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').
Making access directions
The Attorney General has issued guidelines on making access directions. 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.
Summary information on access directions:
- Procedures for making access directions
- Reviewing access directions
- Dealing with applications for access directions
State Records maintains a publicly available register of access directions of directions made by public offices.
The State Records Act is one of several Acts that provide for and regulate public access to the records of Government. In addition to the State Records Act the Government information (Public Access) Act 2009 also provides a public entitlement to information. The Privacy and Personal Information Act 1998 and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 also regulate public access to particular types of information.
How these Acts interact in relation to public access is explained in the Attorney General's guidelines
Published April 2014