Storing physical records

The physical records you create and capture as part of your agency's business will need to be stored. Where and how will depend on:

  • their format – for example, whether they are paper, film, or photographs
  • how long the records need to be kept
  • how often they will be accessed.

Storing records in appropriate environmental conditions will prevent deterioration and is a central factor in ensuring their long-term access.

If your agency is using a storage provider it is important to remember that it is still the agency's responsibility to make sure that they are kept in appropriate conditions and can be accessed when required.

Records that are sentenced 'retain as national archives' under a records authority or general disposal authority may then be transferred to the National Archives. Once this occurs the agency is no longer responsible for the storage of those records.

Keeping archival records in your agency

With more and more digital information being produced and stored by Australian Government agencies we understand that there needs to be flexibility in arrangements to meet the needs of agencies, while making sure that records of continuing value are kept as national archives (RNA) and are available for public use.

In 2016 the Archives published its Distributed Custody Policy. Under this policy the default position is still for RNA records in all formats to be transferred to the care and custody of the Archives. However, the it also acknowledges that sometimes it may be more efficient for these records to remain with the agency or to be transferred to another organisation.

This distributed custody model recognises the complexity of systems, and in particular digital systems, which store information, the nature of digital records, and the need for agencies to sometimes keep information beyond the period when it would normally be transferred to the Archives. This could be for a variety of reasons including for ongoing business needs, because of the specialist knowledge that is needed to manage or interpret the information, or to deliver enhanced access to the records.

Under the Policy the Archives and the custodial organisation set up a distributed custody arrangement under section 64 of the Archives Act. This ensures the records remain in the custody of the agency or organisation where the records are held with the appropriate care, preservation and access arrangements to enable the Archives to meet its obligations under the Act.

Please contact us through the Agency Service Centre if you have any questions about the Distributed Custody Policy or for more advice about your circumstances.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2019