Disposal advice for record managers

Public records must be retained for the minimum retention period set out under a retention and disposal schedule.

It's important to regularly dispose of records. Your agency's disposal plan will ensure your agency has proper coverage by documenting the disposal of its records.

Policy requirements

Records governance policy requirement 6 addresses the disposal of a record.


Remember, there are only two ways your agency is allowed to dispose of records:

  1. A disposal authorisation issued by the State Archivist
  2. Other legal authority that instructs you to dispose of records in a certain way

Below you will find specific information on key stages of record disposal, from understanding a record's value, to the destruction of records that are no longer required.

Minimum retention periods are based on administrative, legal and fiscal requirements and consideration of the historical and community value of records. A record's value may be identified as:

Queensland State Archives' Appraisal Statement outlines the criteria used to appraise permanent archival or enduring archival value records—for example, records that document the primary functions of government or records that make a substantial contribution to community memory.

As it does not adequately reflect records of importance to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, it should be read in conjunction with Queensland State Archives' Statement of Intent which marks a new approach to  sharing and valuing the historical knowledge of Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

First Nations worldviews and methods

Queensland State Archives recognises that decisions around what public records relating Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples should be retained is complex and should be informed through community consultation.  While we work toward building these relationships and engaging respectfully in this space, Queensland State Archives will ensure that the selection of archival records takes into account, where relevant, First Nations worldviews and methods of creating, sharing and preserving valued knowledge.

Other permanent value factors

In retention and disposal schedules, some records may be described as significant or major to separate the permanent value records from other records of the same type that only need to be retained temporarily.

Records with intrinsic value will have many similar characteristics as enduring value but may have either a permanent or temporary retention period.

Request a special appraisal decision

You can request a special appraisal decision if you think that a temporary retention period in an approved retention and disposal schedule does not apply to the records you are sentencing, either because it is incorrect or because different circumstances apply to the records.

How to apply

Review the appraisal log and Appraisal Statement.

If the records meet one or more of the appraisal statement criteria:

Your application will be assessed, and written notification of the next steps will be provided.

Disposal authorisations are only issued by the State Archivist through an approved:

  • Retention and disposal schedule
  • Early or one-off disposal authorisation application
  • Damaged or missing public records application

Retention and disposal schedule

Retention and disposal schedules are issued to a specific agency or group of agencies. The most common ones are:

  • General retention and disposal schedule (GRDS) and GRDS Lite—cover records common to most agencies or created by multiple agencies, such as administrative, transitory and short-term records
  • Agency-specific / core schedules—cover records unique to the functions and business activities of a certain agency
  • Sector schedules—cover records of similar agencies that perform the same functions, such as local governments or universities.

All retention and disposal schedules are format-neutral, meaning they apply to all record types, and will provide you with information on the minimum retention perioddisposal trigger and disposal authorisation number.

You might also want to seek assistance from your IT area to upload the retention and disposal schedule into your business system or recordkeeping application.  This will assist you to:

  • manually sentence records to determine how long the records need to be kept
  • map retention and disposal schedules to your business classification scheme so that when a file is created it will automatically be sentenced
  • have the system calculate disposal dates
  • run reports to identify when records may be due for disposal.

Remember, records should be sentenced at the file or container level, not at the document or individual record level. This will prevent valuable contextual information being lost.

Developing or updating a retention and disposal schedule

Changes to retention and disposal schedules are sometimes required if:

  • The schedule no longer reflects the functions and activities performed by your agency
  • The schedule no longer covers all of your core business records
  • Your agency has been affected by significant legislation changes
  • Your agency has made significant changes to business processes, or the business value of records has changed
  • You have inherited records from another agency as part of a machinery-of-government change.

How to apply

If you need to develop or review your retention and disposal schedule:

If you need to change an existing class or create a new record class:

Your application will be assessed, and written notification of the next steps will be provided.

Early disposal

You can apply for early disposal when the records are:

  • Covered under a retention and disposal schedule
  • Temporary, with less than 5 years remaining of a minimum retention period

One-off disposal

You can apply for one-off disposal when records are:

  • Not covered under a retention and disposal schedule
  • Likely to have less than 5 years remaining of a minimum retention period

How to apply

Your application will be assessed, and written notification of the outcome provided.

The State Archivist may seek additional information, clarification and/or action from your agency if necessary.

Retain your completed application and written notification from the State Archivist in addition to your agency's usual destruction documentation.

Damaged or missing records

You must ensure the impacted records cannot be salvaged.

Records affected by water, smoke, mould, and pests can often be saved. Your agency should also have one or more backups of your systems and the impacted records that you can use and restore.

Disposal authorisation will be required if the impacted records are:

  • Damaged and cannot be salvaged, and/or
  • Missing

How to apply

Your application will be assessed, and written notification of the outcome provided.

The State Archivist may seek additional information, clarification and/or action from your agency if necessary.

Retain your completed application and written notification from the State Archivist in addition to normal destruction documentation.

Sentencing records requires you to identify the retention and disposal schedule and record class a record belongs to, and apply the disposal action.  Records can be sentenced when they are created or as required.

Apply a sentence

The following steps will help you apply the correct sentence to your records:

  • To reduce the risk of losing valuable contextual information, always sentence at the file or container level and not at the individual document/record level
  • Know your business and the records your agency creates and receives, including those you've inherited. This helps to determine what records are significant to the agency, which ones are needed for ongoing business, and which ones are routine
  • Know which business areas to talk to if you need more information about a record or file
  • Decide which retention and disposal schedule covers your records
  • Ensure you have the current version of the relevant retention and disposal schedule, especially if records have been sentenced earlier
  • Work out the function and activity your records fall under in the retention and disposal schedule
  • Identify which record class applies to your records. If there are several classes that could apply, use the longest minimum retention period
  • Calculate the destruction date by using the disposal trigger in the schedule. This may not be possible if a business outcome is not yet known. If in doubt, flag the records for review.

Sentencing at the file level

Files may contain records with different minimum retention periods. All files with multiple retention periods must be kept for the longest minimum retention period.

If files have more than one part to them, especially if they relate to large projects, ongoing activities, or include different formats and types of records. then the file parts should be sentenced as one file and kept for the longest minimum retention period.

Records covered by multiple schedules

Generally, if records have the same minimum retention period, the GRDS takes precedence. If records have different minimum retention periods, then your retention and disposal schedule will take precedence if it is current and up-to-date.

Records with no record class

At times, you may not be able to find an appropriate record class to sentence records because:

  • There is a gap in your retention and disposal schedule
  • The scope note of the record class does not match
  • There is a variation in terms used to describe the records in the retention and disposal schedule.

Before you decide that you can't sentence your records:

  • Think about the similarities between the record being sentenced and the record classes listed in the retention and disposal schedule—think broadly about the original intent of the record class
  • Check the appraisal log for the retention and disposal schedule in question (if available)–this may provide further background information about each record class
  • Talk to relevant business managers—understanding the business process or activity the records relate to will help determine which record class fits best.


Generally, resentencing will be required if:

  • Records that have been sentenced under an approved retention and disposal schedule, have not been disposed of and the record class has been repealed/replaced by a new record class
  • Circumstances have changed and the record falls into a new record class.

Before you destroy records, confirm you have:

CEO approval

Your CEO approval will need to document details about the records being destroyed:

  • Description of the records
  • Disposal authorisation
  • Destruction date.

A standing endorsement for CEO approval for the disposal of a specific set, or group of records, during a specific time period such as a financial year, allows you to destroy those records without seeking CEO endorsement each time.

Destruction methods

Records must be destroyed securely and destruction should take place as soon as possible after endorsement is given.

Methods of destruction include:

  • Shredding, pulping and burning for physical and paper records
  • Overwriting, purging, degaussing and physical destruction for digital records and storage media

Given the nature of most destruction methods, a commercial destruction service may be required to destroy your records.

You will need to ensure records are securely transported and destroyed, and that you receive evidence confirming this has occurred.

Destruction documentation

You need to document the destruction of all records, including:

  • A description of the records and date range
  • CEO or authorised delegate endorsement
  • Evidence of destruction specifying method, location, date, and details of who destroyed the records

While legal responsibility for recordkeeping always remains with your agency's CEO, they can delegate responsibility to endorse the:

  • Destruction of records
  • Transfer of records to Queensland State Archives

You do not need to inform Queensland State Archives of these arrangements.

The authorised delegate will be a person or position within your agency that has the appropriate authority, knowledge and skills, or an external position if the records are managed by a service provider.

You should use your internal delegation processes and instruments, similar to how you would manage other delegations such as Finance and Human Resources.

Sub-delegation is not allowed

An authorised delegate cannot give responsibilities delegated to them by the agency's CEO to anyone else.

Delegation of functions or powers is found under s27A of the Acts Interpretation Act 1954.

Find out more information about delegations for managing restricted access periods and authorised access.

Resources and tools

Resources and tools for records management have been developed to help you implement best practice records management in your agency.