Sentencing and appraisal

Sentencing is when you match your agency’s information to a specific records authority class.

This determines the information's value and how it should be managed throughout its lifecycle.

How long Australian Government information must be kept

The National Archives and individual agencies collaborate to determine minimum retention periods and disposal requirements for Australian Government information. These are based on:

  • the business the information relates to
  • legislative requirements
  • its value as evidence of Government activity
  • its value as a community resource
  • stakeholder expectations

Why sentence information

It's likely most of your agency’s business is now done digitally, resulting in more digital information being created and stored.

Your agency will also hold paper information which needs to be accountably managed.

Regularly sentencing information:

  • enables your agency to destroy information that has reached its minimum retention period
  • reduces costs associated with managing information, including storage, security and access costs
  • reduces the information your agency stores, improving information access and retrieval

The benefits of regularly sentencing information are that it:

  • improves your agency’s understanding of the information it holds
  • helps your agency effectively respond to discovery orders and Freedom of Information requests
  • reduces your agency’s risk and liability for holding information which could be legally destroyed
  • reduces paper information so your agency can meet the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy requirements
  • identifies high-value information, for example, 'Retain as national archives', so your agency can manage it properly until it can be transferred to the National Archives for preservation

Using records authorities to sentence your agency's information

There are different records authorities available for your agency to use for sentencing information.

Agency-specific records authorities

Your agency’s records authority represents a detailed analysis of your agency’s core business functions and the records and information it creates.

It is essential for:

  • assessing your information's value
  • making decisions about how long you must retain it

Minimum retention period

Your agency’s records authority sets out the minimum period that core business information must be kept.

Once the minimum retention period is reached and you no longer need the information to support your agency’s business, you can dispose of it.

General records authorities

Your agency can also use general records authorities to sentence core or administrative business information that is common to numerous agencies.

The Administrative Functions Disposal Authority (AFDA Express Version 2) is a general records authority that sets out disposal requirements for functions most agencies perform. This includes 'Finance' and 'Procurement'.

If a current records authority does not cover information, you cannot sentence or destroy it. The information must be kept until it can be covered by a records authority.