Retention and Disposal

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

Disposal Authorities are an integral part of an organisation’s Record Keeping Plan, as they fulfil the legal requirement for the Plan to identify State archives for permanent retention, and the retention periods for all other records. 

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

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Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

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

General Retention and Disposal Authorities

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This General Retention and Disposal Authorities cover records commonly performed by Western Australian government agencies.

General Disposal Authorities (GDAs) are documents, developed by the SRO in consultation with other agencies, enabling the lawful disposal of information documenting the common operations within government. They provide consistent disposal decisions throughout the State and eliminate the need for each government organisation to prepare individual disposal authorities for a large proportion of records.

Three General Disposal Authorities are currently in force to cover the legal disposal of:

General Disposal Authority for State Government Information (PDF) - covering common administrative records across all State public sector organizations;

General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records (PDF) - covering all records of all local government organisations in Western Australia

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

Ad Hoc Disposal Authority - COVID-19 - Contact Registers

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Contact registers are not covered in the General Disposal Authorities for State or Local Government Records, therefore an Ad Hoc Disposal Authority has been developed especially for these registers for use by both State and local government organisations.

Ad Hoc Disposal Authority - COVID-19 - Contact Registers

Sector Disposal Authorities

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Sector Disposal Authorities are developed to cover multiple organisations that perform similar functions.

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:

Disposal Authorities for National Bodies

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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.

General Retention and Disposal Authority for Administrative Records of National Bodies (PDF)

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.

Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for Health Practitioners (PDF)

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

Ad Hoc Disposal Authorities and Disposal Lists

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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.

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 organization 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.

Transferring Archival Records to the State Records Office

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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 28 January 2021