivery and support the effective administration, accountability and transparency of the NSW public sector. Records are at the core of government business and are valuable assets.
Records are at the core of government business and are valuable assets. Records:
drive collaboration and communications
provide the foundation for sustainable and effective products and services
enable transparency and accountability for government operations
document rights and entitlements
make up the corporate memory of an agency
preserve public knowledge for reference and reuse.
Records can be in any format, and include email, spreadsheets, text messages, data in business systems, web pages, social media content (tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts etc.), photographs, CCTV, maps, plans, engineering drawings, paper files, and documents. Increasingly records are in digital format and are stored in network servers or data centers, or in the Cloud.
Departments, agencies, public authorities, State Owned Corporations and other bodies that are defined as a 'public office' under the State Records Act 1998 (‘the Act’) should ensure that all staff are aware of their responsibilities to make and keep records of their work. This is an important requirement under section 12(1) of the Act. Due to improved business processes, many records are increasingly made as part of a workflow or a digital business process. In other work activities, staff will need to consciously make a record to document a conversation, a meeting, or a decision they have made. They will need to document what was agreed to or decided in the meeting; what advice, instructions, commitments, recommendations, or information was provided in the meetings or the conversation. These records should be saved into the official records management system of the agency.
Public offices must manage and store records appropriately, and protect records from unauthorised access, alteration, loss or destruction.
Determining how long to keep records
Public offices should ensure that records remain accessible for as long as they are required and disposed of in accordance with requirements in authorised retention and disposal authorities, or in accordance with normal administrative practice of a public office.
Retention and disposal authorities set out how long the different types of records must be kept to meet legal, operational and other requirements, and whether the records are to be kept permanently as State archives. The NSW State Archives and Records Authority (NSW State Archives and Records) issues Retention and Disposal Authorities under the Act.
General Retention and Disposal Authorities cover records generated by all agencies. Functional Retention and Disposal Authorities are specific to types of functions undertaken by a group of agencies or specific to the core business of an individual agency.
Public offices without a Retention and Disposal Authority must develop one to meet Government requirements. Public offices should contact NSW State Archives and Records to discuss the planning and timetabling of this work.
The normal administrative practice provisions of the Act allow for the disposal of certain types of facilitative and duplicate records. See Schedule 2 of the State Records Regulation 2015 for more information on what constitutes normal administrative practice in a public office.
Implementing decisions about records retention and disposal
Public offices should implement Retention and Disposal Authorities as part of their ongoing records management responsibilities. This involves applying the decisions set out in the authorities to records, ensuring that records are destroyed promptly and securely when their retention period has ended, and transferring those records identified as State archives to the State Archives Collection.
Regular and systematic use of Retention and Disposal Authorities will result in benefits to the public office and to Government by:
reducing the costs of records storage
reducing the time and cost associated with finding specific records when they are needed
minimising the risks arising from illegal or unmanaged destruction of records and from inadvertently keeping records that should be destroyed.
Safeguarding the State’s archives
Official records of enduring value are an important part of the State's heritage. These State archives are identified in Retention and Disposal Authorities. Only a small proportion of a public office’s records are kept as State archives.
Under the Act, records required as State archives, and which are no longer in use for official purposes in the public office, should be routinely transferred to the State Archives Collection. A public office should not retain records required as State archives unnecessarily, particularly where the public office is unable to provide a suitable storage environment for valuable archives.
NSW State Archives and Records operates high quality, purpose-built facilities for storing and preserving the State Archives Collection and, once archives are open to public access, is responsible for making them available to the community. Records transferred to the State Archives Collection remain available to the responsible public office if needed.
NSW State Archives and Records can provide further information and advice on these matters. A range of guidance materials and other resources relating to all aspects of this Circular are available on the NSW State Archives and Records' website..
This Circular applies to all departments, agencies, authorities, State Owned Corporations and other bodies that are defined as a 'public office' under the Act (excluding private organisations which are taken to be a public office under section 8 of the Act).
Who needs to know and/or comply with this?
- Advisory Entities (including Boards and Committees)
- Councils under the Local Government Act
- Executive agencies related to Departments
- Separate agencies
- Statutory Authorities/Bodies
- Subsidiaries of the NSW Government established under the Corporations Act
- Date Issued
- Mar 16, 2021
- Review Date
- Mar 31, 2026
- Replaced By