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National Archives of Australia Advisory Council Annual Report 2015-16

Establishment and functions

The National Archives of Australia Advisory Council is established under subsection 10(1) of the Archives Act 1983. The main purpose of the Council is to provide advice to the Minister responsible for the Archives and the Director-General on matters that relate to the Archives.

Under section 11 of the Archives Act, the Council is an advisory body with the following functions:

  1. The Council shall furnish advice to the Minister and the Director-General with respect to matters to which the functions of the Archives relate; and
  2. The Minister or the Director-General may refer any matter of the kind referred to in subsection (a) to the Council for advice and the Council may, if it thinks fit, consider and advise the Minister or the Director-General on a matter of that kind of its own motion.

Council membership

The Archives Act provides for a Council consisting of:

  • one Senator chosen by the Senate
  • one member of the House of Representatives chosen by the House
  • 11 other members appointed by the Minister.

Members serve terms not exceeding three years, and may serve an additional term.

Council membership during 2015–16 comprised:

  • Dr Denver Beanland (Chair)
  • Ms Helen Williams AO (Deputy Chair – term expired 29 April 2016)
  • Mr Chris Puplick AM (appointed Deputy Chair 30 April 2016)
  • Ms Jade Balfour (appointed 24 November 2015)
  • Ms Anne Henderson AM (appointed 24 November 2015)
  • Mr David Irvine AO (appointed 24 November 2015)
  • Dr Mickey Dewar (appointed 24 November 2015)
  • Professor John Williams (appointed 24 November 2015)
  • Dr Phil Robertson (term expired 29 April 2016; reappointed 5 May 2016)
  • The Hon Neil Brown QC (appointed 6 May 2016).

Parliamentary representation

  • Senator Claire Moore
  • The Hon Jane Prentice, MP

Summary of activities

The Council met five times in 2015–16:

  • 18 September 2015 (Canberra)
  • 27 November 2015 (Canberra)
  • 26 February 2016 (Sydney)
  • 11 March 2016 (Brisbane)
  • 13 May 2016 (Canberra)

Statements required under the Archives Act

Record disposal practices

Section 25 of the Archives Act requires the Director-General to provide the Council with a statement setting out the practices relating to the disposal of Commonwealth records. At each Council meeting the Archives also provides information on records authorities issued to Australian Government entities. During 2015–16 a total of 27 records authorities were issued.

Special access to official records

Section 56(2) of the Archives Act provides that an individual may be granted access to Commonwealth records not available for public access. This includes records not yet in the open access period and records assessed as being exempt from public access. Applications for special access are made directly to the entities who control the particular records. Decisions on whether to grant access are the responsibility of these entities. Special access arrangements have been in place since 1988 to help entities make decisions about records that are subject to an application for special access.

In accordance with the requirements of section 56(5) of the Archives Act, at each meeting of the Council the Archives tables a statement detailing requests for, and decisions relating to, access under section 56(2).

Eight applications for special access to records under section 56(2) were received during 2015–16. Access was granted in six cases and in a seventh no relevant records could be identified. One case remains under consideration at the end of 2015–16.

In November 2015, an entity advised the Archives of two applications for special access received in August and September 2014. Both applications were approved, but because of the delay in notifying the Archives, these cases were not included in the 2014–15 Annual Report.

Financial information and secretariat services

The Council’s operation is funded from the Archives’ budget appropriation (Table 1). Major expenditure items consisted of members’ remuneration, travel allowances and airfares to attend Council and associated meetings. In addition to direct financial support the Archives also provides secretariat and administrative services to the Council.

Table 17: National Archives of Australia Advisory Council expenditure, 2015–16

Item Cost ($)
Remuneration 24,600
Travel allowance 11,651
Fares 37,839
Other travel expenses 4,543
Hospitality expenses 5,228
Other expenses 2,146
Total 86,007

Freedom of information

Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) requires entities to publish information about the way it is organised, its powers, the kinds of decisions it makes, the documents it holds, the ways members of the public can obtain access to these documents, and any arrangements for public involvement in the work of the entity.

Previous sections of this annual report have outlined the establishment, major functions, powers and organisation of the Council. This statement supplements this general information to meet the requirements of section 8 of the FOI Act.

The Council does not hold any documents. Documents about administration of the Council, papers discussed at its meetings and correspondence on its activities are maintained by the Council Secretariat, which is provided by the Archives.

All enquiries concerning access to documents relating to the Advisory Council under the FOI Act can be directed to foi@naa.gov.au.

All enquiries or comments about the National Archives of Australia Advisory Council Annual Report can be directed to advisorycouncilsecretariat@naa.gov.au.