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Access regulation

Overview

Public access to the records of Government is a fundamental right in a democratic society. The State Records Act 1998 promotes the principles of accountability and access by providing for the creation, management and protection of State records and for public access to those records. The underlying principle is that all records of continuing value will be publicly available in due course.

Part 6 of the State Records Act creates a framework for regulating public access to State records which have been in existence for at least 30 years (the 'open access period'). The 30 year period has been determined on the basis that most records no longer affect significant interests or are considered sensitive after this time has passed. There is presumption that most records will be open after 30 years.

Public offices are required to make an access direction (to determine whether the records are open or closed to public access) for all their records which are in the open access period. An access direction is a direction that a series, group or class of records is open to public access ('OPA') or closed to public access ('CPA').

Guidelines for making access directions

The Attorney General has issued revised guidelines on making access directions, as provided by s. 52(3) of the State Records Act. The guidelines cover matters to be taken into account when considering whether State records at least 30 years old should be open or closed to public access.

The revised guidelines reflect recent amendments to the Act and other relevant legislative changes, and clarify the relationship between the Act and other legislation affecting public access to State records.

Procedures for making access directions

State Records has developed some practical procedures to assist public offices through the process of making directions. They form part of the Government Recordkeeping Manual.

Register of Access Directions

State Records maintains a register of access directions made by public offices. The register includes the reason(s) that records have been made subject to 'closed to public' access directions.