Occasionally, prominent or controversial issues or events, or judicial proceedings have implications for the management of records held by agencies. In such cases, the Archives may support compliance requirements or an identified need to suspend Archives' records destruction permissions by issuing a records disposal freeze or retention notice. Generally, these state that agencies must not destroy any relevant records.
There are current records retention notice on records relating to:
There are current disposal freezes on records relating to:
The National Archives has issued a notice to relevant Commonwealth agencies requiring the retention of records related to the terms of reference of the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. This notice will be in force until further notice by the National Archives.
The notice suspends the National Archives permission to destroy any relevant records. Relevant records and any associated drafts and working papers cannot be destroyed using any agency-specific or general records authorities or through a normal administrative practice (NAP).
Relevant agencies include:
Other agencies who think they may hold records covered by the retention notice should contact the Archives for more information.
Further information is contained in the Records Retention Notice.
On 21 February 2017 the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia issued an amended records retention notice relating to the use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs). The original notice was issued in October 2015 to targeted agencies.
In November 2016 a class action was lodged with the Federal Court relating to Defence's historic use of AFFFs at RAAF Base Williamtown (Newcastle, NSW). As part of the response to this class action, various Government agencies have been asked to search for documents that may be relevant to proceedings. The Legal Sub-committee of the interdepartmental committee established to co-ordinate Government responses to such actions has reviewed these requests and developed a greater understanding of the records that may have relevance in such cases. As a result, the sub-committee suggested changes to the records retention notice involving a broader description of relevant records, more up to date background information and a change to the description of the chemicals in question.
Originally the chemicals were classed as perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs. PFCs also refer to perfluorocarbons, which are greenhouse gases. The preferred terms for AFFF chemicals are per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
As before, agencies must bear the cost of retaining these records and the retention notice remains in force until it is lifted by the Archives.
Unless your agency has received direct communication from the Archives in relation to this matter, it is unlikely that your agency is affected. This may be confirmed by the contents of the notice. Further information is contained in the Records retention notice.
On 2 December 2016 the National Archives withdrew the records retention notice issued on 24 March 2014 relating to records that might assist the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption.
Noting the conclusion of the Royal Commission and the submission of the final report to Parliament the Archives has determined the need for agencies to retain such records is no longer required.
Effective immediately, these records may be authorised for destruction under general and agency-specific records authorities issued by the Archives or using a normal administrative practice.
Further information on the withdrawn records retention notice may be found here.
The National Archives has issued a notice to relevant Commonwealth agencies requiring the retention of records relating to the Home Insulation Program. The Program is now the subject of an inquiry by the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program.
The notice takes effect on 20 December 2013 and will be in force until further notice by the National Archives.
The notice suspends the National Archives of Australia’s permission to destroy any relevant records. Relevant records and any associated drafts and working papers cannot be destroyed using any agency-specific or general records authorities or through a normal administrative practice (NAP).
Relevant agencies include:
Further information is contained in the Records Retention Notice.
The National Archives has imposed a disposal freeze on Commonwealth records likely to be required by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and any subsequent actions by the Australian Government.
The freeze takes effect on 31 January 2013 and will be in force until further notice by the Archives. It applies to all Australian Government agencies.
The disposal freeze suspends the Archives’ permission to destroy any relevant records. This means that relevant records cannot be destroyed using any agency specific or general records authorities issued by the Archives or through a normal administrative practice (NAP).
On 12 November 2012 the Prime Minister, the Hon Julia Gillard MP, announced the Australian Government’s intention to establish a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia. The Governor-General issued the Letters Patent and Terms of Reference establishing the Royal Commission on 11 January 2013.
The Archives has determined that a disposal freeze is necessary to ensure that relevant records are protected and available for the purposes of the Royal Commission and any subsequent actions by the Australian Government, for future reference and accountability purposes and to protect the rights and entitlements of stakeholders.
Information about the categories of records affected by the freeze is contained in the following official notice:
The disposal freeze may also be a useful reference for State and Territory governments, and the not-for-profit and private sectors.
Commonwealth agency heads were notified on 23 November 2012 of the pending disposal freeze and were asked to protect records potentially relevant to the Royal Commission from destruction.
The Archives, in consultation with the Defence Organisation, has imposed the disposal freeze on Commonwealth records potentially related to allegations, handling and consequences of sexual and other forms of abuse in the Defence Organisation.
The freeze takes effect on 22 October 2012 and will be in force until further notice by the National Archives.
The disposal freeze suspends the National Archives of Australia’s permission to destroy any relevant records that could otherwise be legally destroyed under current records authorities issued by the National Archives and designates any relevant records as not suitable for destruction through a normal administrative practice (NAP).
On 11 April 2011 the Minister for Defence, the Hon Stephen Smith MP, announced an external review of allegations of sexual and other forms of abuse that were raised following a 'Skype' incident at the Australian Defence Force Academy. In response, the Secretary of the Department of Defence engaged the law firm DLA Piper to review allegations of sexual and other forms of abuse within the Defence Organisation over a number of years and to make recommendations for further action. On 10 July 2012 Report of the Review of allegations of sexual and other abuse in Defence: Facing the problems of the past was publicly released.
Following the release of the DLA Piper Report, the Archives has determined that a disposal freeze is necessary to ensure that relevant records are protected and available for future reference and accountability purposes and to protect the rights and entitlements of stakeholders. The Archives has identified the scope of potentially relevant records and the affected Australian Government agencies that may have these records.
The list of affected agencies and further information about the records affected by the freeze are contained in the following official notice:
The Archives, in consultation with the Department of Finance, has extended the disposal freeze on selected personnel and superannuation records that relate to Cornwell-type superannuation claims until 31 December 2030. The Archives can provide guidance on strategies for managing records associated with the freeze, and will discuss any specific concerns with individual agencies. This disposal freeze supports a number of ongoing court cases and you must discuss any plans to digitise and destroy records subject to this freeze with the Archives and the Department of Finance. For enquiries, please contact the Agency Service Centre.
More information about the records affected by the freeze is contained in the disposal freeze notice.
Summary of changes to the scope of the 2015 notice:
Prior to 2000, some classes of Commonwealth employees were not required to join a superannuation scheme, but could elect to join. In April 2007 the High Court found the Commonwealth liable for damages because negligent advice about eligibility to join a scheme was given to one of these employees (the Cornwell case). These records may be needed in processing claims.
More information about the previous disposal freezes are contained in the following notices:
The Archives has extended the scope of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander records disposal freeze to include records relating to stolen wages. It is to include records relating to the payment or withholding of wages, pensions and allowances. It also includes records that contain information, policy or procedures about withholding wages, pensions or allowances from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander people between 1 January 1901 and 31 December 1989 or contain information about affected individuals.
This extension applies to records created between 1 January 1901 and 31 December 1989. If agencies have inherited relevant records created prior to this period, they should also be included.
In 1991 the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody found that the number of deaths was higher for Aboriginal people who had been separated from their families than for Aboriginal people who had not. The Commission recommended:
That Commonwealth, State and Territory governments provide access to all Government archival records pertaining to the family and community histories of Aboriginal people so as to assist the process of enabling Aboriginal people to re-establish community and family links with those from whom they have been separated as a result of past policies of the Government ...
In 1996 the National Archives implemented a freeze on the destruction of all records in its custody that could be of use to Indigenous people tracing their family and community connections.
In 1997 the Bringing Them Home report of the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families recommended:
That no records relating to Indigenous individuals, families or communities or to any children, Indigenous or otherwise, removed from their families for any reason, whether held by government or non-government agencies, be destroyed.
In its formal response to this report, the Government supported the indefinite freeze on the destruction of records which might be of assistance in Indigenous family reunions. In September 2000 the 1996 freeze was extended to cover records still in the custody of selected Australian Government agencies (pdf, 39kB).
In 2009, the Archives extended the scope of the disposal freeze on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander records. The extension covers records that contain information on policy or procedures about withholding wages, pensions or allowances from indigenous Australians between 1 January 1901 and 31 December 1989, or information about individuals affected by these policies and procedures. The Archives has provided a set of guidelines for agency staff (pdf, 636kB) in relation to this records disposal freeze.
In 1980 McMillan and Co, the law firm representing the Vietnam Veterans Action Association, wrote to the Prime Minister urging the preservation of all records that may pertain to the Vietnam War and persons who served in it. In response, the government issued a directive for a records disposal freeze on all records relating to the service in Vietnam of servicemen and public servants.
In particular, but not exclusively, the freeze covers records relevant to the study into the effects of herbicides and other chemicals on those who served in Vietnam. The freeze is not limited to particular types of records such as personal case files and applies to all types of records that may be relevant to future claims against the Commonwealth.
Between 1952 and 1968 the British Government, with the agreement and support of Australia, carried out nuclear tests at three sites in Australia – Monte Bello Islands off the Western Australian coast, and Emu Field and Maralinga in South Australia. Both British and Australian personnel were present at these sites when testing was carried out.
In 1984, following growing public concern about the health effects of the nuclear tests, the Australian Government established a Royal Commission to investigate. To provide the Royal Commission with access to records relevant to its inquiries, the National Archives imposed a records disposal freeze on all records relating to the nuclear tests and the test sites (July 1984). This freeze remains in place today and relates particularly to records containing information about the following: