Retention and Disposal of State Records

Under the State Records Act 2000, State records may only be destroyed under an approved Retention and Disposal Authority.

Retention and Disposal Authorities are an integral part of an organisation’s Record Keeping Plan. They are a legal instrument which:

  • sets the minimum retention period that different categories of records must be held before their legal disposal
  • authorises the destruction of records that have reached their minimum retention period
  • identifies records that will be retained permanently as State archives.

All State records must be disposed of in accordance with an approved Retention and Disposal Authority.

Retention and Disposal Authorities may take the form of a:

  • General Disposal Authority;
  • Retention and Disposal Authority;
  • Sector Disposal Authority;
  • Ad Hoc Disposal Authority; or
  • Disposal List.

The State Records Commission approves all Retention and Disposal Authorities.

Disposal Freeze

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) was established under the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (Cwlth) on 11 January 2013. Its Final Report was presented to the Governor-General on 15 December 2017.

Volume 8 of the Report, concerning Recordkeeping and Information Sharing, contains 23 recommendations.

Recommendation 8.1 states:

“To allow for delayed disclosure of abuse by victims and take account of limitation periods for civil actions for child sexual abuse, institutions that engage in child-related work should retain, for at least 45 years, records relating to child sexual abuse that has occurred or is alleged to have occurred.”

Recommendation 8.3 states that Australian public records authorities should provide organisations with guidance on identification and retention of relevant records. The SROWA is responsible for advising Western Australian government entities about the recordkeeping requirements presented in the Report.

Recommendations 8.1 and 8.3 will affect previously approved disposal authorities and amendments to these documents are in progress. In the interim, government organisations are reminded that, in accordance with their Retention and Disposal Authorities:

“If an Investigation or Inquiry is in progress (or likely or imminent), all records relevant to the Investigation or Inquiry (including those due for destruction) must be identified and preserved until the action and any subsequent actions are completed.”

Any such records held by State or local government organisations, or their outsourced agents, must not be destroyed until further notice.

For information on what records should be retained see Guidance for identifying and retaining records which may become relevant to an actual or alleged incident of child sexual abuse

Records Management Advice - Guidance for identifying and retaining records which may become relevant to an actual or alleged incident of child sexual abuse

General Disposal Authority for State Government Information

The General Disposal Authority for State Government Information was developed by the SRO in consultation with other agencies to enable the lawful disposal of information documenting the common operations within government. It eliminates the need for each government organisation to prepare individual disposal authorities for a large proportion of records.

The Records Retention and Disposal Instructions should be used in conjunction with the relevant disposal authority/s that applies to their organisation, for the proper retention and disposal of State records.

General Disposal Authority for State Government Information
General Disposal Authority for State Government Information

General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records

The General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records was developed by the SRO in consultation with local government agencies. It enables the lawful disposal of information documenting the common operations within local government.   

The Records Retention and Disposal Instructions should be used in conjunction with the General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records, for the proper retention and disposal of State records.

NOTE: Local Government Records Relating to Cemetery Management

In accordance with the circular issued by the State Records Office on 13 June 2019 all local government organisations with responsibility for cemetery management under the Cemeteries Act 1986 (WA) are not to destroy any cemetery management records until further notice. This applies to all records relating to the care, control and management of a cemetery or crematorium.

General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records
General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records

General Disposal Authority for Source Records

The General Disposal Authority for Source Records enables the destruction of hard copy source records after digitisation, once certain conditions have been met.

The General Disposal Authority for Source Records must be used in conjunction with the Digitisation Specification.

General Retention and Disposal Authority for Incidents and Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect

This GRDA identifies record categories which document: 

  • incidents, allegations and reports of child abuse and neglect; and 
  • organisational processes for creating and maintaining a safe environment for children, including responses to the Royal Commission's recommendations. 

Please note: there may be an overlap in coverage between the General Retention and Disposal Authority (GRDA) for Incidents and Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect and other disposal authorities used by your organisation. If certain records categories are referenced in one or more disposal authority, the longest retention period must be applied.

General Retention and Disposal Authority for Incidents and Allegations of Child Abuse or Neglect

Ad Hoc Disposal Authorities and Disposal Lists

Ad Hoc Disposal Authority

An Ad Hoc Disposal Authority is a specific instance disposal authority relating to one or a limited number of series, or an identified part of a series of records. This kind of authority is most often used when old or superseded records are being appraised for disposal. The purpose of an Ad Hoc Disposal Authority is to authorise disposal action on a once-only basis, i.e. for records in a specific category or date range such as the COVID-19 Contact registers.

Disposal Lists

A Disposal List is an itemised list of records in which individual items, not necessarily from the same series, have been recommended by the government organisation for transfer to the SRO or destruction. A Disposal List is most appropriately used for the urgent disposal of records arising from some kind of damage or contamination of the records which requires immediate action.

Sector Disposal Authorities

Sector Disposal Authorities (SDAs) are developed by the SRO, in consultation with other organisations across these sectors, and cover records common to a group or sector of like organisations which operate with common functions.

The following Sector Disposal Authorities (SDA) are currently available:

SDA-Western Australian University Sector Disposal Authority

Disposal Authorities for National Bodies

The Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA) have developed a General Retention and Disposal Authority for Administrative Records of National Bodies (the Authority) that allows commons sets of administrative records for all National Bodies established under the various national schemes to be disposed of in a consistent manner.

NB: This GDA is to be used exclusively by National Bodies, not State and local government organisations.

The Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for Health Practitioners has been developed by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and contractors on their behalf in consultation with the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities (CAARA) National Bodies Working Group representing all the Australian State and Territory members of CAARA. It provides an agreed set of function based disposal classes with corresponding disposal actions and retention periods facilitating consistent retention and disposal requirements for records across all States and Territories.

The Authority does not authorise the disposal of the administrative records of AHPRA.

NB: This DA is to be used exclusively by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (WA Branch).

General Retention and Disposal Authority for Administrative Records of National Bodies
Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for Health Practitioners

Storage of Records

The Archival Storage Specification is to be used by government organisations that have obtained approval to retain State archives in accordance with SRC Standards.

The Directions for Keeping State Archives Awaiting Transfer to the State Archives Collection apply when the State Archivist is unable to accept a transfer of State archives from a State organisation under s.32(4) of the State Records Act 2000. They provide minimal compliance requirements as to how State archives, in any format, are to be kept by State organisations until such time as transfer can take place.

Directions for Keeping State Archives Awaiting Transfer to the State Archives Collection

Transferring Archival Records to the State Records Office

The State Records Act 2000 requires that State and Local government organisations must transfer records identified as State archives under their control to the State Records Office (SRO) when the archives become 25 years old, unless the organisation’s Recordkeeping Plan states otherwise (State Records Act 2000,.s.32(1)).

The State Records Office is not currently in a position to recieve archives. State organisations are required to keep their archives in accordance with the SRO’s Directions for Keeping State Archives Awaiting Transfer to the State Archives Collection (PDF).

Organisation should complete the Archives transfer request form (XLS) and send to sro@sro.wa.gov.au

Page reviewed 22 September 2021