Transferring ownership

Who owns the records?

In most cases, records created or received by Commonwealth institutions are the property of the Commonwealth or of the Commonwealth institution. Under the Archives Act 1983, records that are the property of the Commonwealth or of a Commonwealth institution are Commonwealth records. When changes are made to the machinery of government through Administrative Arrangements Orders, responsibility for managing the records relating to affected business moves to the agency or agencies newly responsible. See transferring records after an administrative change.

If a decision is made to privatise or corporatise some business previously undertaken by the Australian Government, any transfer of ownership of the associated records must be authorised by the National Archives.

If there is a change in ownership

If the government privatises a function, or corporatises or sells an agency, there needs to be a decision made about who will own the existing records which document that activity. Options include:

  • ownership of the records will pass to the new owners
  • ownership will be retained by the Australian Government, but custody of the records is transferred
  • both the custody and ownership of the records is retained by the Australian Government.

Any change in ownership of records needs to be authorised by the Archives through the creation of a records authority. Decisions about the ownership of records are almost always complicated and should be discussed with the Archives as soon as possible.

If your agency or a function your agency once administered is being privatised or corporatised, contact the Agency Service Centre as soon as possible.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2014