Transferring permanent records

Transfer standard

State Records only accepts transfers of official records of enduring value (permanent) which are:

  • older than 15 years, and
  • no longer required for current administrative use

in accordance with the Transfer of Official Records Standard.

Records proposed for transfer must be identified as permanent in either a Records Disposal Schedule (RDS), covering agency specific records, or in a General Disposal Schedule (GDS) covering common types of records.

Transfers of permanent value records are prioritised, with the highest priority given to records which:

  • are open to public access
  • are at risk of loss or damage
  • date from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Transfers of permanent value records will be postponed if the records are:

  • younger than 15 years
  • in current administrative use (regardless of age)
  • closed to public access, and will not be publicly accessible for more than 15 years (regardless of age)
  • digital (until State Records has the capability to transfer digital records)
  • hard copy records which have been scanned and may be destroyed under GDS 21.

Transfer guidance

What does older than 15 years mean?

All records within the file must have been created at least 15 years ago. For the purposes of the standard:

  • We will review the end dates of consignments (the set of records proposed for transfer at the same time) and the end dates of files in the consignment list (the list of items proposed for transfer) to calculate the 15 years
  • All parts / volumes of a file will be treated as a single entity, so the date when the last part was closed will be used to calculate the 15 years.

Suggestions for agencies:

  • Avoid incorporating older records into new systems, as this will extend the transfer period (and is not good practice besides)
  • Close files promptly when matters are no longer active
  • Avoid keeping files ‘live’ for longer than needed – create separate annual files for ongoing matters
  • Avoid creating files with many parts / volumes – create separate files for different activities or processes
  • Create separate consignments of records for transfer so that consignments proposed only contain records older than 15 years, and then propose new consignments annually as the records in your custody age.

What does no longer required for current administrative use mean?

The records are no longer being added to, used or accessed, including access through Freedom of Information. For the purposes of the standard, we will:

  • review the access determination and assess whether the restriction period is likely to require the agency to loan records for access
  • review past loans to identify whether similar records have been retrieved or accessed
  • require agencies to certify that they no longer need to access the records (unless there are exceptional circumstances) when records are transferred.

Suggestions for agencies:

  • Keep digital records so that records can be more easily accessed without requiring physical access
  • Stop printing and saving records on physical files, reducing printing, labour and storage costs
  • Dispose of hardcopy source records that are scanned and saved into systems in accordance with GDS 21 conditions
  • Retain hardcopy files which are routinely accessed on site or in offsite storage, including with Approved Storage Providers (ASPs)
  • Dispose of temporary records promptly to reduce storage costs, where there are no further reasons to retain the records such as a disposal freeze or legal matter.

Tips for agencies managing records

  1. Keep records digitally. Do not print records for filing, and ensure business systems have basic records management controls. Benefits of keeping records digitally include: a) reduces costs of printing, filing, storage and access, b) enables records to be easily accessed without requiring the physical object.
  2. Organise records efficiently. File records relating to transactions or cases separately, rather than mixing records on the one file; create separate files if the information has significantly different retention periods or access restrictions; and send records to offsite storage with accurate listings of file contents, date ranges, sentencing against RDS and GDS references and box records with similar destruction dates together. Benefits of efficient organisation of records include: a) temporary records of short term value can be destroyed promptly; b) access restrictions can be more easily managed; c) permanent records in offsite storage can be prepared for transfer more easily when they are no longer required for current administrative use.
  3. Dispose of temporary records promptly. Destroy records once minimum retention periods have been reached, unless there is reason for retaining the records longer such as a legal matter, FOI or disposal freeze. Benefits of prompt disposal include: a) reduces costs of storage; b) avoids records having to be re-sentenced when disposal schedules are updated; c) ensures records are disposed of before a disposal schedule expires; removes obligation to search these records in response to access requests.
  4. Transfer oldest permanent records first. Transfer the oldest permanent records first (as long as they are no longer required for current administrative use), especially nineteenth and early twentieth century records that are publicly accessible, without any access restrictions.

Transfer process

The stages in the transfer process are:

  1. Identify records suitable for transfer
  2. Propose a transfer of records
  3. Receive confirmation the records are eligible for transfer
  4. Prepare documentation about the records, including a list of items, and their access status
  5. Receive approval for physical transfer of the records
  6. Physically transfer the records
  7. Receive receipt of transfer. 

Stage 1 - Identify records suitable for transfer

Before you consider proposing a transfer of records it is important to identify all records that are suitable for transfer.

We encourage you to transfer records only once (or maybe twice) a year. So it is important that all records eligible for transfer are identified as part of a proactive disposal program.

To identify records suitable for transfer:

  • sort records into their recordkeeping systems by file number or date (or however they were originally arranged) e.g. sort minute books in chronological order, dockets in docket number order, etc.
  • separate permanent records from temporary records using an RDS or GDS (we do not accept transfers of temporary value records)
  • separate active records from inactive records (we do not accept transfers of actively used records)
  • separate sensitive records that will not be publicly accessible (we may not accept transfers of records which are restricted from public access for a long period)
  • remove duplicate copies of records where the official records are in digital format (we may not accept transfer of physical records where they duplicate digital records)
  • locate any missing records from the sequence that are no longer active, checking all storage areas and offsite storage providers.

We only accept transfers of permanent records which are:

  • over 15 years old
  • inactive (not needed for any ongoing business purposes or to provide access under FOI)
  • publicly accessible, or soon to be open to public access.

If you have records that do not meet this criteria, please contact us to discuss your requirements.

Stage 2 - Propose a transfer of records

Once you have identified records eligible for transfer, you need to prepare a Transfer Proposal. The Transfer Proposal summarises all of the records you want to transfer at the same time. Consignment lists and physical transfers of records will not be processed or accepted unless a Transfer Proposal has been approved by us.  

Stage 3 - Receive confirmation the records are eligible for transfer

An archivist will review your Transfer Proposal and notify you whether the records are eligible for transfer.

Although you might box and list records for your own storage purposes, you may not want to start completing any documentation required by us (e.g. consignment lists) until you receive confirmation that the records are eligible for transfer, as the effort may be wasted. 

If the records are not eligible for transfer, you will be advised what options are available for managing the records.

Stage 4 - Prepare documentation about the records, including a list of items, and their access status

Once you have received confirmation that the records are eligible for transfer you can start preparing the required documentation, which includes:

  • a consignment list for the items from each different recordkeeping system e.g. a list of minute books, a list of correspondence dockets, a list of corporate files, etc.
  • answering questions about each recordkeeping system (if the records do not already have a Government Record Series, or GRS, number)
  • an access determination identifying whether the records are openly accessible, or are closed to public access for a set period before they become open as their sensitivity diminishes (if a determination has not already been made).

The required documentation enables your agency to identify what has been transferred to our custody, and helps us understand the records transferred so we can assist the public to access the records. 

You need to submit all of the documentation relating to a Transfer Proposal at the same time. We will not action any documentation until it has all been received.

Stage 5 - Receive approval for physical transfer of the records

An archivist will review all of the documentation received and advise you whether any changes or more information is required.

Once the documentation has been finalised and approved you will be advised that the physical transfer of the records is approved. You will be offered possible dates and times for the physical transfer of the records, and advised which repository the records will be received at.

Stage 6 - Physically transfer the records

You are responsible for arranging and paying for the transportation of the records to the nominated repository at the agreed date and time.

When  the records are received in the repository, they will be barcoded, shelved and our systems will be updated with details of the records.

Stage 7 - Receive receipt of transfer

You will be sent confirmation of the records received and reports detailing how the records can be identified in our catalogue.

You should retain this information in your recordkeeping system, as you remain responsible for records of your agency (and its predecessors) which are in our custody.


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