Sentencing information

Sentencing is the process of matching your agency’s information to a specific class of a records authority.This helps determine its value and how it should be managed throughout its lifecycle.

How long must Australian Government information be kept?

Minimum retention periods and disposal requirements for Australian Government information are agreed between the Archives and individual agencies, based on:

  • the business it relates to;
  • legislative requirements;
  • its use for evidentiary purposes;
  • its value as a community resource;
  • and stakeholder expectations.

Why sentence information?

It's likely most of your agency’s business is now done digitally, resulting in increasing amounts of digital information being created and stored. Your agency will also hold paper information which needs to be accountably managed.

Regularly sentencing this information:

  • enables your agency to destroy temporary information that has reached its minimum retention period
  • reduces costs associated with managing digital and paper information, including storage, security and access costs
  • improves information access and retrieval by reducing the amount of information within your agency’s business systems or storage facilities
  • improves your agency’s understanding of the information it holds
  • helps your agency more effectively respond to Discovery orders and Freedom of Information requests
  • reduces your agency’s potential risk and liabilities for holding information which could have otherwise been legally destroyed
  • helps your agency meet the requirements of the Digital Transition Policy by reducing paper information
  • identifies high value information, (eg Retain as national archives), helping your agency to appropriately manage it until it can be accepted for transfer to the Archives for ongoing preservation.

Using records authorities to sentence your agency's information

Your agency’s  records authority represents a detailed analysis of your agency’s core business functions and the records and information it creates. It is an essential tool for assessing the value of your information and making decisions about how long it should be retained.

Your agency’s records authority sets out the minimum period core business information must be kept. Once the minimum retention period is reached, and the information is no longer needed to support your agency’s business, the relevant disposal action can be implemented; resulting in the information being retained within your agency, transferred to the Archives or destroyed.

Your agency can also use general records authorities to sentence information created as a result of core or administrative business that is common to numerous agencies.

The Administrative Functions Disposal Authority (AFDA Express) is a general records authority that sets out disposal requirements for functions performed by most agencies, including ‘Finance’ and ‘Procurement’.

Information not covered by a current records authority cannot be sentenced or destroyed, and must be kept until appropriate coverage is available.

Once the information is no longer needed to support your agency’s business, the disposal trigger associated with the record class (eg ‘destroy 7 years after action completed’) is used to calculate when the disposal action can be implemented.
For example, the sentencing process could identify that the minimum amount of time you need to keep specific information for has been reached, allowing it to be legally destroyed under the Archives Act 1983. Alternatively, the sentencing process may determine the information is ‘Retain as national archives’ (RNA), in which case it must be managed appropriately until it can be transferred to the Archives for ongoing preservation.


Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019