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 line with the Disposal Freeze issued by the SRO on 5 April 2018 the following records in any format must not be destroyed until further notice:  .All records of past or current actual and alleged incidents of child sexual abuse, and all records related to the care, supervision, education and treatment of children where government employees, contractors, volunteers and outsourced service providers are in contact with children.

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

See also Managing records of Royal Commissions, Reviews, Investigations or Inquiries.

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.

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.   

General Disposal Authority for Source Records

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

The GDASR must be used in conjunction with the Specification for Digitisation of State Records.

Specification for Digitisation of State Records

The Specification for Digitisation of State Records must be used if the organisation intends to ‘replace’ an original record with a reproduction and destroy the original.

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

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.

Ad Hoc Disposal Authority - Vaccination Status Records

The Ad Hoc Disposal Authority provides for the disposal of records related to vaccination status as soon as possible after they are no longer required. This includes disposal of other records collected incidentally along with proof of vaccination but not required for this purpose (for example, information not required to establish vaccination status).

Ad Hoc Disposal Authority - User Data in Government Mobile Device Applications (“Apps”)

This Ad Hoc Disposal Authority has been developed to address the retention of user account data, particularly identifying information, provided by private citizens in order to create an account and use Western Australian government departments' applications (apps) on mobile devices. 

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.

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 27 June 2022