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Attorney General's Guidelines

Purpose

These guidelines are issued by the Attorney General in accordance with section 52(3) of the State Records Act 1998 (the Act). The purpose of the guidelines is to assist public offices (as defined in section 3 of the Act) in meeting their responsibility to make access directions under the Act.

All public offices should refer to these guidelines when deciding whether to open or close records to public access (this includes deciding whether records at least 30 years old should be open or closed to public access under section 51, and considering whether earlier public access to records less than 30 years old may be authorised under section 57). The guidelines set out the matters that must be taken into account when making any decision.

Contents of Guidelines

Scope of the Guidelines

Public offices must have regard to the guidelines when deciding whether to open or close records to public access. The guidelines do not, however, limit the grounds on which a public office can open or close records to public access under the Act (s. 52(4)).

The guidelines apply both to records in the custody of a public office and to records in the custody of the State Records Authority of New South Wales ('State Records'). They apply regardless of whether the records are to be retained indefinitely as State archives, are to be retained for an identified finite period, or are yet to be appraised for retention requirements.

The focus of the guidelines is the matters to be taken into account when considering whether records should be open or closed to public access. The guidelines do not cover procedures for making access directions and notifying State Records. These are detailed in the Procedures for making access directions (Revised 2004).

Principles of Public access

Public access to the records of Government is a fundamental right in a democratic society. The State Records Act 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.

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