Why Archives are kept

The State Records Office is responsible for the State Archive Collection, the largest archival collection in Western Australia and one of the most important historical and cultural resources belonging to the people of this state.  

We all benefit from the archives as the original records providing insight into our diverse heritage and history. They supply valuable information for historians, genealogists, scientists, planners, teachers, students and the community, and are an inspiration for writers, film makers and artists.

The State Archive Collection covers a wide range of subjects including colonial, Aboriginal, health, government administration, mining, immigration, police and prison records to name a few. Whether we use the archives to establish justice or gain insight, they document why and how Western Australia has developed and provide the essential evidence underscoring the rights, entitlements and responsibilities of WA’s citizens and organisations. When these State archives are managed and preserved for all to access we have the opportunity to research, understand and function as a society.

The State Records Office (SRO) is responsible for the management, preservation and access to State archives created by State and Local Government organisations. A very small proportion of all records created by these government organisations are identified as State archives to be kept permanently, preserved and made accessible.

People sometimes think of archives as being old documents. While many State archives may indeed be old, what defines a State archive is the significance and ongoing value of the information in the record, rather than its age. To establish the significance of a record, SRO works closely with State and Local Government organisations to help them identify which records they are creating today that have ongoing value to the community. These records will be retained permanently as State archives and will eventually be transferred to SRO.  

Records with ongoing value need to contain significant cultural, social, legal, community and historical information. The following six attributes are used by SRO to assess the ongoing value of records created in State and Local Government organisations. When the content of State records, in any format, meet one or more of these attributes they are earmarked to be kept permanently, preserved and made accessible as State archives.  

       1.  Authority, Foundation & Structure of Government

Records that show how authority has been established within government and the history of each government agency (covering all state and local governments) This includes state records that explain the business activities of government, such as the nature and amount of authority a government organisation has, its obligations and powers (e.g. making laws; lawful responsibilities; agreements between the government of Western Australia and other governments). 

2. Key decision making and activities

Records that show the discussions, decisions and actions of Western Australian government, that relate to important activities, programs and significant issues faced in governing the State. (e.g. the development and implementation of policy and strategic management decisions across government; the planning and management of major infrastructure or development projects).

3. Evidence of legal status and rights

Records that show the legal status and basic rights and entitlements of individuals and groups essential for ongoing business activities of the State (e.g. registration of births, deaths and marriages; land ownership information, administration of probate).

4. Impact of Government

Records that show the condition and status of Western Australia and its people, the impact of government activities and the interaction of people with the government (e.g. case management where government policies have far-reaching impacts on individuals, significant collections of data to assist effective planning). 

5. Contribution of Natural Resource Management

Records that hold information about the essential aspects of our future well-being and the protection of Western Australians and their environment (e.g. the management of environmental assets, conservation sites, land use, natural disasters, climate and weather patterns). 

6. Contribution of Societal Knowledge

Records that help extend our knowledge and understanding of aspects of the State’s history, society, culture and people (e.g. records that shed light on significant events, phenomena, persons, places or themes in Western Australian history or society).

SRO collects and preserves records with these attributes to ensure future researchers from all areas of interests have access to this significant information, only found in the State Archive Collection.