Corporate Plan 2017-18 to 2020-21

Message from the Director-General

In this digital age, information has never been more abundant. The tools and technology available to us – and our increasing digital capability – allow us to accumulate more and more data, and create information assets with enormous potential. Information is the currency of the 21st century. But the value of information can only be realised when it is accountably created, managed, described, stored and made accessible, now and in the future. The National Archives of Australia (the Archives) is embracing the opportunities brought by the digital age by harnessing new technologies to strengthen governance, improve business processes and service delivery across government, and to improve access for the Australian community. We are doing things in different ways but our mission remains the same – to ensure that the essential records of government are being kept and will remain accessible and reusable into the future.

We aim to make the right thing to do also the easiest thing to do. We are doing this through simple and clear policies, guidelines and resources. Our Information Management Standard, launched in April 2017, exemplifies simplicity and clarity through eight simple principles and recommended actions for the creation and effective management of Australian Government business information to meet business, government and community needs. The Digital Continuity 2020 Policy is supported by a suite of strategies, implementation pathways, guidance and standards to assist agencies deliver digital business as usual.

At the same time we will continue to ensure the appropriate storage and preservation of our paper and audiovisual collections including making more of these records available through digital channels. A priority target is audiovisual records at risk, with a program to digitise magnetic media records that will otherwise become inaccessible by 2025 due to obsolescence or deterioration.

The opening of the custom-designed National Archives Preservation Facility (NAPF) in Mitchell, ACT, was the highlight for 2017. The building houses 104 kilometres of paper records, more than nine kilometres of audiovisual records and a digital archive, ensuring the preservation and conservation of our irreplaceable collection continues into the future. The commencement of the refurbishment of the Archives' previous repository in Mitchell ACT will secure a further 75 kilometres of storage to allow the Archives to accept records still to be transferred from Australian Government agencies, through to 2031.

Our existing priorities, operations and governance framework will be regularly reviewed to ensure that the way we work and deliver our services is efficient and effective, particularly within a tight financial environment.

It is with pleasure that I, as the accountable authority for the National Archives of Australia, present to you the Archives' Corporate Plan 2017–18, as required under paragraph 35(1)(b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The plan outlines the Archives' priorities and planned achievements for 2017–18, and the outlook for the forward estimates period until 2020–21.

Signature of David Fricker Director-General National Archives of Australia from 2012

David Fricker


Our vision

To be one of the world's leading archives in this digital age, democratising access to the authentic and essential evidence of the actions and decisions of the Australian Government.

Our role

The Archives is the lead agency for setting information management obligations and standards for Australian Government entities. Our role is to ensure that the essential records of government are being created and maintained so that they remain accessible and reusable into the future.

The Archives was established under the Archives Act 1983 (the Act) as an executive agency of the Australian Government. Our key roles and responsibilities are outlined in the Act:

  1. to provide for a National Archives of Australia, whose functions include:
    • identifying the archival resources of the Commonwealth; and
    • preserving and making publicly available the archival resources of the Commonwealth; and
    • overseeing Commonwealth record-keeping, by determining standards and providing advice to Commonwealth institutions; and
  2. to impose record-keeping obligations in respect of Commonwealth records.

Our mission

Through our stewardship of the records of the Australian Government, we provide access to the evidence and memory of our nation, connecting Australians with their identity, history and place in the world.


In planning for the future, the Archives recognises a number of challenges and opportunities potentially affecting our environment and our work.

The volume and vulnerability of digital information necessitates effective management more than ever. Good information governance ensures valuable information is not lost to technical obsolescence and is discoverable, accessible and usable into the future. At the heart of the Archives' Digital Continuity 2020 Policy is the recognition that only when digital information is managed well can government share it effectively with the Australian community to the benefit of society and the economy. The Archives' culture of innovation, creativity and partnering – and the use of new and emerging technology – is increasing our capability to ingest, store, preserve and provide access to our rapidly growing digital collection.

Success in the information society at the economic, cultural, social and individual levels is more and more dependent on our access to and use of information. The abundance of digital information has raised public expectations for faster access to public information and government services and greater transparency and accountability in government. The Archives remains mindful of the risks inherent in the nature of digital information in its approach to meeting these expectations.

Information can be sensitive because of personal privacy, confidentiality or national security.  Public expectation of faster access to public information must be balanced against protecting personal privacy. Government accountability must be upheld while preserving national security. To meet this challenge the Archives must make it easier for entities to create information that is ready for release, and to clearly identify information that is sensitive and must be protected.

The rapid shift to digital business also exposes entities to cybersecurity risk. While cybersecurity awareness within government is growing, there is, as yet, no whole-of-government or common security architecture. We must use existing technology to protect what we have and put strong governance frameworks around the information that is collected.

The Archives is not the only player in the digital information space. We are a central participant in major initiatives such as the government's digital transformation agenda which underpins Australia's first Open Government National Action Plan 2016–18 to achieve open data and digital transformation. In keeping with our government direction to reduce red tape and drive efficiencies, we are working with other government entities to form whole-of-government information management policies and practices, to enable streamlined, efficient delivery of government services and programs.

With a constrained fiscal environment forecast over the next four years, the Archives is closely examining how we work and deliver services, with the aim of developing innovative ways of operating and, in some cases, reducing or ceasing activities. In support of this, we are making changes to the Archives' legislative framework to better reflect our needs including charging, and extending timeframes, for access.

Where possible, we are collaborating with entities to inform approaches and solutions to common issues such as through our participation in the National Film and Sound Archives Deadline 2025 campaign to preserve deteriorating magnetic media.

To increase efficiencies, and focus on the Archives becoming fully digital, we are increasing our online presence and engagement through social media, websites, digital curation, and through strategies to develop end-to-end digital reference and access examination services. We are also exploring future ways to streamline resource-intensive processes and find cost-effective ways of making the collection more discoverable.

We will continue to invest in strategic engagement with key national and international stakeholders where there will be a high positive impact which will advance the Archives' reputation and strategic relations.

Our purpose

The Archives has determined two purposes:

  • maintaining the official record of the nation
  • creating valued connections between the national archival collection and government, researchers and the community.

The relationship between the Archives' purposes and the outcome statement and program in the Archives' Portfolio Budget Statements 2017–18 is shown below.

PBS Outcome PBS Program Our Purposes
To promote the creation, management and preservation of authentic, reliable and usable Commonwealth records and to facilitate Australians' access to the resources of the Commonwealth The Archives ensures that the official record of the Commonwealth is maintained and made available to government, researchers and the public.
  1. Maintaining the official record of the nation
  2. Creating valued connections between the national archival collection and government, researchers and the community

Outcome: To promote the creation, management and preservation of authentic, reliable and usable Commonwealth records and to facilitate Australians' access to the archival resources of the Commonwealth

Program: The Archives ensures that the official record of the Commonwealth is maintained and available to government, researchers and the public.

Purpose 1: Maintaining the official record of the nation

The Archives has the unique responsibility of ensuring that the official records of the Australian Government and its interaction with citizens are maintained. This information represents an invaluable resource for present and future Australians. The identification of significant records and their long-term preservation for future access is critical to ensuring the benefits of this resource can be realised.


PBS performance criterion: The archival resources of the Commonwealth are identified and secured for the future.

1. Demonstrate leadership and best practice, to promote the creation, management and preservation of authentic, reliable and usable Commonwealth records

Delivery strategies Targets 2017–18
  • Develop standards, policies, guidance, training and services to assist entities adopt good information and records management practices
  • Engage with entities through information management events, products and services, and targeted training and workshops
  • Develop and deliver tools, standards and advice to support implementation of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy (DC2020)
  • Lead information management best practice including progressive achievement of Digital Continuity 2020 Policy targets
  • Survey entities and report on transition to digital information management
  • Australian Government entities transition to digital information management in accordance with the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy (DC2020)
  • Report to the Minister (annually) and Prime Minister (2018) outlining entities' progress towards digital transition and the support provided, and additional support needed, by the Archives to further drive improvement
  • A new survey reporting tool is issued to assess entities' progress towards digital information management
  • Entities participate in annual survey reporting requirements

2. Identify and secure information of enduring national significance for the national archival collection

Delivery strategies Targets 2017–18
  • Continue to work with entities to identify and determine categories of information to be retained, destroyed or transferred
  • Plan and manage the efficient transfer of information from entities
  • Records authorities will cover all Australian Government entities
  • Transfers of information meet national significance criteria and transfer requirements

3. Preserve the archival resources of the Commonwealth

Delivery strategies Targets 2017–18
  • Expand preservation and storage capacity to accommodate digital and analogue holdings
  • Digitise the collection with particular emphasis on at-risk and high-use information and in accordance with the National Digitisation Strategy and Plan
  • Records are preserved and protected
  • 120,000 at-risk items in the national archival collection targeted for preservation treatment

4. Maintain and enhance Australia's involvement with the national and international archival community

Delivery strategies Targets 2017–18
  • Continue to invest in strategic engagement with key national and international stakeholders and professional development in the international archival community
  • Advocate for benefits of sustainable information management through participation in targeted international forums
Performance – four-year outlook

Over the period 2018–21 the Archives will seek innovative solutions to expand its capacity for preservation and archiving of digital information including documents, objects and audiovisual records. Implementing a step change in ICT capacity will also provide the secure tools and connectivity needed to declassify large volumes of digital documents for public release. These changes will be accompanied by revised legislation to bring the Act into the digital age.

A building program, including the completed National Archives Preservation Facility (NAPF), and the delivery of an additional 73km of paper storage and 2km of audiovisual storage, will enable the transfer of records currently held by agencies in Canberra to 2031.

Physical holdings will be managed through the National Storage Strategy and four-year Implementation Plan which will be in place to 2021. The Archives will find methods to achieve high-volume description activities including automation and public transcription to achieve efficiencies in the future. In the medium term, other cost-effective arrangements will be applied to make the collection more discoverable so that by 2021 a higher percentage of the total collection will be described at item level.

From now until 2020, the Archives will continue to assist entities implement the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy to achieve progressive targets that support efficiency, innovation, interoperability, information reuse and accountability. These efforts will aim for 90 per cent of entities managing information digitally by default by 2020.

The Archives continues to build capacity in information and records management and archival management in the Pacific region, and advocates for the benefits of information management in the context of sustainable development in all world regions.

Purpose 2: Creating valued connections between the national archival collection and government, researchers and the community

The records and information managed by the Archives form the collective memory of the nation. They are valued and accessed by a wide range of users, including government, researchers, historians and members of the public, to gain a greater understanding and knowledge of Australia's heritage, democracy and place in the world. The Archives has a key role in promoting awareness of this resource and in interpreting it to increase understanding of the actions and decisions of government which have shaped Australia.


PBS performance criterion: Public engagement with the national archival collection grows and enhances understanding of individual and collective history.

1. Promote understanding and appreciation of the national archival collection and its value

Delivery strategies Targets 2017–18
  • Enhance public knowledge of the collection by delivering and promoting strategic and innovative public programs and services through education and outreach programs, exhibitions, publications and promotional events
  • Broaden and strengthen the Archives' capacity to engage with and meet the needs of Indigenous Australians
  • Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders to promote discovery and use of the collection in new ways
  • The collection is promoted and accessed through multiple channels
  • The Archives' interactions with the public increase year on year
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy 2017–2021 implemented
  • Educational resources in support of Discovering Anzacs website through new integrated Learn capability
  • Improved functionality and interactivity for website Destination Australia, supporting our outreach Immigration Program comprising national touring exhibitions A place to call home? and A Ticket to Paradise?
  • Strategic plan for redevelopment of Memory of a Nation and Federation Gallery
  • Partnerships with external organisations including Google Cultural Institute (GCI) to expand reach and use of collection
  • Delivery of innovative national touring exhibitions including Spy – Espionage in Australia and Facing Two Fronts: the fight for respect

2. Provide access to the information that we hold in accordance with the Archives Act 1983

Delivery strategies Targets
  • Improve service delivery through the innovative use of existing and emerging technology to maximise access to, and client engagement with, the collection
  • Review and reform the Archives' legislative framework including the Archives Act 1983 to bring it into the digital era and facilitate efficient, effective and equitable access to the collection
  • Develop and implement a business solution to manage digital archival material from creation in entities to access by the public
  • Facilitate meaningful, timely and equitable access to the Archives' collection by Australian and international clients
  • Improve ICT capability to manage high volumes of digital information and make it accessible to the public
  • Implement National Reference Service Strategy with digital delivery focus, and revised service level standards
  • Increase efficiencies and innovation to achieve higher percentage of the total collection controlled at item level
  • Contribute to development of prototype end-to-end business system for digital records incorporating access examination process and release of non-sensitive unclassified records
  • Revised legislation to better support the Archives' business
  • Release of the 1993–94 Cabinet records
  • Efficient, streamlined services for entities to access records, including the Agency Digitisation Service and increased online client self-service
Performance – four-year outlook

Over the period 2018–21 the Archives will continue its focus on developing new and innovative ways to access, use and experience the collection online and in person. This will be achieved through targeting new audiences, developing partnerships and collaborations with internal and external stakeholders, broadening outreach programs, and using emerging and established digital technology to further enhance the Archives' online presence.

To diversify access to the collection, the Archives will explore digital curation capabilities and experiences, and enhanced and integrated public engagement opportunities with exhibitions and public events. Delivery of outreach programs focusing on immigration, Indigenous Australians and the history of Australia's intelligence agencies will continue through to 2020.


The Archives' internal organisational structure will change over the next three years, to accommodate affordability constraints and to better reflect and support the Archives' digital transition. This will involve support for new storage facilities, and the mobility of skills and resources (capacity) as well as the proactive management of enabling infrastructure and the cultural, skills and change aspects of human capital (capability).  Throughout 2017–18, the Archives' focus remains on building digital capability and the design of a foundational framework that better supports more innovative ways of working.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is a key capability enabler in not only sustaining the current collection but also building the digital archive. The ICT Strategic Plan 2016–18 is a sound foundational document in this rapidly changing environment. It sets a clear pathway that responds to and ensures that the Archives' ICT capability supports achievement of the digital transformation agenda now and into the future.  The objectives of the ICT Strategic Plan 2016–18 are to ensure:

  • the Archives' default position is digital for all outcomes, outputs, processes and services
  • the Archives' role in the digital future is clear and understood
  • the Archives has stronger strategic partnerships
  • the Archives has stronger leadership and greater focus on building the workforce
  • the Archives' processes and technology support digitisation by default.

Human capital is also a key capability enabler, with a capable workforce, in the digital environment, key to the Archives' future success. The Strategic Workforce Plan 2016–20 identifies the strengths and opportunities for improvement and addresses the gaps through targeted workforce strategies. It reflects what is needed for the successful transformation of Archives' business and achieving strategic objectives. Culture change is at the heart of this plan with the Archives committed to gradually building a supportive environment for a culture of innovation, collaboration and professionalism.

A set of cultural principles has been developed named the The Archives Way which realigns both our mission and vision for the future, supported by a dedicated Cultural Action Program (CAP). This is designed to assist in shifting those individual and organisational cultural characteristics that are currently inhibiting the Archives to better support our increasingly digital and innovative business model. This includes a focus on service excellence; leading at all levels; implementing decisions; working and succeeding together; and finding a better way that embraces the future.

Continued strong investment in skills development across all functional areas will underpin all aspects of building capability.  Learning and development is aligned with the needs defined in the existing Expertise Development, and Leadership Development and Capability Frameworks. An additional feature is further investment to be made in supporting implementation of the Culture Action Program. Finally, a strong Diversity Program 2017–20 will further support the strengthening of our people capability through inclusion and building greater awareness of the benefits of diversity.

Risk oversight and management

The Archives operates in a complex, challenging and changing environment requiring professional and robust risk management and documentation. The Archives supports a positive risk culture where risks are discussed regularly and either accepted or actively managed to prevent or reduce the severity of disruptions to or impacts on business objectives. The Archives recognises that the factors that generate risks can also create opportunities for delivering positive results, particularly in our rapidly changing digital environment.

The Archives' approach to risk management is informed and supported by a framework of policy, guidelines, training and tools, underpinned by a culture of staff awareness and acceptance of risk responsibilities. The framework provides a clear control structure to identify, monitor, respond to and mitigate the entire risk spectrum to which the Archives is exposed, including specific, strategic, operational and business continuity risks.

The Archives' risk appetite establishes the amount of risk the Archives is willing to accept in order to achieve its objectives. The Archives has a moderate to high risk appetite for projects and activities which present opportunities for better outcomes. It also recognises that, in a changing environment, risks can emerge and evolve, requiring continuous identification, monitoring and management of risks.

The identification and management of the Archives' key strategic risks features across our leadership, internal resource allocation, capability development and strategic investments. The Archives undertakes continuous scanning of external and internal operating environments to assess and manage the key risks to the achievement of our objectives.

The Archives' current strategic risks are shown in the table below.

Purpose Risks
1. Maintaining the official record of the nation
  • Major damage to or loss of information and data in the collection, or failure of digital data storage and online web facility
  • Inability to transition to a digital environment with the capacity and capability to ingest, preserve, describe and provide access to digital information
  • Failure to impose records creation requirements and the minimum standards for digital government records
  • Failure to identify and secure the archival resources of the Commonwealth
2. Creating valued connections between the national archival collection and government, researchers and the community
  • The Archives does not meet expectations of government or community
  • Inability to meet community expectations for access to records, particularly on digital platforms
  • Inadvertent or deliberate release of information
  • The Archives suffers damage from a major cyber security attack

The Archives' strategic risks are managed through the creation of business plans and risk registers, including mitigation strategies, which are regularly reviewed and reported on to project boards, the Executive Board and the Archives' Audit and Risk Committee.

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