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Dispose of source records

This guideline is issued by the State Archivist under s.25 of the Public Records Act 2002

The process of migrating or converting a digital record, or converting a physical record into microfilm or digital format, results in 2 versions of the same record—the migrated or converted version, and the source record.

You need authorisation to destroy the original source records when you migrate, convert or digitise records.

The destruction of all records, including source records, must be endorsed by the CEO or authorised delegate and must be documented.

Source records should not be destroyed until quality assurance procedures have been completed.

Each source records disposal authorisation has a number of general conditions that need to be met before the original source records can be destroyed.

1. Digital source records

This applies to digital source records as part of migration or decommissioning business systems.

Digital source records need to be kept for a period of time following migration or conversion to allow time to perform quality checks and ensure the process was successful. This amount of time should be based on your agency’s risk assessment done during the migration or decommissioning process.

The migrated version of the record must be managed and retained for the full retention period. Consider any other legal or business continuity issues that may influence the further retention of the digital source records.

General access to digital source records should be restricted to prevent accidental alteration. They must also be stored and managed appropriately until they can be destroyed. This is necessary to ensure that they remain accountable, well-managed records and can be used again if they weren't successfully migrated or converted.

The digital source records can be destroyed using the General Retention and Disposal Schedule for Digital Source Records. This schedule includes minimum requirements that must be met before destruction can take place.

2. Physical source records

This applies to physical source records that have been successfully converted.

Physical source records that have been digitised can be destroyed under Disposal Authorisation 2074 if certain conditions are met.

  • Records must not fall under one of the excluded records categories.
  • Records must have a temporary retention status under a current disposal authorisation issued by the State Archivist (e.g. your core retention and disposal schedule).
  • Digitised reproductions must be accessible and held in a trusted system for the life of its temporary retention period.  
  • The reproduction must be a clear, complete and accurate copy of the physical source record that is fit for purpose.
  • Your agency must have developed and documented a defensible process that demonstrates how you meet the conditions of the source record disposal authorisation.
  • Your agency must have approval of this defensible process from your Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or their authorised delegate.

Each agency must determine whether:

  • records needs to be kept in a particular format to satisfy governance requirements and whether such requirements prevent the destruction of the original physical source record
  • you need to seek legal advice to assist with determining the risk of destroying of the physical source record after conversion
  • records are likely to become permanent value in the future (e.g. where records are sentenced based on significance)

You should consider your obligations and requirements as well as relevant legislation, policies, standards, and directives.

Excluded records

The following excluded records cannot be destroyed under Disposal Authorisation 2074:

3. Defensible process

You must have a defensible process to meet the requirements of the source records disposal authorisations.

A defensible digitisation, migration or conversion process shows that you have developed and documented a considered approach. It must be auditable or usable to prove that you can or have met all relevant conditions and requirements.

Evidence of your agency’s defensible process may be requested if there is an incident in which public records are lost due to negligence or improper process, or in response to RTI requests, court proceedings, or an audit.

Your defensible process must include:

  • the process or procedure you used to ensure all exclusions to source records disposal authorisation are observed
  • the steps taken during conversion to ensure that the converted record is a complete, clear and accurate version of the source record, and is fit for purpose (e.g. quality assurance, risk assessment, technical specifications)
  • details of how the converted record will be kept and managed in a trusted system for the full retention period (e.g. digital continuity and preservation processes, appropriate storage for the format and retention period)
  • how and when original source records will be destroyed
  • the disposal authorisation used to lawfully destroy the source records.

Your agency’s chief executive officer or their authorised delegate must approve the defensible process. You don’t need to refer this documentation to QSA.

See additional considerations that may also be included in a defensible digitisation process and migration.

Note: Any digitisation disposal policies based on the previous policy and disposal authorisation can still be used as evidence of a defensible process under the new source records disposal authorisation.

4. More information

Resources

Superseded documents

Disposal Authorisation 2074 replaces the following:

  • Digitisation Disposal Policy 2014
  • Microfilming Disposal Policy 2006
  • General retention and disposal schedule for original paper records that have been digitised (QDAN 656 v.2).

Acknowledgements

Disposal Authorisation 2074 was developed with input from:

  • Guide to the GDA for converted Source Records–Public Record Office Victoria
  • NZ Destruction of source information after digitisation–Archives New Zealand
  • Authority to retain public records in electronic form only–Archives New Zealand
  • Digitisation Plan for Post-Action Conversion Records–RIM Professionals Australasia
  • External agencies consulted
  • QSA internal working group