National Archives of Australia
National Archives of Australia Advisory Council
Annual Report 2017–18

National Archives of Australia Advisory Council

Establishment and functions

The National Archives of Australia Advisory Council (the 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 National Archives of Australia and the Director-General on matters that relate to the National 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.
  2. The Minister or the Director-General may refer any matter of the kind referred to in subsection (1) (above) 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 for terms not exceeding three years, and may serve an additional term.

Council membership during 2017–18 comprised:

  • Dr Denver Beanland (Chair)
  • Mr Christopher Puplick AM (Deputy Chair)
  • Professor John Williams
  • Mr David Irvine AO
  • Ms Jade Balfour
  • Ms Anne Henderson AM
  • Dr Phil Robertson FTSE
  • The Hon Neil Brown QC (to 12 September 2017)
  • Dr Rosemary Laing (from 12 October 2017)
  • Professor (Emeritus) Peter Boyce AO (from 12 October 2017)
  • Mr Adam Creighton (from 12 October 2017)
  • Professor (Emeritus) Sally Walker AM (from 15 December 2017)

Parliamentary representation

  • The Hon Jane Prentice MP
  • Senator Claire Moore

Summary of activities

The Council met four times in 2017–18.

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 National Archives also provides information on records authorities issued to Australian Government entities. During 2017–18 the National Archives issued 24 instruments under the Archives Act 1983, including records authorities developed in consultation with individual entities.

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 period and records assessed as being exempt from public access. Applications to access closed period or exempt records are made directly to the agencies responsible for controlling them. Decisions on whether to grant access are the responsibility of these agencies. Special access arrangements have been in place since 1988 to help agencies 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 National Archives tables a statement detailing requests for, and decisions relating to, access under section 56(2).

The National Archives was notified that 12 applications for special access to records under section 56(2) were received during 2017–18. Access was granted in 11 cases; no records were found in response to the remaining application. An application lodged in January 2016 remains under consideration.

In early 2018, an agency notified the National Archives of three applications submitted and approved between November 2015 and April 2017 that had not previously been reported to the National Archives or Council. The National Archives reminded agencies in May 2018 through its e-newsletter and agency forums of their obligation to promptly report all special access applications received so the National Archives can meet statutory reporting requirements.

Financial information and secretariat services

The Council's operation is funded from the National Archives' budget appropriation (Table 16). Major expenditure items consisted of members' remuneration, travel allowances and airfares to attend Council and other associated meetings. In addition to direct financial support, the National Archives also provides secretariat and administrative services to the Council.

Table 16: National Archives of Australia Advisory Council expenditure, 2017–18

Item Cost ($)
Remuneration 33,466
Travel allowance 23,408
Fares 26,088
Other travel expenses 5,793
Hospitality and catering expenses 12,698
Total 101,453