Recordkeeping FAQ

 This page contains information on Frequently Asked Questions received by State Records Office staff.

A Glossary of Terms used in State Records Commission and State Records Office publications is available for download.

If you have an information query that is not covered within this section please contact the State Records Office via email at

General Questions

What is the State Records Act?
The State Records Act 2000 outlines the requirements of government for the keeping of State records by government. The Act repeals the recordkeeping provisions in the Library Board of Western Australia Act 1951-1983.

Further details on the State Records Act and information on other legislation affecting records management in Western Australia can be found on our Legislative Requirements page.

What are State records?
State records are any form of information created, received or maintained by a government agency or parliamentary department in the course of conducting its business activities.

Are State records the same as Public records?
Yes. The term “public record” was used in the Library Board of Western Australia Act 1951-1983 to refer to any record made or received by public officers in the course of their duties. This section of the Library Board Act has now been replaced with the definition of "State record" in the State Records Act 2000.

What are State archives?
State archives are State records that must be retained permanently. They must be retained within the State Records Office or an approved archival repository.

This differs from the way the term “archive” is used in information technology, to indicate a folder or space where older records (such as emails) are moved after a set period. Under the State Records Act, State archives are to be kept forever.

Electronic records designated as State archives are to remain in the custody of the agency that created or managed them. These records must be managed in accordance with SRC Standard 8 – Managing Digital Information.

What are intermediate records?
Intermediate or semi-active records are those with declining current administrative valuethat have not yet attained the prescribed age for destruction.

Is "disposal" the same as "destruction"?
No. “Disposal” refers to the ultimate action affecting records once they have reached their designated retention period. Disposal can either take the form of destruction (the physical destruction of records that are no longer of value, ensuring that no information is retrievable) or archiving (permanent retention of records with enduring value).

What are ephemeral records?
Ephemeral records are those with only short term value to an agency, as they contain little or no ongoing administrative, fiscal, legal, evidential or historical value. They are usually not incorporated into the agency's recordkeeping system.

Such records may be destroyed once reference ceases, as specified in the General Disposal Authority for State Government Information and the General Disposal Authority for Local Government Records.

How long do records need to be kept?
Under the State Records Act 2000, State records must be retained and disposed of using a disposal authority approved by the State Records Commission.

Disposal authorities outline the specific categories of records maintained by an agency, and the retention periods for these categories. There are three main types of disposal authority:

  • General Disposal Authorities cover records categories common to State and/or local government agencies;
  • Sector Disposal Authorities cover the business records across groups of similar agencies (“sectors”) across State government; and
  • Agency specific Retention and Disposal Schedules, covering records of business activity unique to each agency.

For more detail please see the Disposal of State Records page. 

My agency has some records that I can’t find in any applicable Disposal Authorities. What do I do?
Please contact the State Records Office for assistance, as the relevant Disposal Authority may need to be amended to enable legal disposal.

In the meantime, records that cannot be sentenced using the agency’s applicable Disposal Authority/ies must be retained - the records must not be destroyed

Can I transfer records to the State Records Office?
Due to a lack of storage space the State Records Office is currently unable to accept transfers of archival records from government agencies. Refer to the Transferring Archival Records to the State Records Office page for more information.

Agencies that have identified State archives for transfer should ensure that they are maintained in accordance with the Directions for Keeping State Archives awaiting transfer to the State Archives Collection

Can I restrict access to my agency's archives?
Agencies may request to restrict public access to their archival records, by notifying the State Archivist and Executive Director State Records in writing, outlining which archives are to be restricted and why.

Under the State Records Act 2000, restricted access requests are authorised by the State Records Commission.

Any researchers wishing to access restricted archival records will need to obtain written permission from the appropriate agency.

Do you offer recordkeeping training?
The State Records Office currently considers agency training requests on a case-by-case basis. Refer to the Recordkeeping Training page for more information.

What happens to the records of agencies affected by Machinery of Government (MOG) changes?
From time to time the Government implements public sector reform, commonly referred to as “Machinery of Government” changes, or “Administrative Change”.  Such changes may include an amalgamation, or merger, of two or more agencies; abolition of an agency or transfer of functions.  For information on what happens to the agencies’ records in such circumstances, refer to the Information Sheet: Management of Information Following Administrative Change.

How do I deal with credit card data?
Records of credit card payments must be retained in accordance with an approved Disposal Authority.  However, credit card holder details must be managed in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). 

The standards were developed to improve cardholder data security and have specific mandatory requirements regarding the storage and disposal of credit card data. Any government organization that processes, stores, or transmits credit card data is required by the card provider (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, etc.) to comply with the standards to prevent cardholder data theft. Organizations that fail to comply with the standards risk losing the ability to process these payments.

All sensitive authentication data as defined in the PCI DSS and the primary account/credit card number must be destroyed once the action has been completed and cannot be stored in an eDRMS or Business Information System. 

All other elements of the transaction record (such as the transaction number, date, amount, etc.) must be retained in accordance with the relevant approved Disposal Authority for audit purposes.
Organizations, in consultation with their relevant business units should document the process relating to the management and capture of credit card transactions to make it clear for all employees. 
Further information on the PCI DSS can be found on the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards website at

Electronic Records

What is an electronic record?
An electronic record (or digital record) is any information existing in electronic form, requiring combinations of computer hardware and software to be read and understood.  Electronic records include word processed files, electronic spreadsheets, databases, email, voice mail, internet and intranet systems, and scanned documents. They may be held on hard drives, network drives, or external storage media such as thumb drives.

Electronic records are considered State records if they relate to the business of government, that is, they contain information which:

  • has evidential and/or historical value, and is not recorded elsewhere on the corporate record;
  • forms part of formal communications and/or transactions between offices (for example, a report or submission) or between an officer and another party; or
  • documents the rationale behind organisation policy, decisions or directive.

Are text messages, sent and received on mobile devices, records?
Yes, just as email and voice mail messages are considered State records, so too are text messages if they relate to the business of government (see previous question, What is an electronic record?).

Text messages of this nature from mobile devices should be downloaded and captured into the official corporate system or be transcribed via a file note to the corporate record. The value of the subject matter will determine the retention period of the record, as identified in the appropriate General Disposal Authority, Sector Disposal Authority, or organization specific Retention and Disposal Schedule.

My agency maintains some social media pages. Are these records?
Government agencies may use social media platforms (such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube) for official government business. Records created or received on these platforms, depending on the subject matter, may be State records that need to be captured in the recordkeeping system.

Agencies should establish policies and procedures to govern the capture, and subsequent management, of social media records into corporate systems. Methods for capturing social media records can vary depending on the platform.

For more information refer to the Information Sheet - Social Media Content as Government Records.

What is metadata?
Metadata is "data about data" that is, the information that must be captured alongside an electronic record to provide contextual information and support its management and use. Examples of metadata include: date and time of creation and registration; author; document title; registration number/s; links to related records; and file paths.

What is migration and why is it important?
Migration is the conversion of existing data to new hardware, software and/or storage media. Migration is necessary to preserve the functionality and integrity of electronic information throughout its designated retention period.

What do I do with electronic records of archival value?
Electronic records of archival value must be managed by the agency that created or kept them. This agency is responsible for ensuring that these records are held in secure conditions and that the data is migrated as necessary to maintain readability for as long as required.

Electronic records of archival value must be managed in accordance with SRC Standard 8 – Managing Digital Information.

How do I destroy electronic records?
Electronic records should be destroyed either by physical destruction of the storage medium, degaussing, or by using file shredding software. The use of the “delete” function is not sufficient to destroy electronic records as the information may still be recoverable.

The State Records Office Guideline for Sanitizing Digital Media and Devices provides guidance for sanitisation methods prior to disposal of digital media.

Can I use cloud computing within my agency? 
As part of the GovNext-ICT reform program the State government encourages organizations to adopt cloud services over the traditional “own and operate” ICT solutions.

Cloud based services can enable the delivery of more flexible and agile public-sector services and may reduce the need for each agency to own and operate their own infrastructure.

The Office of Digital Government has developed a Cloud Policy and Cloud Supplementary Guide and Toolkit designed to aid government organizations in progressing to cloud based services. These documents can be found at

As part of the GovNext-ICT Common Use Arrangement (CUA) a Mandatory State-wide whole of Government arrangement for the supply of ICT in certain service categories has been developed. The GovNext-ICT Common Use Arrangement (CUA) GNICT2015 is authorised for use from 20 January 2017 to 19 January 2022.

For further support in transitioning to cloud services, contact the Office of Digital Government.

General Disposal Authority (GDA) for Source Records


What is the GDA for Source Records?
The GDA for Source Records is a continuing authority to enable State and local government organizations to legally destroy source records that have been successfully digitized in accordance with the accompanying Digitization Specification.

When should I scan in colour?

An original record (the source record) which contains a colour element must be scanned in colour if:

  • The colour element is essential to understanding or comprehending the information on the record; or
  • The colour element is essential for the reproduction to meet the required degree of authenticity, integrity, reliability or usability of the record to properly substitute for the original record.
  • The record is or is likely to become an archival (permanent) record or needs to be kept for more than 10 years.

An original record (the source record) which contains a colour element does not need to be scanned in colour if:

  • The colour element is not essential to understanding or comprehending the information on the record; or
  • The colour element is not essential for the reproduction to meet the required degree of authenticity, integrity, reliability or usability of the record to properly substitute for the original record.
  • The record is or is likely to become a temporary record that needs to be kept for less than 10 years.

A colour element can include, but is not limited to:

  • The colour used in the text or graphics in the document;
  • The background colour of the paper;
  • The colour of a heading or logo;
  • The pen colour used in handwritten notes or text on the document;
  • The colour of stamps such as ‘copy’ or ‘received’.

Can I undertake retrospective scanning?
Retrospective or backscanning exercises may be undertaken to meet agency business needs (such as scanning for access purposes). However, any source records falling outside the scope of the GDA for Source Records cannot be destroyed without authorisation from the State Records Commission.

A cost benefit exercise should be undertaken to determine the cost of preparing, scanning and capturing the scanned file into an EDRMS or business information system, and to maintaining links with original control documentation such as indexes and registers. Agencies should also consider whether the material is physically capable of being scanned and the methodology and equipment to be used.

What are calibration and test targets?
Scanning equipment is calibrated in accordance with set specifications at the time of manufacture. These specifications form the calibration target for the equipment. As part of maintenance checks (usually conducted periodically by the equipment vendor/supplier), the calibration target is used to test that the equipment is working according to specification.

A test target for scanning is a chart showing greyscale, colour, and measurement specifications. This document is scanned and checked to test that the scanning equipment accurately reproduces the tones and dimensions of a hard copy source document. 

What is PDF/A?
As identified in the GDA for Source Records, PDF/A is the internationally accepted PDF format for long term retention of records. It is defined by International Standard ISO 19005-1: 2005. More information about PDF/A is available from the PDF/A Competence Centre

What version of PDF/A should I use?
IT departments and imaging providers should be consulted to determine which is the most appropriate version for the organisation.  PDF/A – 1a requires full compliance with the standard, and includes compulsory metadata elements, and may be best used for records which have a longer retention period.  PDF/A – 1b ensures minimal compliance with the standard.

How should I manage annotations or alterations to scanned files?
It should be remembered that the PDF/A scanned file is the master version and should be registered or captured in the EDRMS or business information system.  A copy of the scanned file may be created for agency staff to view, and will be regarded as a duplicate record.  An augmented PDF/A (ie where the image has been annotated or altered in any way) would become a ‘born digital’ file which should be captured in accordance with the organisation’s digital recordkeeping procedures.

What standards are in place for digitization?
The following International Standards may be of interest to organizations implementing a records digitization program:

  • ISO 12653-1: 2000 - Electronic imaging - Test target for the black-and-white scanning of office documents - Part 1: Characteristics
  • ISO 12653-2: 2000 - Electronic imaging - Test target for the black-and-white scanning of office documents - Part 2: Method of use
  • ISO 29861: 2009 - Document management applications - Quality control for scanning office documents in colour
  • ISO/TR 15801: 2004 - Electronic Imaging – information stored electronically – recommendations for trustworthiness and reliability
  • ISO/TR 13028: 2010 - Information and Documentation – Implementation guidelines for digitization of records

These Standards are available to purchase from the SAI Global website. NB: Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of standards that may be relevant to digitization projects.


Keyword AAA and Keyword for Councils

What is Keyword AAA?
Keyword AAA, produced by State Archives & Records NSW, is a thesaurus of general terms designed for classifying, titling and indexing most types of administrative records. It should be used in conjunction with an agency's unique functional terms. It is used by a wide range of State government agencies and private organisations throughout Western Australia.

What is Keyword for Councils?
Keyword for Councils, produced by State Archives & Records NSW, is a thesaurus of terms related to local government functions. It is designed to enable the classification, titling and indexing of records created by local government organisations.

Which are the current versions of the Keyword publications?
The current version of Keyword AAA is dated 1998; the current version of Keyword for Councils is dated 2001.

Is it compulsory to use Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils?
No. There is no mandatory requirement for WA State or local government agencies to implement the Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils products.

How can I obtain a copy of Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils?
Organisations with queries about the purchase of Keyword AAA or Keyword for Councils should contact State Archives & Records NSW at


Online Retention and Disposal Application (ORDA)

What is ORDA?
ORDA is a web-enabled system that enables government agencies to draft and submit Retention and Disposal Schedules (and other disposal authorities) to the State Records Office. The full workflow for a disposal authority – from initial preparation through to final approval from the State Records Commission – is managed by ORDA.

State Records Office staff will review agency schedules via ORDA once they have been submitted and provide comment directly via the system. ORDA clearly tags where comments have been made so that agency staff can then respond directly to the matters identified (by providing further information about the records covered in the schedule, or other matters as requested). 

Why has ORDA been developed?
The State Records Office developed ORDA to integrate all processes associated with preparing and submitting Retention and Disposal Schedules. The development of this system marks a shift away from submission and evaluation of disposal authorities in hardcopy.

As ORDA provides a central database of government records retention and disposal decisions, the application provides capability to:

  • search for existing precedents as the system becomes populated with disposal authorities;
  • support consistent decision-making when individual Retention and Disposal Schedules are being drafted;
  • allow the information across a range of disposal authorities to be used globally by the State Records Office for reporting, analytical and other business purposes; and
  • ultimately, to integrate records appraisal criteria and restricted access (archives) criteria into the application for client ease of use and to also ensure such decisions are benchmarked against overarching frameworks.

Who can use ORDA?
ORDA is available for records / information management officers within State government, as well as records consultants engaged by State government agencies, as they develop or revise their agency’s Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority.

When should I use ORDA?
State government agencies must use ORDA when:

  • Developing a new Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority; or
  • Significantly revising their existing Retention and Disposal Schedule / Sector Disposal Authority.

When an agency is making minor revisions to their schedule (eg updating or adding a limited number of new entries) this will typically be progressed as an amendment to the existing schedule, rather than a new schedule in itself. In such situations, it may not be necessary to use ORDA.

When an agency is contemplating a new disposal authority, or changes to an existing disposal authority, the State Records Office should be contacted in the first instance to discuss the preferred approach.

How do I start using ORDA?
If you require access to ORDA, please contact the State Records Office so you can be registered as a user.

Further information about ORDA is available on the Developing a Disposal Authority page. If you have further queries please contact the State Records Office via email at




Last updated 20 May 2019