Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (the Bushfire Royal Commission) – Preservation of State records
In February 2020 the Commonwealth Government established Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements (the Bushfire Royal Commission).
The Deputy Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet has sent a letter to all Secretaries requesting that agencies take appropriate steps to ensure that no records that may be relevant to or may be required in evidence before the Royal Commission are destroyed. In certain cases this may require the suspension of the routine disposal of records in accordance with retention and disposal authorities issued by NSW State Archives and Records.
NSW State Archives and Records has also issued advice to all Chief Executives on 22 May 2020.
Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability – Preservation of historical State records
In April 2019 the Commonwealth Government established a Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability.
The Secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet has sent a letter to all Secretaries requesting that agencies take appropriate steps to ensure that no records that may be relevant to or may be required in evidence before the Royal Commission are destroyed. In certain cases this may require the suspension of the routine disposal of records in accordance with retention and disposal authorities issued by NSW State Archives and Records.
NSW State Archives and Records has also issued advice to all Chief Executives on 27 February 2020.
A key recordkeeping recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was that records relating to child sexual abuse that has occurred or is alleged to have occurred should be retained for at least 45 years. This is to allow for delayed disclosure by abuse victims.
NSW public offices likely to be maintaining records relevant to the provision of care and services to children or to victims of abuse need to be mindful and observant of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the introduction of the National Redress Scheme and reforms to civil litigation law when undertaking records disposal activities.
This includes records of agencies:
- that have or have had responsibility for the provision of direct services to children and young people (e.g. schools, kindergartens, pre-school, after school, early childhood and childcare services, youth support services and detention centres, hospitals, health, disability, community and child welfare or protection services). This may also include agencies involved in the provision of educational activities and sporting programs for children and young people
- that have or have had responsibility for the funding, control, regulation, licencing, accreditation and oversight of services involved in the provision of services to children and young people (e.g. departments providing youth, family and community services, justice and education agencies, Children’s Guardian, complaints handling bodies such as NSW Ombudsman, etc., as well as local government)
- that have or have had responsibility for the receipt, investigation or prosecution of allegations.
The records of likely relevance are those concerned with:
- specific cases of abuse or allegations of abuse, particularly how it was handled within the agency or referred to other agencies
- agency policy and procedures for the handling of allegations or reports of abuse (including response, investigation or referral and follow-up).
Consideration may also need to be given to records relating to the service of employees, contractors and volunteers who may have been engaged in child or youth related employment.
Agencies should also ensure records of potential evidentiary value to victims pursuing civil compensation claims or claims under the redress scheme are appropriately identified and measures are in place to ensure records are retained for sufficient periods to enable any individual claims to be made and settled. This may encompass records relevant to providing evidence of a person having been in the care of an institution (as defined by the Royal Commission) or relating to the provision of health care, support or counselling services to victims.
Where an agency engages (or has engaged) other organisations to provide services relating to children and young people we recommend the agency should also liaise with these organisations to ensure they are aware of the Royal Commission’s recommendations and the NSW Government response.
The Final Report of the Royal Commission is available from the Royal Commission’s website at: www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au
For the NSW Government’s response see www.nsw.gov.au/improving-nsw/projects-and-initiatives/the-nsw-government-response-to-the-royal-commissions-final-report
The responses of the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments are also available at: www.ag.gov.au/RightsAndProtections/Australian-Government-Response-to-the-Royal-Commission-into-Institutional-Responses-to-Child-Sexual-Abuse/Pages/default.aspx.
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 Industry.
Updated May 2020