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Restrict access to records (Restricted Access Periods)

A restricted access period (RAP) is a set period of time where access to records in the custody of Queensland State Archives is limited. This is usually to protect confidential or sensitive information.

Records under a RAP can be accessed through an access request or through the file issue service.

There are other mechanisms for accessing restricted records at QSA including Right to Information, Information Privacy and through a subpoena.

A restricted access period is required under the Public Records Act 2002 for all records transferred to Queensland State Archives.

When transferring records, you must classify them and provide the State Archivist with a RAP notice (DOCX, 174 KB) defining the RAP to be applied to the records.

1. Who can set a RAP

A RAP is set by your agency’s CEO or their authorised delegate. This is done when the records are transferred to QSA. The CEO or authorised delegate can also change a RAP after it’s been set.

Find out more about delegating recordkeeping responsibilities.

2. When to set a RAP

A RAP needs to be set when records are transferred to QSA.

When preparing your transfer proposal, think about what RAP should be applied to the records.

You will need to discuss the RAP with QSA before your transfer will be accepted.

Once a transfer proposal is accepted and arranged, your CEO or authorised delegate will need to set the RAP using the Restricted access period notice (DOCX, 174 KB).

If the records being transferred are an addition to a series already held by QSA (known as an accrual), then the existing RAP for that series will have already been set and will be applied to the newly transferred records.

Your agency must notify us if the existing RAP does not apply to the accrual records being transferred, or if there are any exceptions.

3. How to set a RAP

To support an open and transparent government, records transferred to QSA should be open (have a RAP of 0 years) unless a record should be restricted to protect confidential or sensitive information.

The duration of a RAP is linked to the types and sensitivity (e.g. low, medium or high) of information contained in a record and is calculated from the date of last action on a record.

A RAP must be a set period of time and cannot cover an indefinite period. It is the intent of the Public Records Act 2002   that all records eventually become available for public access.

Some records (such as adoption records) are governed by legislation that overrides the Public Records Act 2002  which may affect their access.

To set a RAP of more than 100 years, you need a regulation under the Public Records Act 2002. A regulation may only be passed if it can be demonstrated that access to the records would not, on balance, be in the public interest.

To determine the appropriate RAP:

The State Archivist may ask your agency to review or change a RAP. If agreement cannot be reached after negotiation, either party may refer the issue to the Public Records Review Committee for resolution. See the RAP review escalation process (PDF, 164 KB) for more information.

4. Restricted access period categories

Use the following categories as well as the Setting restricted access periods (RAP) guide (PDF, 315 KB) to help determine the most appropriate RAP.

You may specify any duration between the minimum and maximum periods outlined below.

The following information and guide takes into consideration requirements under the Public Records Act 2002, schedule 3 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) and s.12 of the Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act).

However, it is your agency’s responsibility to ensure other legislation and requirements are considered when determining a RAP.

Category 1 - All public records (if not relevant under another category)

Closure period between 0-30 years

This applies to most records, as they are usually of a non-personal or non-sensitive nature. They will likely also have little to no impact on business or agency interests.

A restricted access period set at ‘0’ indicates that the records are not subject to a restricted period and are available for public access immediately on completion of the transfer process.

Category 2 - Personal affairs of an individual

Closure period between:

  • 0-30 years (low sensitivity)
  • 31-65 years (medium sensitivity)
  • 66-100 years (high sensitivity)

Records that contain information about personal affairs may include details about personal relationships, health, domestic or financial obligations.

Note: Personal details may also constitute information about personal affairs.

If a record contains information about personal affairs, consider:

  • if the person in question is deceased or likely to be deceased
  • if the person was an adult or child at the time the record was created
  • concerns about privacy diminish over time
  • if any of the information can be found in the public domain such as published material, social media, telephone directories or open court processes
  • the sensitivity of the information if it was released.

Category 3 - Information subject to legal professional privilege

Closure period between:

  • 0-30 years (low to medium sensitivity)
  • 31-65 years (high sensitivity)

This applies to records containing information created during the process of giving or obtaining legal advice or providing legal services.

Consider the sensitivity of the information if it was released when determining the most appropriate RAP.

Category 4 - Information whose disclosure would be found to be a breach of confidence

Closure period between:

  • 0-30 years (low to medium sensitivity)
  • 31-65 years (high sensitivity)

This applies to records containing information conveyed in confidence under the understanding the information is for a restricted purpose.

Consider the sensitivity of the information if it was released when determining the most appropriate RAP.

Category 5 - National or state security information

Closure period between:

  • 0-30 years (low sensitivity)
  • 31-65 years (medium to high sensitivity)

This applies to records that contain information that could reasonably be expected to damage the security of the Commonwealth or State.

Consider:

  • whether information is current (e.g. building still exists or person is deceased etc.)
  • if the information is available in the public domain (e.g. Google Maps, government websites, evacuation plans)
  • the sensitivity of the information if it was released.

Category 6 - Law enforcement or public safety information

Closure period between:

  • 0-30 years (low to medium sensitivity)
  • 31-65 years (high sensitivity)

This applies to records that contain information that could:

  • bias an investigation or trial
  • endanger a person’s life, wellbeing, or physical safety, including harassment and intimidation
  • bias the maintenance of law enforcement
  • endanger the security of a structure or vehicle
  • help in a person’s escape from custody
  • affect the wellbeing of cultural and natural resources or the habitat of animals and plants which could be prejudicial to their survival.

Consider:

  • if the information is available in the public domain (e.g. open court proceedings, media coverage, Google Maps)
  • the sensitivity of the information if it was released.

Category 7 - Cabinet matters

Closed for a period of:

  • 20 years (for records created after July 2009)
  • 30 years (for records created before July 2009)

This applies to documents brought into existence for the consideration of Cabinet.  

Category 8 - Executive Council information and ministerial records

Closure period of 30 years.

This applies to records submitted or proposed to be submitted to the Executive Council.

This includes:

  • any drafts or copies
  • briefings for ministers, the Governor of Queensland or Chief Executives.

5. Sensitivity of information

Sensitivity of information can be considered in three levels and may change over time:

Low sensitivity

Low level information such as summary information of a person, event or business activity that poses a low risk to the relevant person or agency if released.

Low sensitivity personal affairs information may include name, address, age, occupation, next of kin, as found in a register or database.

Low sensitivity business related information may include name of project or building, information that is unclassified or publicly available already.

Medium sensitivity

Contains more detailed information about a person, event or business activity that poses medium or moderate risk to the person or agency if it was released.

Medium sensitivity personal affairs information may include relationships to other people, employment details, culturally sensitive material and financial affairs.

Medium sensitivity business related information may include records and information classified as in-confidence or sensitive, or information that was highly sensitive, but the sensitivity has reduced over time.

High sensitivity

Contains detailed information of a person, event or business activity of a sensitive nature that poses a medium or high level of risk to the person or agency if the information was released.

High sensitivity personal affairs information may include sensitive medical records, culturally sensitive material, and mental health records.

High sensitivity business related information may include financial records, contracts, security related information, some information classified as in-confidence, and records and information classified as cabinet-in-confidence or protected.

For more information on personal information and privacy, see the Office of the Information Commissioner website.

6. When to restrict item descriptions (metadata)

Item or record descriptions (metadata) are published through the online catalogue on QSA’s website when records are transferred to QSA, even if the records are restricted.

This description or metadata includes the:

  • item or record title
  • dates
  • departmental or agency numbers
  • format information.

Most item descriptions for records will be available in the online catalogue by default (excluding cabinet matters) even if the record it relates to is closed. This enables other forms of authorised access.

Item descriptions should only be restricted if the description includes sensitive or confidential information. 

Note: Item descriptions for records restricted under category 7 (Cabinet matters) are automatically closed for the same period of time to which the records relate.

To determine if the item descriptions should be restricted:

  • examine the item metadata of records being transferred (on the item list)
  • look at the considerations about the restricted access period categories applied to the record to determine if the descriptions might need to be restricted
  • identify whether the item metadata, either alone or in conjunction with series details (e.g. series title, description, dates), contains confidential or sensitive information that should be restricted
  • indicate on the RAP notice (DOCX, 174 KB) whether the item descriptions should be closed from public view for the duration of the RAP and provide justification for your decision.

As with the RAP, this decision is made at the series level (with item level exceptions if necessary).

Regardless of whether or not the item level metadata is visible, information about the series is available in the catalogue. This includes the title, description and dates.

See an example of a series description and an example of an open item description where the record is closed.

7. How to change an existing RAP

You can change an existing RAP by issuing a new RAP notice (DOCX, 174 KB) to the State Archivist.

This may be necessary because of legislative or regulatory change, or because the sensitivity of information has changed (e.g. becomes less sensitive as time passes).

Changes must be consistent with the Act’s requirements and are subject to approval by the State Archivist. You will need to justify why a RAP should be changed when completing the new RAP notice.

When deciding to change a RAP, ensure you have a solid understanding of the records’ contents. This may involve:

  • reviewing the QSA catalogue's series description to understand the records’ context
  • checking the item list for the types of records in the series
  • physically checking a sample of the records, either by visiting QSA or requesting records through the file issue service
  • consulting with any relevant business areas within your agency.

QSA provides item lists to agencies after the processing of transferred records has been completed. We recommend you contact us to ensure you have an up to date and comprehensive item list before you start work on reviewing or revising an existing RAP.

8. More information

Restricted access periods are governed by the Public Records Act 2002 and are influenced by access requirements and exceptions detailed in the Information Privacy Act 2009 and the Right to Information Act 2009. See each Act for more information.

If you need assistance to determine a RAP, contact the QSA Archival Collections team.

9. Resources and tools