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Keyword AAA

Overview | Components of Keyword AAA | Purchasing Keyword AAA | Who uses Keyword AAA


In 1995, the Archives Authority (now State Records) released Keyword AAA, a keyword thesaurus of general terms based on the keyword classification method. It covers terminology common to most organisations. This includes terms derived from common functions and activities, such as PERSONNEL and FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT.

It is important to note that Keyword AAA is not designed to cover all of the records of an organisation. It should be used in conjunction with a thesaurus of functional terms developed by the organisation or by a consultant. A thesaurus of functional terms covers terminology relating to the organisation's unique or core business functions and activities. Keyword AAA and the thesaurus of functional terms are merged to provide comprehensive controlled vocabulary coverage.

More information

More information on this process is available in State Records' Guideline 15 - Developing and implementing a keyword thesaurus.

Components of Keyword AAA

Keywords | Activity descriptors | Subject descriptors | Free text | Scope notes | Broader terms (BT) | Narrower terms (NT) | Non-preferred terms | Related terms (RT) | Permitted acronyms and abbreviations | Parenthetical qualifiers | SEE reference | Use reference


Keywords (KW) represent the functions of an organisation. Keywords are identified in hard copy versions of Keyword AAA in large UPPER CASE with the word keyword at the end of the term line. A scope note and narrower terms are listed below each entry. Keywords must always be the first element in a file title.

Activity descriptors

Activity descriptors are identified in hard copy versions of Keyword AAA by UPPER CASE with the word activity descriptor at the end of the term line. They appear as narrower terms of keywords and broader terms of subject descriptors in the software. The activity descriptor reflects the activities performed within the function that is represented by the keyword.

A keyword is followed by one activity descriptor (AD). Only keywords and activity descriptors that are linked in the thesaurus and Classification Guide should be used together.

Subject descriptors

Subject descriptors are identified in hard copy versions of Keyword AAA by Mixed Lower Case with the words subject descriptor at the end of the term line. Subject descriptors are narrower terms of activity descriptors and further define the subject content of the activities.

Terms that describe the subject of the activity descriptor are listed in the Classification Guide. They are also included in the alphabetical listing in the body of the thesaurus.

The subject descriptors listed are the ones most likely to be associated with activity descriptors they are linked to. However, subject descriptors can be free floating, that is, they can be used with any activity descriptor deemed appropriate, not just those they are linked to. In addition, more than one subject descriptor can be added to a file title if desired.

The subject descriptors listed are not comprehensive and are offered as a guide only. Adding all subjects that could be contemplated in government, and all their non preferred terms, would make the thesaurus too large to be useable. If subject descriptors are insufficient, organisations might consider adding their own subject descriptors, or free text may be used additionally or alternatively as is appropriate.

Free text

Free text terms are not listed in the thesaurus. Free text cannot be used to replace either keywords or activity descriptors. However, it can be used instead of or in addition to subject descriptors. Generally, free text includes names, words, actions or dates.

Free text it should ideally be short and concise. It is often these elements that people will recall when they wish to search for a file so choose terms that will aid retrieval.

Administrators should consider whether their agencies require additional terms to be added to their merged thesauri at the subject descriptor level to prevent staff assigning inadequate free text terms that may adversely affect retrieval.

Scope notes

Scope notes provide unique definitions of terms and directions on how to use them. They provide a consistent approach and discourage personal interpretations of the same term by different people across the organisation.

Broader terms (BT)

Broader terms are concepts having wider meanings. In Keyword AAA, keywords are broader terms than activity descriptors, and activity descriptors are broader terms than subject descriptors.

Narrower terms (NT)

Narrower terms are concepts having more specific meanings. Narrower terms break down a broader concept to more specific aspects of that concept. In Keyword AAA activity descriptors are narrower terms to keywords and subject descriptors are narrower terms to activity descriptors.

Keywords and activity descriptors have a scope note and narrower terms listed below each entry.

Non-preferred terms

Non-preferred terms are identified in the hard copy of Keyword AAA by italics (except when listed under a term) with the word non-preferred term at the end of the term line. They are synonyms replaced by authorised or preferred terms. The USE reference indicates the preferred term. Non-preferred terms were formerly called forbidden terms.

Related terms (RT)

Related terms bear a close relationship in meaning to the other terms. Related subject descriptors may be used additionally to subject descriptors already selected. Alternatively, the scope notes of related terms may be read to see if they are a more accurate keyword or descriptor to use.

Permitted acronyms and abbreviations

Acronyms are pronounceable names made from a series of initial letters or parts of words. For example, UNESCO is the acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Abbreviations are shortened or contracted words such as NSW for New South Wales.

In Keyword AAA acronyms and abbreviations are generally non-preferred terms.The full term should be used. This is because acronyms and abbreviations change at a rapid pace. More importantly their meaning is obscured to all but those 'in the know.' They can be alienating for those not aware of their meaning and may ultimately be meaningless in reflecting the content and context of the record in the file title.

In cases where the acronym or abbreviation has become widely recognised, for example LAN or WAN, the acronym may be used. These are identified in the thesaurus with permitted acronym at the end of the scope note. When an acronym is not permitted, it may be added to the end of the full version of the term (in brackets) to facilitate searching.

Parenthetical qualifiers

Parenthetical qualifiers are used to qualify or specify the context of an entry in order to remove ambiguity. In the case of homographs (example below) only one term is a preferred term, the other(s) are non-preferred terms, distinguished by the USE reference directing the user to a preferred term.

SEE reference

In Keyword AAA, several terms have the word 'SEE' written at the end of the term line. These terms are to direct users to other terms in the thesaurus or to sources outside the scope of the thesaurus.

Use reference

In Keyword AAA the Use reference is there to direct a user from a non-preferred term to an authorised term (keyword, activity descriptor or subject descriptor).

Purchasing Keyword AAA

License details | Whole of government arrangements

To obtain information about licensing costs and details regarding purchase, please contact State Records on (02) 8257 2900 or email the Administrative Officer at

Once you have been advised of the relevant licence fee, please download and complete the Licence Agreement and Ordering Form (PDF, 142 kb) and post or email back to State Records at

Organisations from outside Australia wishing to purchase Keyword AAA should contact State Records.

License details

Keyword AAA is sold through an organisation-wide licence. A perpetual licence permits the licensee to use the thesaurus throughout the organisation, making as many copies as are necessary in hard copy or electronic form, adapting it for use with records management software and making it available over a computer network, as desired.

The Keyword AAA licence agreement entitles the user to 2 electronic copies of Keyword AAA, one copy in Word format and the second copy in a format of their choice. Formats to chose from include:

aka rtf
CSV Comma delimited Tab delimited
Objective Term Tree
One-to-One TRIM
RecFind Word

Whole of government arrangements

There are a number of whole of government arrangements which provide easy access to Keyword AAA. If your agency is in another state, territory, or the Commonwealth Government, please contact the archives/records authority in your state or territory:

Australian Government agencies National Archives of Australia at
Queensland Government agencies Queensland State Archives at
Western Australian Government agencies State Records Office of Western Australia at
Northern Territory Government agencies Northern Territory Archives Service at
South Australian Government agencies State Records South Australia at

Who uses Keyword AAA

New South Wales Government | Queensland Government | Tasmanian Government | Northern Territory Government | South Australian Government | Western Australian Government | ACT Government | Victorian Government | Australian Government | Other Organisations | Universities

Organisations that use Keyword AAA include:

New South Wales Government

  • Aboriginal Affairs NSW
  • Aboriginal Housing Office
  • Ageing, Disability and Home Care
  • Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation
  • Ambulance Service of NSW
  • Anti Discrimination Board of NSW
  • Art Gallery of NSW
  • Attorney General's Department
  • AusGrid
  • Australian Museum
  • Bankstown City Council
  • Bicentennial Park Trust
  • Broken Hill Water Board
  • Cancer Institute of NSW
  • Centennial and Moore Park Trust
  • Central Coast Local Health District
  • Central Coast Regional Development Corporation
  • Coal Services Pty Ltd
  • Cobbora Holding Company
  • Commission for Children and Young People
  • Community Relations Commission
  • Community Services
  • Community Services Commission
  • Corrective Services NSW
  • Crown Solicitor's Office
  • Delta Electricity
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Finance and Services
  • Department of Planning
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Primary Industries
  • Department of Trade & Investment
  • Destination NSW
  • Dust Diseases Board
  • Endeavour Energy
  • Essential Energy
  • Far West Local Health District
  • Fire and Rescue NSW
  • Forests NSW
  • Gosford City Council
  • Health Care Complaints Commission
  • Health Support Services
  • Housing NSW
  • Heritage Office
  • Historic Houses Trust of NSW
  • Hunter New England Local Health District
  • Hunter Water Corporation
  • Illawarra Shoalhaven Local Health District
  • Independent Commission Against Corruption
  • Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal
  • Independent Transport Safety and Reliability Regulator
  • Information and Privacy Commission
  • Juvenile Justice NSW
  • Land and Property Information
  • Landcom
  • Legal Aid NSW
  • Local Government Division
  • Long Service Payments Corporation
  • Macquarie Generation
  • Medical Board of NSW
  • Mid North Coast Local Health District
  • Mine Subsidence Board
  • Ministry for Police
  • Ministry of Health
  • Motor Accidents Authority of NSW
  • Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District
  • Newcastle Port Corporation
  • NSW Aboriginal Land Council
  • NSW Cancer Council
  • NSW Crime Commission
  • NSW Food Authority
  • NSW Office for Science and Medical Research
  • NSW Ombudsman's Office
  • NSW Police Force
  • NSW Rural Assistance Authority
  • NSW Rural Fire Service
  • NSW Treasury
  • Northern NSW Local Health District
  • Northern Sydney Local Health District
  • Office of Children's Guardian
  • Office of Communities
  • Office of Environment and Climate Change
  • Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing
  • Office of State Revenue
  • Office of the Board of Studies
  • Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Office of the Protective Commissioner and Public Guardian
  • Parliamentary Counsel's Office
  • Parliament of NSW
  • Port Kembla Port Corporation
  • Powerhouse Museum
  • RailCorp
  • Randwick City Council
  • Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages
  • Roads and Maritime Services
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • South Eastern Local Health District
  • South Western Sydney Local Health District
  • State Emergency Service
  • State Library of NSW
  • State Property Authority
  • State Transit Authority
  • State Water Corporation
  • Superannuation Administration Authority
  • Sydney Catchment Authority
  • Sydney Cricket and Sports Ground Trust
  • Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority
  • Sydney Local Health District
  • Sydney Olympic Park Authority
  • Sydney Opera House Trust
  • Sydney Ports Corporation
  • Sydney Water
  • TAFE Commission
  • Taronga Conservation Society
  • Teacher Housing Authority of NSW
  • The Audit Office of NSW
  • Transgrid
  • Transport for NSW
  • Trustee and Guardian NSW
  • Western NSW Local Health District
  • Western Sydney Local Health District
  • Wollongong City Council
  • Women NSW
  • WorkCover Authority of NSW
  • Workers Compensation Commission

Queensland Government

  • Whole of Government licence
  • Administrative Services Department
  • Brisbane City Council
  • Department of Employment, Training and Industrial Relations
  • Department of Equity and Fair Trading
  • Department of Families, Youth and Community Care
  • Department of Housing
  • Department of Mines and Energy
  • Department of the Premier, Economic and Trade Development
  • Department of Tourism, Small Business and Industry
  • Education Queensland
  • Environmental Protection Authority
  • Gold Coast City Council
  • Princess Alexandra Hospital
  • Queensland Audit Office
  • Queensland Emergency Services
  • Queensland Health
  • Queensland Police Service
  • Queensland Purchasing and Services
  • Queensland Rail
  • Queensland State Archives
  • Queensland Treasury

Tasmanian Government

  • Break O'Day Council
  • Department of Community and Health Services
  • Department of Education, Community and Cultural Development
  • Department of Environment and Land Management
  • Department of Justice, Tasmania
  • Department of Police and Public Safety
  • Department of Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Primary Industry and Fisheries
  • Department of Transport
  • Department of Treasury and Finance
  • Forestry Tasmania
  • Hobart Regional Water Board
  • Hydro Tasmania
  • Launceston City Council
  • Marine and Safety Tasmania
  • Metro Tasmania
  • Office of Energy, Planning & Conservation
  • Retirement Benefits Fund Board
  • TAFE Tasmania
  • Tasmania Development and Resources
  • Tasmanian Audit Office
  • Tourism Tasmania

Northern Territory Government

  • Whole of Government licence
  • Northern Land Council

South Australian Government

  • Whole of Government licence
  • Lotteries Commission of South Australia

Western Australian Government

  • Albany Port Authority
  • Alinta Gas
  • Animal Resources Authority
  • Art Gallery of WA
  • Botantic Gardens and Parks Authority
  • Broome Port Authority
  • Builders Registration Board
  • Bunbury Port Authority
  • Central Institute of Technology
  • City of Albany
  • City of Wanneroo
  • Commissioner for Children and Young People
  • Corruption and Crime Commission
  • Curriculum Council
  • Curtin University
  • Department of Agriculture and Food
  • Department for Child Protection
  • Department of Commerce
  • Department of Communities
  • Department for Corrective Services
  • Department of Culture and the Arts
  • Department of Education
  • Department of Environment and Conservation
  • Department of Finance
  • Department of Fisheries
  • Department of Health
  • Department of Health - Health and Disability Complaints Services Office
  • Department of Housing
  • Department of Indigenous Affairs
  • Department of Local Government
  • Department of Mines and Petroleum
  • Department of Planning
  • Department of Sport and Recreation
  • Department of State Development
  • Department of the Attorney General
  • Department of the Premier and Cabinet
  • Department of Training and Workforce Development
  • Department of Transport
  • Department of Treasury
  • Department of Water
  • Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Disability Services Commission
  • East Perth Redevelopment Authority
  • Economic Regulation Authority
  • Edith Cowan University
  • Equal Opportunity Commission
  • Esperance Port Authority
  • Fire and Emergency Services Authority
  • Forest Products Commission
  • Fremantle Port Authority
  • Fremantle Hospital and Health Services
  • Geraldton Port Authority
  • Gold Corporation
  • Government Employees Superannuation Board
  • Great Southern Development Commission
  • Great Southern Institute of Technology
  • Health and Disability Services Complaints Office
  • Healthway
  • Hedland College
  • Heritage Council of Western Australia
  • Horizon Power
  • Insurance Commission of WA
  • Kimberley Development Commission
  • LandCorp
  • Legal Aid WA
  • Legal Practice Board
  • Lotteries Commission of WA
  • Main Roads WA
  • Metropolitan Cemeteries Board
  • Metropolitan Health Service
  • National Trust
  • Nurses and Midwives Board of WA
  • Office of Citizenship & Multicultural Interests
  • Office of Energy
  • Office of Racing, Gaming & Liquor
  • Office of Seniors and Carers Interests
  • Office of the Auditor General
  • Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
  • Office of the Information Commissioner
  • Office of the Inspector of Custodial Services
  • Parliament of WA
  • PathCentre Laboratory Medicine WA
  • Peel Development Commission
  • Perth Zoo
  • Pilbara Development Commission
  • Pilbara Institute
  • Port Hedland Port Authority
  • Public Sector Standards Commission
  • Public Transport Authority
  • Rottnest Island Authority
  • Royal Perth Hospital
  • Screenwest
  • Shire of Dandanup
  • Shire of Harvey
  • Small Business Development Corporation
  • South West Area Health Service
  • South West Development Commission
  • South West Regional College of TAFE
  • State Library of Western Australia
  • State Solicitor's Office
  • State Supply Commission
  • Swan TAFE
  • Synergy
  • Valuer General's Office
  • Veterinary Surgeons' Board
  • WA College of Teaching
  • WA Electoral Commission
  • WA Industrial Relations Commission
  • WA Tourism Commission
  • WA Treasury Corporation
  • Water Corporation
  • West Coast Institute of Training
  • Western Australia Police
  • Western Australian Land Information Authority
  • Western Australian Museum
  • Western Power Corporation
  • Wheatbelt Development Commission
  • Womens Policy Development Office
  • Workcover

ACT Government

  • Whole of Government licence

Victorian Government

  • Accident Compensation Conciliation Service
  • Bass Coast Shire Council
  • Building Commission
  • Central Gippsland Institute of TAFE
  • Central Highlands Water
  • Chisholm Institute of TAFE
  • Country Fire Authority
  • Department for Communities
  • Department of Business and Innovation
  • Department of Education and Training
  • Department of Human Services
  • Department of Infrastructure
  • Department of Justice
  • Department of Natural Resources and Environment
  • Department of Premiers and Cabinet
  • Department of Primary Industries
  • Environment Protection Authority
  • Legal Services Board
  • Melbourne Docklands
  • Melbourne Port Corporation
  • Metropolitan Fire and Emergency Services Board
  • Museum of Victoria
  • National Gallery of Victoria
  • Parks Victoria
  • Public Record Office Victoria
  • State Revenue Office of Victoria
  • Victorian Auditor-General's Office
  • Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority

Australian Government

  • Whole of Government licence
  • Airservices Australia
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Australian Communications Authority
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Civil Aviation Safety Authority
  • Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service
  • DAS
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Department of Health and Family Services
  • Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs
  • Department of Primary Industries and Energy
  • Department of Veterans' Affairs
  • Federal Court of Australia
  • National Archives of Australia
  • National Gallery of Australia
  • National Native Title Tribunal
  • Reserve Bank of Australia
  • SBS

Other Organisations

  • Activ Foundation Inc
  • Agresearch New Zealand
  • Amana Living Incorporate
  • Anglicare South Australia
  • Anglicare Victoria
  • Archdiocese of Adelaide
  • Archives New Zealand
  • Archives Quebec
  • Associated Engineering (Canada)
  • Association of Independent Schools of NSW
  • ATCO Electric (Canada)
  • Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth
  • Australian Rugby Union Ltd
  • Barrick Gold of Australia
  • Bermuda Archives
  • BHP Billiton Iron Ore
  • Blue Care
  • Bobby Goldsmith Foundation
  • BP Refinery (Kwinana)
  • Capital Health (Canada)
  • Capricorn Society Ltd
  • Care Options Incorporated
  • Catholic Education Office - Diocese of Parramatta
  • Catholic Education Office - Lismore
  • Catholic Education Office - Melbourne
  • Catholic Education Office - Western Australia
  • Catholic Education Office - Wollongong
  • Catholic Schools Office - Diocese of Broken Bay
  • Caval Ltd
  • Cedar Woods Properties Ltd
  • Cenitex
  • Centacare
  • Central Australian Aboriginal Congress
  • Children, Youth and Social Services Cluster, Government of Ontario (Canada)
  • City of Ottawa (Canada)
  • City of Spruce Grove (Canada)
  • City of Toronto (Canada)
  • Comalco Research Centre
  • CommunityWest Incorporated
  • ConocoPhillips Australia Pty Ltd
  • Corrs Chambers Westgarth
  • Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities
  • Cromwell Corporation
  • Defence Science Technology Laboratory (UK)
  • Limited
  • Electoral Commission (UK)
  • Environment Canada
  • Ernst and Young Services
  • European Investment Bank
  • Fisheries New Zealand
  • Fortescue Metals Group
  • Gallery Gold Limited
  • Grace Christian School
  • Hastings Deering Pty Ltd
  • Health Canada
  • HM Customs & Excise (United Kingdom)
  • Houses of Parliament (Ireland)
  • Houses of Parliament (United Kingdom)
  • IdentityWA
  • Illawarra Retirement Trust
  • Indian & Northern Affairs Canada
  • Indigenous Wellbeing Centre
  • Information Commissioner's Office (United Kingdom)
  • Information Privacy and Archives Division, Ontario Government (Canada)
  • Ingeus Ltd
  • Inland Revenue Department (New Zealand)
  • Interact Australia
  • Intercollege (Cyprus)
  • IT/Net (Canada)
  • Justice I&IT Cluster, Ontario Government (Canada)
  • Kings College London (United Kingdom)
  • London Metropolitan Police Service (United Kingdom)
  • Loy Yang Power Management Pty Ltd
  • Malta Information Technology Agency (Malta)
  • Malta Maritime Authority (Malta)
  • Mercy Family Centre
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (New Zealand)
  • Ministry of Environment, Ontario Government (Canada)
  • Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Ontario Government (Canada)
  • Ministry of Revenue, Ontario Government (Canada)
  • Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto (Canada)
  • National Archives (United Kingdom)
  • National Archives of Ireland
  • National Round Table of the Environment and the Economy (Canada)
  • National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Australia Inc.
  • National Trust (United Kingdom)
  • New Zealand Customs Service
  • Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (Canada)
  • NSW Native Title Services
  • Nulsen Haven Association
  • Origin Energy
  • Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre
  • Pipers Brook Vineyard
  • PriceWaterhouse Coopers Services Pty Ltd
  • Public Health Agency of Canada
  • Public Interest Advocacy Centre Ltd
  • Public Security and Emergency Preparedness (Canada)
  • Public Works and Government Services, Canada (Canada)
  • Queensland Nickel Pty
  • Queensland Teachers' Union
  • Red Deer College (Canada)
  • Royal District Nursing Service
  • Rural Health West
  • Secretariat of the Pacific Community
  • Shell Development (Australia)
  • Silver Chain Nursing Association
  • Singapore Polytechnic
  • Southern Cross Care (WA) Inc.
  • Standards Australia
  • State School Teachers Union of Western Australia
  • Sumitomo Australia Pty Ltd
  • Syncrude Canada
  • Temasek Polytechnic
  • The Benevolent Society
  • The Centre for Cerebral Palsy
  • The Fred Hollows Foundation
  • The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners
  • TiWest Joint Venture
  • Transurban Limited
  • Treasury Solicitors Department (United Kingdom)
  • Trustees of the Christian Brothers
  • United Nations World Food Programme
  • UnitingCare Community Queensland
  • UnitingCare Port Adelaide
  • UnitingCare Wesley Adelaide
  • UnitingCare West
  • Westralia Airports Corporation
  • Wintershall Aktiengesellschaft (Germany)
  • Wisconsin Public Power Inc (US)
  • Woodside Energy
  • Whole of Government licence with the Province of Alberta, Canada
  • Zurich Australia Insurance Group


  • Charles Sturt University
  • Curtin University
  • Deakin University
  • Edith Cowen University
  • La Trobe University
  • Macquarie University
  • Monash University
  • Southern Cross University
  • The University of Sydney
  • University College Dublin
  • University of Alberta
  • University of New England
  • University of New South Wales
  • University of Tasmania
  • University of the South Pacific
  • University of the Sunshine Coast
  • University of Western Australia
  • University of Western Sydney
  • Victoria University of Technology