Recordkeeping FAQ

 This page contains information on common queries received by State Records Office staff.

A Glossary of Terms used in State Records Commission and State Records Office publications is available for download.

If you have an information query that is not covered within this section please feel free to contact the staff of the State Records Office on (08) 9427 3661 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

General Questions

What is the State Records Act?
The State Records Act 2000 outlines the requirements of government for the keeping of State records by government. The Act repeals the recordkeeping provisions in the Library Board of Western Australia Act 1951-1983.

Further details on the State Records Act, and information on other legislation affecting records management in Western Australia, can be found on our Legislative Requirements page.

What are State records?
State records are any record of information (in any form) created, received or maintained by a government agency or parliamentary department in the course of conducting its business activities.

Are State records the same as Public records?
Yes. The term “public record” was used in the Library Board of Western Australia Act 1951-1983 to refer to any record made or received by public officers in the course of their duties. This section of the Library Board Act has now been replaced with the definition of State records in the State Records Act 2000.

What are State archives?
State archives are State records that must be retained permanently. They must be retained within the State Records Office or an approved archival repository.

Electronic records designated as having archival value are to remain in the custody of the agency that created or managed them. These records must be managed in accordance with Public Records Policy No.8.

What are intermediate records?
Intermediate or semi-active records are those with declining current administrative value, that have not yet attained the prescribed age for destruction.

What is the difference between "disposal" and "destruction"?
Disposal refers to the removal of records from an agency once they have reached the inactive phase. Destruction refers to the act of destroying records so that no information is retrievable.

Disposal can take the form of destruction (the physical destruction of records that are no longer of value) or archiving (permanent retention of records that have enduring value).

What are ephemeral records?
Ephemeral records are those with only short-term value to an organisation, as they contain little or no ongoing administrative, fiscal, legal, evidential or historical value. They are usually not incorporated into the agency's recordkeeping system.

Such records may be destroyed once reference ceases, as specified in the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information and the General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records.

What are General Disposal Authorities and how can I obtain them?
General Disposal Authorities (GDA's) are documents developed by the State Records Office which specify how to dispose of particular series of records common to most government agencies. Three GDAs are currently available:

What is a Retention and Disposal Schedule?
A Retention and Disposal Schedule (R&D) is a systematic and comprehensive listing of categories, or series, of records created by an agency that plans the life of those records from creation to ultimate disposition.

R&D's need only be developed for agency-specific records relating to the core activities of a particular agency, as distinct from General Disposal Authorities (GDAs), which apply to records common to most government agencies such as financial records, human resource management records and administrative records.

Under the terms of the State Records Act 2000, State records can only be destroyed or disposed of via an approved disposal authority, such as a R&D which forms part of the Recordkeeping Plan, or under a GDA produced by the State Records Office.

What is the SRAC?
The SRAC (State Records Advisory Committee) is a committee of the State Records Commission, established to make recommendations with regard to the retention or destruction of any State records and any other relevant matters. State records cannot be destroyed without the approval of the State Records Commission.

When should I transfer records to the State Records Office?
The State Records Act 2000 states that Government agencies must transfer archival records to the State Records Office when the records become 25 years old. Archival records may be transferred sooner if not required for current administrative purposes.

Due to a lack of storage space the State Records Office is currently unable to accept transfers of archival records from government agencies. Refer to the Transferring Archival Records to the State Records Office page for more information.

How do I transfer records to the State Records Office?
The State Records Office is currently unable to accept transfers of archival records due to a lack of storage space. Agencies that have identified State archives for transfer should ensure that they are maintained in accordance with the Directions for Keeping State Archives awaiting transfer to the State Archives Collection. 

Can I restrict access to my agency's archives?
Agencies may request to restrict public access to their archival records. If this is desired, the agency must notify the State Archivist and Executive Director State Records in writing, outlining which archives are to be restricted and why. Under the State Records Act 2000, authorisation for such decision-making rests with the State Records Commission.

Any researchers wishing to access restricted archival records will need to obtain written permission from the appropriate agency to do so.

Where can I get advice on how to deal with recordkeeping issues?
The State Records Office is able to provide free advice, via telephone or email, on all aspects of recordkeeping. For complex queries, one-on-one meetings or an on-site consultancy service are available on request.

Further information on the consultancy service can be found on our Recordkeeping Advice And Consultancy page.

 

Electronic Records

What is an electronic record?
An electronic record is any information that is input onto a computer system or any other electronic device, and processed, modified, stored and accessed via that system or device. Electronic records include word processing files, electronic spreadsheets, databases, electronic mail, internet and intranet systems, and imaged documents. They may be held on hard drives, network drives, or external storage media such as CDs or thumb drives. The information within electronic records must be appraised in the same way as paper-based records.

What is metadata?
Metadata is "data about data" - that is, the data that must be captured alongside an electronic record that provides contextual information and supports its management and use. Examples of metadata include: date and time of creation and registration, author, document name, links to records related to the same sequence of business activity, and directory trees.

What is migration and why is it important?
Migration is the conversion of existing data to new hardware, software and/or storage media to maintain its readability. Migration is necessary to preserve the functionality and integrity of electronic records for the entirety of their designated retention period.

What do I do with electronic records of archival value?
Electronic records of archival value must be managed by the agency that created or kept them. This agency is responsible for ensuring that these records are held in secure conditions and that the data is migrated as necessary to maintain readability indefinitely (see previous question). Electronic records of archival value must be managed in accordance with Public Records Policy No.8.

How do I destroy electronic records?
Electronic records should be destroyed either by physical destruction of the storage medium, degaussing, or by using file shredding software. The use of the “delete” function is not sufficient to destroy electronic records as the information may still be recoverable.

The State Records Office Guideline for Sanitizing Digital Media and Devices provides guidance for sanitisation methods prior to disposal of digital media.

What is cloud computing and can it be used within my agency?
The Australasian Digital Records Initiative (ADRI) refers to cloud computing as typically involving “the transfer to or creation of content in data stores which are maintained by the service provider and geographically remote from the customer”. While the State Records Act 2000 does not prohibit the use of such services for recordkeeping, the State Records Office recommends that State organizations intending to engage cloud computing services conduct a full analysis of associated risks. The ADRI document Advice on managing the recordkeeping risks associated with cloud computing contains further information on this issue.

Are Text Messages, sent and received on mobile devices, records?
Yes, just as email and voice mail messages are considered State records, so too are text messages if they relate to the business of government – specifically, those containing information which:

  • is of evidential and/or historical value and is not recorded elsewhere on the corporate record;
  • forms part of formal communications and/or transactions between offices (for example a report or submission) or between an officer and another party; or
  • documents the rationale behind organisation policy, decisions or directives.

Text messages of this nature from mobile or smart phones should be downloaded and captured into the official corporate system or at the very least be transcribed via a file note to the corporate record.  The value of the subject matter will determine the retention period of the record which should be identified in the appropriate General Disposal Authority, Sector Disposal Authority, or organization-specific Retention and Disposal Schedule.

 

General Disposal Authority (GDA) for Source Records

 

What is the GDA for Source Records?
The GDA for Source Records is a continuing authority to enable State and local government organizations to legally destroy source records that have been successfully digitized in accordance with the accompanying Digitization Specification.

When should I scan in colour?

An original record (the source record) which contains a colour element must be scanned in colour if:

  • The colour element is essential to understanding or comprehending the information on the record; or
  • The colour element is essential for the reproduction to meet the required degree of authenticity, integrity, reliability or usability of the record to properly substitute for the original record.
    OR
  • The record is or is likely to become an archival (permanent) record or needs to be kept for more than 10 years.

An original record (the source record) which contains a colour element does not need to be scanned in colour if:

  • The colour element is not essential to understanding or comprehending the information on the record; or
  • The colour element is not essential for the reproduction to meet the required degree of authenticity, integrity, reliability or usability of the record to properly substitute for the original record.
    AND
  • The record is or is likely to become a temporary record that needs to be kept for less than 10 years.

A colour element can include, but is not limited to:

  • The colour used in the text or graphics in the document;
  • The background colour of the paper;
  • The colour of a heading or logo;
  • The pen colour used in handwritten notes or text on the document;
  • The colour of stamps such as ‘copy’ or ‘received’.

Can I undertake retrospective scanning?

Retrospective or backscanning exercises may be undertaken, however any source records falling outside the scope of the GDA for Source Records cannot be destroyed without authorisation from the State Records Commission. A cost benefit exercise should be undertaken to determine the cost of preparing, scanning and capturing the scanned file into an EDRMS or business information system, and to maintaining links with original control documentation such as indexes and registers. Consideration should be given to whether the material is physically capable of being scanned and the methodology and equipment that is to be used.

What is pdf/a?
As identified in the GDA for Source Records, pdf/a is the internationally accepted pdf format for long term retention of records.  More information about pdf/a is available from the PDF/A Competency Centre.  Pdf/a is a recommended master file format for records with a minimum retention period longer than two years.

What version of pdf/a should I use?
IT departments and imaging providers should be consulted to determine which is the most appropriate version for the organisation.  Pdf/a – 1a requires full compliance with the standard, and includes compulsory metadata elements, and may be best used for records which have a longer retention period.  Pdf/a – 1b ensures minimal compliance with the standard.

How should I manage annotations or alterations to scanned files?
It should be remembered that the pdf/a scanned file is the master version and should be registered or captured in the EDRMS or business information system.  A copy of the scanned file may be created for agency staff to view, and will be regarded as a duplicate record.  An augmented pdf/a file (ie where the image has been annotated or altered in any way) would become a ‘born digital’ file which should be captured in accordance with the organisation’s digital recordkeeping procedures.

What standards are in place for digitization?
The following International Standards may be of interest to organizations implementing a records digitization program:

  • ISO 12653-1: 2000 - Electronic imaging - Test target for the black-and-white scanning of office documents - Part 1: Characteristics
  • ISO 12653-2: 2000 - Electronic imaging - Test target for the black-and-white scanning of office documents - Part 2: Method of use
  • ISO 29861: 2009 - Document management applications - Quality control for scanning office documents in colour
  • ISO/TR 15801: 2004 - Electronic Imaging – information stored electronically – recommendations for trustworthiness and reliability
  • ISO/TR 13028: 2010 - Information and Documentation – Implementation guidelines for digitization of records

These Standards are available to purchase from the SAI Global website. NB: Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of standards that may be relevant to digitization projects.

 

Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils

What is Keyword AAA?
Keyword AAA, produced by State Records New South Wales, is a thesaurus of general terms designed for classifying, titling and indexing most types of administrative records. It should be used in conjunction with an agency's unique functional terms. It is used by a wide range of State government agencies and private organisations throughout Western Australia.

What is Keyword for Councils?
Keyword for Councils, produced by State Records New South Wales, is a thesaurus of terms related to local government functions. It is designed to enable the classification, titling and indexing of records created by local government organisations.

Is it compulsory to use Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils?
It is not compulsory for WA State or local government organisations to implement the Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils products.

How can I obtain a copy of Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils?
The State Records Office has entered into an agreement with State Records New South Wales to act as distributor for Keyword AAA to Western Australian State and local government agencies. Evaluation packages for both products are available on request. For any queries regarding purchase, please contact the Keyword AAA Administrator on (08) 9427 3666 or sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

 

General Disposal Authority for State Government Information

Can I still continue to use the GDAs for Administrative Records, Human Resources Management Records and Financial and Accounting Records?

No. The GDA for State Government Information supersedes, replaces and amalgamates into one document the previous general disposal authorities referred to above. These previous GDAs can no longer be used to sentence State records.

State government organizations are to sentence and dispose of their records in accordance with the GDA for State Government Information in combination with their agency-specific Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority (as applicable).

How different is the new GDA for State Government Information from the previous general disposal authorities?

The financial and accounting records component remains largely unchanged.

Some parts of the human resource management records component have been updated. For example, the retention for most personal files (excluding those identified for permanent retention as State archives) has been increased from 71 years to 75 years from the employee’s date of birth to reflect the general trend for employees to remain in the workplace for longer.

The administrative records component has been significantly updated and now has much broader coverage compared to the previous general disposal authority.

How can I check what has changed from previous general disposal authorities when using the GDA for State Government Information?

The State Records Office has made available a Linking Table that links entries from the previous general disposal authorities to corresponding entries in the new GDA and identifies any changes in the retention or disposal for such records.

This Linking Table is provided as a guide only. As some record descriptions in the new GDA have been significantly updated, agencies must consider the new categories and their descriptions when applying the GDA to ensure there is an appropriate ‘fit’ with their own records.

How do I apply the GDA for State Government Information?

An agency’s records need not have exactly the same ‘title’ as an activity or records category listed in the GDA.  To use the GDA, it is a matter of the scope and content of the agency record equating to an activity or record category in the GDA for the retention and disposal of that category to be applied.

Agencies can use the GDA for sentencing and disposing of records without further recourse to the State Records Office unless clarification or further advice is required. 

Does the GDA for State Government Information apply to functional records as well as administrative records?

Yes. The new GDA can be used for both the functional and administrative records of the agency, as long as there is appropriate alignment between GDA entries and the agency’s records.

Where an agency’s records are covered by the new GDA, agencies should generally not repeat such entries in their own Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority (i.e. when developing or revising these documents).  When developing a new - or revising an existing - Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority, agencies should ensure these documents focus on their core-business records not covered by the GDA (i.e. focus on the records unique to the functions / activities of the agency or sector in which they operate).

In some instances, the GDA may use terms which are part of the agency’s core business.  In such situations, agencies must ensure these core business terms / records are included in their own agency-specific Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority.

For further advice on using and applying the GDA for State Government Information, please contact the State Records Office on (08) 9427 3664 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

 

Online Retention and Disposal Application (ORDA)

What is ORDA?

ORDA is a web-enabled system that enables government agency staff, and records consultants engaged by State agencies, to draft and submit Retention and Disposal Schedules (and other disposal authorities) to the State Records Office securely online.

State Records Office staff will review agency schedules via ORDA once they have been submitted and make any comments about the schedule directly via the system.  The system clearly tags where comments have been made so that agency staff can then respond directly to the matters identified (e.g. by providing further information about the records covered in the schedule, or other matters as requested).

The full workflow for a disposal authority – from initial preparation through to final approval from the State Records Commission – is managed by ORDA.  The system also provides for import and export options, such as allowing a schedule to be exported in the traditional Word document format.

Why has ORDA been developed?

The State Records Office developed ORDA to integrate all processes associated with the preparation and submission of Retention and Disposal Schedules, as well as their ongoing management (e.g. tracking, reporting, etc.) at the State Records Office. The development of this system marks a shift away from submission of Retention and Disposal Schedules and other disposal authorities to the State Records Office in hardcopy.

The reasons ORDA has been developed comprise:

  • to streamline processes associated with the drafting and submission of Retention and Disposal Schedules to the State Records Office;
  • to allow the review/feedback of Retention and Disposal Schedules between clients and the State Records Office to happen via the web application, while still allowing discussion through meetings, on-site appraisal, etc.;
  • to allow the information across a range of Retention and Disposal Schedules to be used globally by the State Records Office for reporting, analytical and other business purposes;
  • ultimately, to integrate records appraisal criteria and restricted access (archives) criteria into the application for client ease-of-use and to also ensure such decisions are benchmarked against over-arching frameworks;
  • to provide a dedicated system that is fit-for-purpose and that allows central control of registration, workflow, version control and other internal management purposes.

As ORDA provides a central database of government records retention and disposal decisions, the application provides capability to search for existing precedents as the system becomes populated with disposal authorities. This is intended to support the consistency of decision-making when individual Retention and Disposal Schedules are being drafted.

Who can use ORDA?

ORDA is available for records / information management officers within State government, as well as records consultants engaged by State government agencies, as they develop or revise their agency’s Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority.

How do I use ORDA?

It is a mandatory requirement that State government agencies use ORDA when:

  • Developing a new Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority;
  • Significantly revising their existing Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority.

When an agency is making minor revisions to their schedule (e.g. updating or adding a limited number of new entries) this will typically be progressed as an amendment to the existing schedule, rather than a new schedule in itself.  In such situations, it may not be necessary to use ORDA if it is more efficient to address the amendments via a traditional Word document.  The State Records Office can advise further on such matters upon request.

Whenever an agency is contemplating a new disposal authority, or changes to an existing disposal authority, the State Records Office should be contacted in the first instance to discuss the preferred approach.  When ORDA is being used, the State Records Office will register your access from the outset so that you can start preparing your disposal authority directly via the system.

For further information about ORDA, please refer to the User’s Guide or contact the State Records Office on (08) 9427 3664 or via email at sro@sro.wa.gov.au.

 

 

Last updated 6 April 2017