Retention and Disposal

From time to time State Records NSW may also issue disposal alerts or advice about disposal freezes.

In this context, a publication includes any form of information which is published, intended to be made available to the public or able to be accessed by the public. It also includes published information issued or made available to staff within the organisation, e.g. a procedure manual published on the organisation's intranet. Publications can be hardcopy, online or in another format, and with or without an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or International Standard Serial Number (ISSN).

The implementation of retention and disposal authorities is important to support the efficient and effective management of government records in all forms. Regular and systematic use of retention and disposal authorities will result in benefits to public offices and to Government by:

  • reducing the costs of records storage
  • reducing the time and cost associated with finding specific records when they are needed and
  • minimising the risks arising from illegal or unmanaged destruction of records and from inadvertently keeping records that should be destroyed.

Records designated as State archives, and which are no longer in use for official purposes in the agency, should also be routinely and systematically transferred to State Records' care to ensure their preservation as part of the State's heritage.

The destruction of State records should always be authorised. This means the destruction of the records is either permitted under a current retention and disposal authority issued by State Records NSW or under the 'normal administrative practice' provisions of the State Records Act 1998.

These guidelines have been prepared for personnel in New South Wales public offices who are responsible for arranging the destruction of State records as part of a program of authorised records disposal in accordance with Part 3 of the State Records Act 1998.

The State Records Act provides a number of means to lawfully dispose of State records. Generally this is through the retention and disposal authorities issued by State Records. Another means is in accordance with the normal administrative practice provisions of the Act which allow for the disposal of certain types of facilitative and duplicate records. Please see Schedule 2 of the State Records Regulation 2015 for more information on what constitutes normal administrative practice in a public office.

Retention and Disposal Authorities cover records and information regardless of the medium or format in which they are created. With many organisations now conducting their business in a fully digital environment, digital disposal is a core component of disposal. As with disposal of paper records, digital disposal requires thorough analysis and documentation. However in the digital environment it must be conducted across a very broad range of systems and technologies, often on a large scale and with compressed timeframes.

Government records held in private ownership or possession without appropriate authorisation are referred to as ‘estrays’. The State Records Act 1998 provides for the recovery of estrays back to official control.