Accessing Restricted Records

restricted recordsWhile some State Archives are restricted for extended periods of time, there are avenues available to apply for access to them.

The decision to grant access to restricted State archives ultimately lies with the government agency responsible for creating those records. In cases where the creating agency is no longer in existence then the successor agency assumes responsibility for control of the records.

Advice on how to apply for access to restricted records can be obtained from State Records Office staff. For several agencies, application forms are available from the SRO, which, in the main, require applicants to state specifically the reason(s) why they require access and which items they wish to have access to. The applicant will need to state the title of the file, the accession or consignment number, the item number and the date of the file on the relevant form. Agencies determine access based on their individual restricted access policies and require certain criteria to be met before they will grant access. You can email sro@sro.wa.gov.au to obtain a form or contact details for an agency which has restrcited archives in the State Archives Collection.

Steps to Apply for Access to Restricted Records

The following steps outline the procedures involved in applying to access restricted records:

  • Identify the restricted access items you require recording the relevant item number and title, and consignment details.
  • Obtain the relevant application form from the State Records Office or from the relevant government agency. A few agencies don't have a form, so will need to be contacted directly to access relevant State Archives.
  • Complete the form including all relevant personal details, information on items required and reason for requesting access.
  • Post, email or deliver the completed form to the relevant agency. Each form contains details on where it should be lodged.
  • The agency may contact you for further to obtain information to assist in deciding if access will be granted. Exact details of this process will vary depending upon the agency and the sensitivity of the information required. In cases where information is required for family history purposes (eg. prisoner records) it may be necessary to obtain written authorisation from the person involved, or to prove direct descent in the case that the person is no longer alive - this is for the relevant agency to advise.
  • When a decision has been made you will be notified by the agency. You will need to bring the advice to the State Records Office authorising you to view these records. In a few circumstances a copy of the permission letter may be emailed to the SRO, but ultimately it is up to the client to retain the permission letter with them while viewing restricted records in the SRO.
  • The authorisation letter should also indicate the circumstances under which copying of restricted records is permitted.
  • If access to restricted material has been granted then it will be necessary to arrange for the retrieval of the items with State Records Office staff.  

SRO staff can only make restricted access items available to you once they have sighted the advice authorising you with permission to access the relevant files. Therefore you must bring your advice with you when you visit to view restricted access materials. SRO staff may make a copy of your authorisation advice and this will be filed for reference of SRO staff.