What is records management?

Everyone who works for the Australian Government is responsible for managing records. Some staff have specific records management responsibilities, but all staff are responsible for managing their own records. Records management ensures that records are systematically and efficiently:

  • created, captured and described
  • secured, stored and preserved for as long as they are needed
  • destroyed or transferred once they no longer have any residual business value.

What is a record?

All information created, sent and received in the course of your job is potentially a record. Records provide evidence of your agency's business. Whether something is a record depends on the information it contains and the context. Records can be in paper, digital or other formats. Examples include:

  • emails
  • faxes
  • spreadsheets
  • databases
  • maps and plans
  • samples and objects
  • information in business systems
  • letters
  • text messages
  • minutes
  • policy and briefing papers
  • photographs
  • research data
  • social media sites.

Why is records management important?

Records are an important and unique source of evidence and information about the Australian Government and its activities. They provide specific information about the business of your agency.

Managing information and records effectively makes your job easier and helps your colleagues.

If you regularly make records and keep them in the right places, it will be easier to:

  • locate emails, documents or information when needed
  • reuse valuable work that you or someone has done in the past
  • determine the most recent version of a document
  • produce evidence as to why a particular decision was made
  • protect yourself, your clients, citizens and the Australian Government
  • support cultural, social and historical values, helping future generations understand Australia's history, society, culture and people.

What records need to be kept?

You should keep the records that support your business decisions.

Records provide proof of what happened and who made the decisions.

Make or keep a record if you need to show:

  • what happened, when it happened and who was involved
  • what was decided or recommended and by whom
  • what advice or instruction was given
  • the order of events or decisions.

Use this checklist to see if you should make or keep a record:

  • Did I write, send or use this in the course of my work?
  • Am I (or is someone else) required to act on this?
  • Will this information be needed in the future?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should make or keep a record.

Where should I keep records?

Always keep records in approved locations.

Your agency may have systems in place for keeping records including:

  • electronic document and records management systems (EDRMS)
  • business systems specific to your agency's business
  • paper registry files.

Find out from your supervisor or records manager where you should keep records. Do not keep important business information in personal locations such as your email folders or hard drive.

Do not keep sensitive or important information on laptops, USBs or other portable storage devices. It can be easily lost or stolen.

What records can be destroyed?

Not all records need to be kept indefinitely.

Retaining or destroying records is governed by legislation, and you should always follow your agency's procedures when destroying records or deleting records such as email.

If your records are kept in your agency's corporate records management systems or other approved locations, you do not have to worry about how long they need to be kept. Other people will look after them once they are in the right place.

When a record is destroyed, it needs to be done in an accountable way following sentencing using a records authority or general records authority issued by the National Archives or in accordance with a normal administrative practice.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2016