Records authorities explained

What is a records authority?

Records authorities enable agency staff to work out how long records need to be retained and when a record will be due for destruction or transfer to the National Archives.

Records authorities contain descriptions of record types and specify the minimum retention periods applying to them.

There are two types of records authorities. These are:

What is an agency-specific records authority?

Agencies work with the Archives to identify which records must be kept and which can be destroyed. Records retention requirements are based on:

  • accountability requirements – to ensure your agency has been complying with legislative or regulatory directions
  • ongoing business needs – there may be records your agency needs for its day-to-day operations
  • community interests – to support rights and entitlements and long-term historical and cultural interests.

During the process, records will be identified that will be retained as national archives. At the same time, minimum retention requirements will be determined for other records.

The publication What we keep: Principles for selecting the Australian Government's national archives outlines the Archives' objectives for selecting records as national archives.

The records authority process


  • It is practical and flexible to enable your agency to focus on records from one or several business areas that may be creating storage problems or generating costs.
  • There is a one-step submission.
  • The process identifies your agency's core business or businesses only.
  • It uses risk analysis to guide your agency's research and to identify retention requirements.
  • It is supported by National Archives implementation advice.
  • It is compliant with the AS ISO 15489-2002, Records Management standard.

Further details are provided to agencies when they begin the process. The Archives runs training courses on developing records authorities.

Developing a records authority

The process involves the following steps.

  1. The Archives consults with your agency to decide whether a records authority process needs to be initiated.
  2. The Archives provides an agency information pack.
  3. A start-up meeting is held to discuss the scope of the project.
  4. Your agency prepares a draft records authority with supporting justification and submits this to the Archives.
  5. The Archives assesses the submission.
  6. Your agency and the Archives discuss any comments and questions about the submission.
  7. The records authority is issued by the National Archives under the Archives Act 1983.
  8. The Archives provides advice on implementing records authorities.
Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016