Queensland State Archives | Retention and disposal

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Retention and disposal

Queensland public authorities create and receive an enormous number of public records every day. Administering and storing these records can cost money, time and resources.

Identifying records that need to be maintained, keeping them for the right amount of time and disposing of them the appropriate way can generate cost savings, efficiency, storage and other savings—savings that can be redirected into other business functions. It also offers protection in the event of litigation and ensures compliance with state and federal legislation.

Keeping public records

Every public sector employee needs to know when a record should be created, kept and managed and when it can be lawfully disposed of.

Public records that must be preserved are those that:

  • document the rights and entitlements of Queensland citizens
  • enable the efficient and accountable operation of government and
  • preserve information about Queensland history for future generations. 

Under the Public Records Act 2002 it is unlawful to dispose of a public record without authorisation from the State Archivist. Disposal includes:

  • destroying
  • damaging
  • abandoning
  • transferring
  • donating
  • giving away
  • selling.

The State Archivist gives authorisation through an approved Retention and Disposal Schedule. An authority’s CEO or appropriate delegate must endorse the disposal of a public record in line with an approved retention and disposal schedule.

What is a retention and disposal schedule?

A retention and disposal schedule is a legal way to authorise the destruction or transfer of public records. The schedule itself is a document that:

  • describes the type of business a public authority performs
  • identifies the records produced as a result of that business
  • specifies how long each record must be kept.

There are four main types of schedules:

  • Agency Specific/Core—covers public records unique to a public authority based on the functions it performs.
  • General—covers administrative records common to all public authorities and based on common functions.
  • Sector—covers records of similar public authorities (for example, local government, universities, energy sector) and based on functions common to like public authorities.
  • Functional—covers records of similar functions performed by multiple public authorities (for example, child protection and health complaints).

Improving the way we save and dispose of records

Queensland State Archives (QSA) provides a range of information, advice, guidelines, tools and other resources to help Queensland public authorities meet their obligations and improve their practices in the retention and disposal of public records.

The recent QSA recordkeeping assessment survey highlighted the need for increased retention and disposal coverage for Queensland public authorities. To improve the retention and disposal of public records across government, QSA is currently developing a strategic disposal framework which will provide additional guidance to public authorities in implementing systematic and transparent disposal programs.

The framework will include:

  • further advice for public authorities on compliance with Information Standard 31: Retention and Disposal of Public Records
  • collaboration with public authorities to improve the quality of draft retention and disposal schedules submitted to QSA for review
  • improved processes for the development of retention and disposal schedules, including revised templates to document the reason why certain retention periods are assigned to different record classes.

For quick reference, links to a range of advice and tools on disposal matters are listed below.

For information on…

go to…

retaining and disposing of public records

approved retention and disposal schedules

General Retention and Disposal Schedule for Administrative Records (GRDS)

developing and implementing a retention and disposal schedule  

transferring permanent records to Queensland State Archives

​digitisation of records
​disposal of records

disposal freezes

microfilming public records

Machinery-of-Government / administrative changes


Last updated 11 March 2015