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Recordkeeping In Brief 48 - Disposal at a glance

Generally, public offices may not dispose of State records or transfer their ownership without the permission or approval of State Records. The State Records Act 1998 creates a statutory framework for authorising the disposal of State records and for deciding which records will be retained as State archives.

What is disposal?

Disposal is a range of processes associated with implementing disposal decisions. It can include destruction of records, retention as State archives or transfer to private ownership.

How is the disposal of records authorised?

Disposal is usually authorised through approved retention and disposal authorities issued by State Records following their approval by the State Records' Board. A retention and disposal authority is a formal instrument that identifies an organisation's records, how long they have to be retained and whether they can eventually be destroyed or retained as State archives. There are two types of disposal authorities:

  • general retention and disposal authorities. These cover records common to more than one organisation, such as administrative, personnel or financial. They can also cover unique functions of like organisations such as local councils, universities and public health services
  • functional retention and disposal authorities cover records relating to unique or specific functions of an organisation.

The 'normal administrative practice' provisions of the State Records Act 1998 allow disposal of some classes of facilitative and duplicate records. Please see Guideline 8 Normal administrative practice for more information.

What are the penalties for unauthorised disposal of State records?

The State Records Act 1998 prohibits the unauthorised disposal of State records, and imposes a penalty of 50 penalty units (currently $5500) for breaches of disposal regulations.

Why is disposal necessary?

The benefits of developing and implementing retention and disposal authorities include:

  • effective management of records, as an organisation knows what records are created and maintained and how long they have to be kept
  • disposal of records is authorised and risks relating to inappropriate retention and destruction of records are minimised
  • records of continuing value are identified and protected
  • storage / retrieval costs are reduced and available storage space is utilised more efficiently.

Developing a functional retention and disposal authority

The recent Premier's Memorandum, M2007-08 Efficient and Cost Effective Management of Records requires all agencies to develop disposal authorities by 2009-2010. If your organisation does not have a functional retention and disposal authority for records documenting its unique business, then you need to develop one to ensure that records are disposed of appropriately. Disposal authorities may be developed in-house or by consultants. For more information on developing a functional retention and disposal authority and getting it approved, please see Procedures for disposal authorisation.

Disposal authorities need to be reviewed regularly so that they reflect current retention requirements and any recent administrative or business changes. If your disposal authority is more than 10 years old, please contact State Records to ensure that it can still be used.

Implementing a disposal authority

Once your organisation has an approved functional retention and disposal authority, it should be implemented, along with the general retention and disposal authorities. This includes:

  • incorporating retention and disposal decisions into business and recordkeeping systems
  • sentencing records
  • disposing of records in a routine and regular manner
  • transferring records identified as State archives and no longer in official use to State Records' control. State archives are State records of continuing value that have been selected for permanent retention.

For more information on implementing disposal authorities please see:

State Records also provides training on implementing disposal authorities and transferring records. Please see the training calendar.

© State of New South Wales through the State Records Authority, 2008.
First published 2008
This work may be freely reproduced and distributed for most purposes, however some restrictions apply.
ISSN 1440-3978