Service charter

The original armorial design for the Commonwealth of Australia Coat of Arms – colour print
The original armorial design for the Commonwealth of Australia Coat of Arms, 1912 (A6378, Item 1)

This charter sets out the standards of service you can expect from the National Archives of Australia if you are conducting research using our collection.

We strive for excellence in our service delivery and continue to raise awareness of the rich content in our collection and to aid access to that material. We contribute to the development of Australian culture by helping Australians better understand their heritage and democracy.

Our role

The National Archives of Australia:

  • helps Australian Government agencies create and manage their records
  • selects the most valuable records created by Australian Government agencies to become part of the national archival collection
  • stores, describes and preserves the national archival collection
  • makes records in the national archival collection that have entered the open access period publicly available.

Our services

On our website you can:

  • find out about our collection, services, events and exhibitions
  • search for records in the collection using our databases
  • request records be cleared for public release 
  • view digital images of records
  • order and pay for print copies or online digital copies of records
  • send us an inquiry about records in our collection
  • view or order copies of our publications
  • listen to audio of selected events at the National Archives.

Our service standard: Our website will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We help you to find a record in our collection by:

  • responding to reference inquiries received online or by mail, and
  • providing reference assistance in our reading rooms. 

Our service standard: We aim to respond to reference inquiries within 30 days.

We clear records for public access

The National Archives makes records publicly available under the Archives Act 1983. The Act requires Commonwealth records to be made available for public access once they enter the open access period and after they have been cleared for public release by the National Archives.

Most records in the open access period are able to be released, however, some records or information cannot be released even after they have entered the open access period. For more detail see access to records under the Archives Act.

When you ask us to clear a record for public access:

  • our staff will examine the record to decide what can be made available and what cannot be released under the Archives Act
  • we will notify you of the decision
  • we will give you the reasons for our decision if we refuse you access to a record or part of a record and you will have the right under the Archives Act to request us to reconsider our decision
  • if we still refuse access to the record after reconsidering our decision, you have the right, under the Archives Act, to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

Our service standard: We will notify you of an access decision no more than 90 days after your request. We aim to make most of our access decisions sooner, but, if another agency or government needs to be consulted, this may significantly delay the decision.

We will provide a response within 14 days to all requests to reconsider an access decision.

Under the Archives Act we are required to release as much information as possible. If you are concerned about information that has been released, please email us at

We provide copies of records

  • We provide copies of records in a variety of formats including print copies, photographic prints and online digital images.
  • We will mail print copies to you. Online digital images of records will be made available for viewing in our online collection database, RecordSearch, accessed through our website.
  • We will provide you with the most legible copies possible.
  • If you order a copy of a record which has not been cleared for release to the public we will examine the record to assess its suitability to be made available to the public under the Archives Act 1983.

Our service standard: For those records which the National Archives has examined and cleared for release to the public, we aim to provide copies (online and print) within 30 days of your paid request being received.

If you request a copy of a record we have not cleared for public access, we will examine the record and notify you of a decision on its availability in no more than 90 days.

We make records available in our public reading rooms

  • We have reading rooms in each capital city in Australia where you can research the Commonwealth records held there. Reading room opening hours vary in each location. To ensure the safety and preservation of the collection, records are not transferred between reading rooms.
  • Knowledgeable and courteous reference staff will explain our services and how to use reference tools, the collection and equipment. They will help you to order the records you want to view or to order copies.
  • The topic of your research and the records you use will remain confidential.
  • You will be able to view original records, free of charge, in facilities that are safe, comfortable and accessible.
  • You may use computers in the reading rooms to assist your research, to type your notes and to access the internet for purposes related to your research.
  • You will be able to use your own camera to make copies of records.

Our service standard: We aim to make records which have been cleared for public access available within 90 minutes of ordering in our reading rooms in Brisbane, Sydney, Hobart, Perth and Darwin. In Canberra, most records ordered before 2pm will be available to you on the same day. In Melbourne, records will be delivered within 48 hours. In Adelaide, records will be made available within five (5) business days. You can submit an advance request to view records.

Reporting on our service standards

We continuously monitor our performance against these service standards and report on how well we’ve met the standards in our Annual Report. We also report on the number of complaints received.

If you are not happy with our service

If you feel we have not met our service standards:

  • complete our Reference Service survey
  • talk to the member of staff you have been dealing with or one of the staff on duty
  • if you are not satisfied with the response, ask to talk to the Assistant Director in charge of the Reference Service or to the State Director in charge of that office
  • if you remain unsatisfied contact the Director, Reference and Information Services in our National Office in Canberra.

We maintain a record of complaints we receive to improve our service and to report on in our Annual Report.

Our service standard: We aim to respond to all complaints within 10 days. 

Tell us how we are doing

We welcome your feedback on the quality and range of our services and on our Service charter.

Contact us

To ask us a question about records in the collection:

National Reference Service
PO Box 7425

To make a complaint:

Director, Reference and Information Services 
National Archives of Australia
PO Box 7425

Services available to assist you

If you are a non-English speaking person, we can help through the Translating and Interpreter Service (TIS) on 131 450.
If you are deaf, or have a hearing or speech impairment, contact us through the National Relay Service:

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016