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Disposing of records

A key component of the efficient and effective management of records by an organisation is to know how long the records they generate should be retained and when they should be disposed of.

Overview | Disposal alerts | Further advice


Disposal is the process by which records of NSW public sector organisations are either destroyed, retained as State archives or, in certain specific cases, transferred from NSW Government ownership to private or other ownership.

Part 3 of the State Records Act 1998 prohibits the disposal of records created and maintained by NSW public sector organisations except where it is authorised. Under the Act, State Records, through the State Records Board, can give permission for the disposal of records.

The usual means by which permission is given by State Records is through the approval and issue of functional or general retention and disposal authorities:

  • Functional authorities provide disposal coverage for unique functions carried out by State government agencies.
  • General authorities provide disposal coverage for common activities carried out by all agencies, such as personnel and finance, or for organisations within a particular sector such as local councils, public health services or universities.

The importance of NSW government agencies having comprehensive disposal authorities in place and regularly implementing them is highlighted in Premier's Memorandum M2007-08 Efficient and Cost Effective Management of Records. For information on obtaining and implementing a disposal authority see Further advice below.

The approval for disposal given by authorities issued by State Records  is given under the provisions of the State Records Act only and does not override any other obligations of an organisation to retain records. A public office must not dispose of any records where the public office is aware of possible legal action (including legal discovery, court cases, formal applications for access) where the records may be required as evidence.

Disposal alerts

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and NSW Special Commission of Inquiry relating to child sexual abuse allegations

On 11 January 2013 the Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia issued Letters Patent to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Letters Patent define the scope and Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission. The NSW Government has also separately established a Special Commission of Inquiry into certain matters raised in relation to child sexual abuse allegations in the Hunter region.

All agencies should take appropriate steps to ensure that records that may be relevant to or required as evidence for the purposes of the Royal Commission or the NSW Special Commission are not destroyed. In certain cases this may require the suspension of the routine disposal of records in accordance with retention and disposal authorities issued by State Records. Further advice is available on State Records web site.

Aboriginal Land Rights Act

State and local government agencies responsible for the management of Crown reserves, commons and land that is currently or may potentially be the subject of a claim under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983 should ensure records providing evidence of ownership, control and usage of the relevant parcel are retained and not destroyed until a claim has been granted over that parcel of land. These records could include planning documents or decisions concerning proposed or approved use of the land, surveys, agreements, memorandums, consents and tenure arrangements regarding the following land matters – acquisition, transfers, boundaries, usage, rights of way and easements, leases or licences for any uses/purposes, land/resource management and management of parks and reserves.

Please note that the making of a claim which is unsuccessful does not preclude the making of further claims over the same areas of land under the Act. For further advice and guidance as to land that is claimable under the Aboriginal Land Rights Act and records requiring retention, agencies should contact the Crown Lands division of the Department of Primary Industries.

Further advice

For information on..go to..
the principles guiding the appraisal and disposal of State records Building the archives: Policy on records appraisal and the identification of State archives
Standard on the appraisal and disposal of State records

how to carry out disposal activities

Implementing a retention and disposal authority
how to obtain authorisation for disposal from State Records Preparing a retention and disposal authority

how to transfer State archives to State Records' care

Transferring custody of records as State archives

appropriate destruction of State records

Destruction of records