Records related to the use of AFFF fire suppressants

On 21 February 2017 the Director-General of the National Archives of Australia issued an amended records retention notice relating to the use of aqueous film forming foams (AFFFs). The original notice was issued in October 2015 to targeted agencies.

In November 2016 a class action was lodged with the Federal Court relating to Defence's historic use of AFFFs at RAAF Base Williamtown (Newcastle, NSW). As part of the response to this class action, various Government agencies have been asked to search for documents that may be relevant to proceedings. The Legal Sub-committee of the interdepartmental committee established to co-ordinate Government responses to such actions has reviewed these requests and developed a greater understanding of the records that may have relevance in such cases. As a result, the sub-committee suggested changes to the records retention notice involving a broader description of relevant records, more up to date background information and a change to the description of the chemicals in question.

Originally the chemicals were classed as perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs. PFCs also refer to perfluorocarbons, which are greenhouse gases. The preferred terms for AFFF chemicals are per-fluoroalkyl and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

As before, agencies must bear the cost of retaining these records and the retention notice remains in force until it is lifted by the Archives.

Unless your agency has received direct communication from the Archives in relation to this matter, it is unlikely that your agency is affected. This may be confirmed by the contents of the notice. Further information is contained in the Records Retention Notice (pdf, 82kB).