Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–23

Message from the Director-General

The National Archives continues to face a number of challenges balancing its available resources with growing public demand for our services and ensuring the integrity of Australia’s Commonwealth public administration. As a consequence, we continue to review and revise our resource allocation across our fundamental roles of securing, preserving and making accessible the authentic records of the Australian Government, while, at the same time maintaining the high standards of service delivery that all Australians should expect.

We are working to preserve unique but at-risk collections that tell the Australian story, including tens of thousands of deteriorating audiovisual items that could be lost as soon as 2025. Our records digitisation program makes public thousands of digital files and images every year, although we are struggling to keep pace with demand as more and more Australians look to connect online with the collection, researching their identity and family history. We are scoping the technology platforms needed to secure the digital records now being created across government in ever growing quantities. As the steward of the nation’s memory, we are committed to safeguarding these records by building digital capability that balances cybersecurity and public access.

As we look to the year ahead, we are focused on improving our services to the public. We recognise that backlogs in processing requests for government documents that should now be in the public domain are testing the patience of researchers. Our education program delivery is highly valued, and we would like to provide more opportunities for young Australians across the nation to engage firsthand with our constitution and learn about our history and democracy. More of the invaluable national archival collection will be made available through the development of a more contemporary and engaging online presence, research centres/reading rooms in each state and territory, and innovative and engaging experiences in our refurbished East Block building in Canberra’s Parliamentary Zone. It is our hope that these experiences will be further enhanced for all our visitors by a new, purpose-built National Archives building, and we continue to develop a compelling proposal for this project.

To inform the areas of innovation and change that should be adopted in the years ahead, the Australian Government has initiated an independent Functional and Efficiency Review of the National Archives. This review, due to be finalised and presented to government in late 2019, will examine and make recommendations on our purpose, role and functions.

The National Archives’ Corporate Plan 2019–20 outlines how we intend to deliver against our purpose over the next four financial years. The identified strategies align with the National Archives' dual role as the Commonwealth's leader in information governance, and as custodian, providing access to the national archival collection. The performance indicators are measures of accountability that will be monitored across the year and reported in the Annual Report.

It is with pleasure that I, as the accountable authority of the National Archives, present the 2019– 20 National Archives of Australia Corporate Plan, which covers the period 2019–20 to 2022–23, as required under paragraph 35(1) (b) of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

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

David Fricker 
Director-General

Introduction

Our purpose

The National Archives of Australia was established under the Archives Act 1983 (the Act). As an executive agency of the Australian Government, the National Archives provides leadership in best-practice management of the official record of the Australian Government and ensures that Australian Government information of enduring significance is secured, preserved and available to government agencies, researchers and the community.

The National Archives:

  • sets the information management standards that must be met by Australian Government agencies
  • authorises the appropriate destruction of Australian Government information of no enduring significance
  • manages Australian Government information of enduring significance as part of the national archival collection
  • preserves and secures the national archival collection
  • ensures that public access to the national archival collection is provided in accordance with the Act to the fullest extent, while taking proper account of privacy, security, confidentiality and public interest.

Our vision

To be a world leading archive in this digital age.

Our mission

To connect Australians with their identity and history through our stewardship of Australian Government records.

Our values

Service excellence – deliver quality and responsive services that meet the needs and expectations of our clients, partners and the public.

Leadership – strive to be national and international leaders in information management policy, digital transformation, archival collection management and creative public engagement.

Innovation – look for new and better ways to do business and deliver digital services that are user centred and embrace the future.

Responsibility – take responsibility for delivering the goals and priorities comprising a transformational program of work.

Collaboration – work with the public, private and civil society sectors to achieve shared goals and outcomes.

Our delivery strategies

The National Archives has three delivery strategies in the 2019–20 to 2022–23 period to enable the delivery of its purpose and achieve its vision:

  1. establish frameworks for best-practice management of Australian Government information and data by Australian Government agencies toward achievement of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy targets
  2. secure and preserve Australian Government information and data of enduring national significance for the national archival collection
  3. connect researchers and the community to the national archival collection and enhance understanding of the role of the National Archives.

Strategy 1

Establish frameworks for best practice management of Australian Government information and data by Australian Government agencies toward achievement of Digital Continuity 2020 Policy targets.

Activities

  • develop standards, policies, guidance, information and services to assist agencies adopt good information and records management practices and implement the Digital Continuity 2020 (DC2020) Policy and targets
  • survey entities and report on transition to digital information management
  • report to the Minister and Prime Minister outlining agencies’ progress towards digital transition, the support provided, and additional support needed by the National Archives to further drive improvement.

Performance criterion

National Archives leads Australian Government entities in achieving digital transition through whole-of-government information policy guidance.

Australian Government agencies are surveyed against DC2020 Policy targets and outcomes reported to the Prime Minister and the Minister.

Measures

New approach to support Australian Government digital information management capability released by 30 September 2020.

Performance criterion

Australian Government agencies are surveyed against DC2020 Policy targets and outcomes reported to the Prime Minister and the Minister.

Measures

1. Agencies completing survey

Table 1: Percentage of agencies completing survey
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
≥ 97% ≥ 98% ≥ 98% ≥ 98%

2. Progress towards Digital Continuity 2020 outcomes

Table 2. Qualitative evaluation of progress towards Digital continuity
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
Survey responses 
and case studies
Survey responses 
and case studies
Digital Continuity 2020 Policy 
implementation completed and the 
final report published
Survey responses 
and case studies

Reporting methodology

  • Australian Government agencies are surveyed against DC2020 Policy targets and outcomes reported to the Prime Minister and the Minister
  • The relevant business area identifies up to two case studies for inclusion in the annual performance statement.

Strategy 2

Secure and preserve Australian Government information of enduring national significance for the national archival collection.

Activities

  • work with agencies to identify and authorise categories of information and records to be retained, destroyed or transferred to the national archival collection
  • plan and manage the efficient transfer of archival value information and records from agencies
  • preserve and protect records in accordance with the National Preservation Strategy and Plan
  • digitise the collection with particular emphasis on at-risk and high-demand information and in accordance with the National Digitisation Strategy and Plan
  • deliver under the existing Digital Archives Program a body of work being undertaken across the National Archives that will embed digital archiving capability, accelerate the development of digital skills and processes, and upgrade digital preservation technologies in the National Archives.

Performance criterion

Records of enduring national significance are identified and transferred into the national archival collection for safekeeping. 

Measures

1. Australian Government entities with comprehensive records authority coverage

Table 3: Percentage of entities with comprehensive records authority coverage
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
≥ 80% ≥ 85% ≥ 85% ≥ 85%

2. Records of enduring national significance transferred for safekeeping into the national archival collection

Table 4: Qualitative evaluation of transfers
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
Case studies and program outcomes Case studies and program outcomes Case studies and program outcomes Case studies and program outcomes

Reporting methodology

  • The status of records authority projects and engagement with agencies is updated weekly through internal reporting.
  • A standing item report on the number of records authorities issued is provided to the National Archives of Australia Advisory Council.
  • The relevant business area analyses transfers quarterly. This data is supported by the inclusion of case studies in the annual performance statement.
  • Quarterly reporting identifies progress against preservation and digitisation plans.
  • Projects under the Digital Archives Program will report progress to the Executive Board.
  • The relevant business area identifies up to two programs for inclusion in the annual performance statement.

Strategy 3

Connect researchers and the community to the national archival collection and enhance understanding of the role of the National Archives.

Activities

  • deliver and promote strategic and innovative public programs and services through education and outreach programs, exhibitions, publications, promotional events and digital platforms
  • implement of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy through respectful engagement with community
  • describe the national archival collection to facilitate access
  • implement the National Reference Service Strategy with a digital delivery focus
  • deliver a revitalised and enhanced online, onsite and offsite visitor experience through the National Office, East Block, ground-floor redevelopment.

Performance criterion

The national archival collection is accessible and promoted, and made available through multiple channels regardless of original format.

Measures

1. Increase in public engagement with the National Archives

Table 5: Percentage increase in public engagement
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
3% 3% 3% 3%

2. Accessibility and level of engagement with the national archival collection

Table 6: Qualitative evaluation of access and engagement
2019–20 2020–21 2021–22 2022–23
Case studies demonstrating channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders Case studies demonstrating channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders Case studies demonstrating channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders Case studies demonstrating channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders

Reporting methodology

  • RecordSearch reports provide evidence of changes over time.
  • Reports and statistical data for nominated channels and services are combined to provide an agreed aggregate measure of public engagement.
  • Quarterly reporting identifies initiatives and achievements.
  • The relevant business area identifies up to two initiatives for inclusion in the annual performance statement.

Environment

In this digital age we operate in a global context. We must be agile as rapidly changing technologies enable both opportunities and threats. The National Archives, as the custodian of the Commonwealth record, must securely embrace the digital future while preserving the analogue past for future generations. At times this sees operations and resources stretched across and between competing demands. The national archival collection – the memory of our nation – is exposed to vulnerabilities in both the cyber and analogue realms. If exploited, these vulnerabilities could see parts of our national identity eroded or lost forever.

The National Archives recognises that digital disruption is, and will continue to be, significant for government. While itself confronting the challenges of digital transformation and ageing digital infrastructure, the National Archives continues to lead the development of standards and frameworks for best practice information management in Australian Government agencies. Commonwealth data is a valuable national resource. Managing digital information and unlocking its big data and service delivery benefits provides untold new opportunities. The role of the National Archives in providing advice is now multidimensional and has broadened to include digital storage, cloud computing and outsourcing digital storage. Above all the digital imperative remains continuity (Digital Continuity 2020) across Australian government systems now and into the future. The Act and our commitment to access is consistent with broader government commitment to transparency under the Open Government Partnerships.

Open access to the national archival collection is fundamental to a functioning democracy, supporting government transparency and accountability. Delivering the National Archives’ mission means delivering access to all Australians, including those in regional and remote locations. The National Archives has a truly national presence with access to the collection available offsite, online and onsite through the National Archives research centre/reading rooms in all states and territories. The professional workforce is innovative and adaptable. As experts in the field of information management, National Archives staff continue to evolve and adapt their skills to the changing technology of the digital landscape. To achieve the National Archives’ vision, investment continues to be made in developing our digital archive capability. Investment in digital literacy and capability will mitigate the risk of skills redundancy to enable the National Archives to maintain pre-eminence in records management. Failure to adequately invest in capability presents an enterprise risk to the National Archives’ national and international leadership position.

The technological opportunities of the digital age can only be fully realised through investing in people, systems and processes. The national archival collection represents a significant Commonwealth resource. However, maintaining contemporary service standards and meeting client expectations will require ongoing capability development, revision and resourcing. The National Archives is actively embracing a workforce culture that is innovative and adaptable, as evidenced in our Strategic Plan and Cultural Action Plan.

The National Archives continues to show discipline and resilience in the face of change and strives to maintain service excellence as we balance a range of priorities within our available resource allocation. An independent Functional and Efficiency Review (FER) led by former Department of Finance Secretary Mr David Tune (Tune Review) will consider the organisation’s role and resourcing. More specifically the review will consider:

  • the enduring role of the National Archives in the protection, preservation and use of Commonwealth information
  • how the National Archives might best perform its role
  • what powers, functions, resources and legislation and governance frameworks the National Archives needs to effectively and efficiently undertake this role in the digital age.

The Tune Review is expected to be finalised and presented to the government in late 2019. This Corporate Plan has been developed prior to the finalisation of the Tune Review. A revised 2019– 20 Corporate Plan may be submitted in the later months of 2019 pending the government’s response to the recommendations of the review.

Capability

The National Archives will continue to build capability across the Commonwealth in the information management space to manage Commonwealth data assets. Analytics from the annual Check-up Plus survey of government entities will provide whole-of-government metrics on the implementation of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy. The development of records authority coverage across the Commonwealth will ensure appropriate management of information assets for permanent preservation or accountable disposal of information and data.

A new whole-of-government policy will also be finalised, taking effect from 2021. The policy will be developed in collaboration with key Commonwealth agencies and will result in the Australian Government Information Framework. The framework will be a single digital resource drawing together the critical rules and requirements for information across government to help achieve better creation, governance and use of information. The policy will enable best practice information and data management by Australian Government agencies.

The National Archives is committed to the Australian Government’s Digital Transformation Strategy and Agenda through the development of our internal staff capability. Implementation of training and development pathways for a future-focused workforce will begin in 2019–20. These targeted pathways will raise levels of capability and equip staff to meet the future needs of the National Archives as the steward of the memory of the nation – analogue and digital.

The National Archives will continue to develop its capability aligned to critical business needs. This will require support for mobility of skills and resources and proactive management of cultural change and skills development. With this in mind, the National Archives continues to invest in employee learning and development. The development of a senior management program focused on key business skills and digital leadership will strengthen capability at the leadership level. Corporate learning and development activities will focus on both core and foundational skills aligned with requirements identified in corporate planning and individual work plan discussions.

There are a number of frameworks addressing capability and skills across the National Archives. These frameworks will be refined to increase alignment, and simplify access and understanding for our employees, providing an easy-to-understand pathway to capability development across the agency. The existing Cultural Action Plan is under review, involving consultation with staff, reconfirming when and how the plan was developed and why culture matters. We will articulate in detail, discuss and document how we as individuals and within teams can demonstrate our commitment to cultural change within our own business areas. This work will support and strengthen capability development across the National Archives.

Risk oversight and management

In the forward years, our risk strategy will mature through the development of a risk management framework that will continue to support our engagement with risk that is fit for purpose, meaningful and responsibly embedded into business processes by line areas. The key components of the strategy will see risk as relevant to all business activities, with closer alignment of risk and audit planning. Integration of risk in project management and planning activities will align with the Commonwealth Risk Management Policy and ISO 31000:2018 Risk Management – Guidelines.

Enterprise risk

The National Archives has actively engaged in meaningful risk dialogue and operates in a positive risk culture. Our enterprise risk oversight gives certainty to the executive in their strategic decision making, planning and resourcing to ensure objectives are achievable. Continued monitoring of the enterprise level risks is crucial to the achievement of our vision, mission and strategic priorities.

In 2019–20 we will continue to monitor the risk environment to identify emerging threats to the achievement of our priorities and leverage opportunities. Contemporary dashboard reporting to convey critical risk information to the executive and Audit and Risk Committee will position the National Archives to confidently meet our purpose and face future challenges. Table 7 below details identified enterprise risks.

Communication and engagement

The National Archives' open and positive risk culture means there are 'no surprises' for the executive as risks are known before they are realised. In the complex and rapidly changing digital environment we embrace informed risks to keep pace with our environment and optimise use of limited resources. We encourage a positive risk language that concentrates the conversation on what risk means to our business and future direction with a focus on strengthening controls and mitigations rather than individual risks. A major focus in 2019–20 is to review and enhance our risk appetite statement in line with our current priorities and operating environment. The statement will reinforce our positive risk culture with a proposed moderate to high-risk appetite for projects and activities that assist the achievement of objectives.

Table 7: Identified Risks against Priorities
Priority

Enterprise Risks 

Our vision: To be a world leading Archive in this digital age
  • priorities and functions not maintained consistent with government decision making, funding, policy and requirements under the Act
  • disconnection/disengagement from international archives community or public users
  • not seen to be leading and contributing to government digital agenda – loss of confidence by government in National Archives internationally
  • reliance on decreasing resources
  • lacking a modern end-to-end digital archival system to manage the digital selection, ingest, control and storage of, and access to, digital archives records
  • digital obsolescence – failure to innovate/remain technically current e.g. internal digitisation program slows
  • tools to expedite access delayed or not available
  • user interface with connected pathways not meeting expectations or inhibiting access
  • not investing in information technology and staff upskilling to support next generation digital transformation
  • cyber protections fail and digital asset(s) are compromised
  • loss of trust by relevant stakeholders.
Our mission: To connect Australians with their identity and history through our stewardship of Australian Government records
  • failure to lead Australian information management policy
  • agencies not applying information management policy, tools, standards or advice
  • not identifying and retaining government information of national significance as a result of agency non-compliance with the Act; this includes failure to transfer records that are ‘Retain as National Archives’
  • continued transfer of paper and other non-digital records to National Archives exceeding current storage and preservation capacity
  • deterioration of older paper records faster than capability to restore them
  • imminent obsolescence and shelf life of large amounts of media records (e.g. magnetic tape) currently within the collection
  • capacity to approach external market to digitise or preserve these records approaching end of shelf life constrained by market and available resources
  • cyber incidents compromise digital assets
  • failure to progress end-to-end digital processes
  • current systems and structures unable to support required innovation.
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