Quick reference guide on managing ministerial records

What are ministerial records?

Ministerial records (in any form, including digital) are records created or received by a minister or a ministerial office in connection with discharging the minister’s ministerial responsibilities. A ministerial record is a Commonwealth record subject to the Archives Act 1983.

Information and records relating to a minister’s personal, professional, party political and electorate matters are not Commonwealth records. This information should be managed to ensure it can be retrieved when needed.

Examples of ministerial records

  • appointment diaries
  • final speeches and media statements
  • daily itinerary papers
  • official briefings
  • portfolio-related correspondence
  • subject files on portfolio business
  • official tweets and WhatsApp messages
  • records of deliberations on official business

Creating and capturing ministerial records

Ministerial records are created in different formats and devices, including email, documents, photographs, videos, text messages and social media such as tweets and WhatsApp messages.

Ministerial records stored in email systems, shared directories, USBs and other mobile devices should be captured into official ministerial information management systems as soon as possible to ensure their appropriate management and to reduce their risk of loss. Email systems, shared directories and other mobile devices do not have the functionality or security features to protect the integrity of records over time.

Portfolio departments may be able to assist with establishing information management systems and protocols, as well as related policy, procedures and advice for managing ministerial records.

Important points to remember:

  • Non-ministerial records should be managed separately. These include:
    • departmental or agency records, for example, ministerials and other documents in the Parliamentary Workflow Solution (PWS or PDMS)
    • copies of numbered cabinet documents
    • personal, party political, electorate and other non-ministerial records.
  • Procedures for capturing and managing social media records should be established.
  • Ministerial staff should be aware of their information management responsibilities including implementing procedures to capture and manage ministerial records.

Keeping and destroying ministerial records

General Records Authority 38 (GRA 38) - Ministers of State was issued by the National Archives in October 2018 for use by ministerial offices. It provides authorisation for the most valuable ministerial records to be transferred to the National Archives when no longer required and permits the destruction of temporary records once they have been kept for required periods.

The quick reference guide to GRA 38 provides information on using the authority.

The authority supports the effective management of ministerial records, including records of decisions and actions taken by ministers in carrying out their official responsibilities. It also helps to ensure ministers meet legal compliance obligations in relation to Commonwealth records created in the course of carrying out their official duties.

What to do when a minister leaves office

The following steps should be taken when a minister leaves office:

  • Return all departmental records (including records of departmental liaison officers) to the originating agency.
  • Return Cabinet documents in accordance with the Cabinet Handbook to the Cabinet Division of Department Prime Minster and Cabinet. Substantially annotated Cabinet records are covered by GRA 38 and will be transferred by the Cabinet Division to the National Archives.
  • Separate party political, electorate and personal papers. These are not Commonwealth records and the minister may retain or securely dispose of this material as he or she sees fit.
  • For remaining ministerial records:
    • In consultation with the relevant portfolio department, arrangements for the transfer of all ministerial records to the department can be made. In these circumstances, the portfolio department would be responsible for applying GRA 38 to determine and prepare for transfer records identified as having national significance (including ministerial diaries) to the National Archives, and for accountably and securely destroying the remaining records.
    • Alternatively, apply GRA 38 to determine what records can be accountably and securely destroyed. Records identified as having national significance under class 62496 of GRA 38 should be sent to the relevant portfolio department to be prepared for transfer to the National Archives.
    • Any ministerial records that may be needed by an incoming minister should also be identified and made available through the portfolio department.
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