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Restrict access to records (Restricted Access Periods)

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

The RAP restricts access to the records for a set period and can only be accessed through an access request or through the file issue service.

It is intended that this period be temporary and that public records eventually become available for public access. However, some records (such as adoption records) are governed by legislation that overrides the Public Records Act 2002 and will never be made publicly available.

When transferring records, you must classify them and provide the State Archivist with a RAP notice (DOC, 313 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 usually done when the records are transferred to QSA. The CEO or authorised delegate can also change a RAP period after it’s been set.

2. When to set a RAP

Generally, you need to apply a RAP to a whole series, however, some items in a series may need a different RAP to others.

If you have a series containing items that need to be closed for different periods of time, make a note of these as exceptions to the general ‘series level’ RAP in the RAP notice (DOC, 313 KB)  and item listing (XLS, 59 KB).

See an example of setting different RAPs for records in the same series.

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. Determine the RAP

To determine the appropriate RAP, your agency’s CEO or authorised delegate should:

  • examine the content of the records at the series level to determine if they would be potentially exempt under schedule 3 ss.1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, and 10 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (RTI Act) or s.12 of the Information Privacy Act 2009 (IP Act)
  • refer to the framework for RAPs in s.16 of the Public Records Act 2002 (the Act) to determine an appropriate RAP for the series
  • determine any exceptions to the RAP at item level
  • determine whether the metadata can be released in the public catalogue (see below)
  • complete the RAP notice (DOC, 313 KB) and submit it to QSA.

The framework for RAPs in s16 of Public Records Act 2002 includes the maximum closure periods for different categories of records and is aligned to exemption categories in the RTI and the IP Acts.

The following table lists the relevant sections in the legislation and the category of information they apply to.

Information categories and RTI Act references

Category of information RTI Act reference
Cabinet matter and Cabinet information Schedule 3 s.1 and 2
Executive Council Information Schedule 3 s.3
Information subject to professional legal privilege Schedule 3 s.7
Information disclosure of which would found   action for breach of confidence Schedule 3 s.8
National or state security information Schedule 3 s.9
Law enforcement or public safety information Schedule 3 s.10

Information categories and IP Act references

Category of information IP Act reference
Meaning of personal information s.12

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.

4. How long does a RAP last?

The duration of a RAP is linked to the types of information contained in a record and is calculated from the date of last action on a record.

A RAP cannot cover an indefinite period. It is the intent of the Public Records Act 2002 that records eventually become available for public access.

A RAP can extend from:

  • 0 to 30 years after the day of last action
  • 0 to 65 years for records potentially exempt under Schedule 3 ss.7, 8, 9, 10 of the RTI Act.

Certain documents have specific RAPs, for example:

  • Executive Council and Ministerial records: a minimum of 30 years
  • Cabinet records prior to 2009: a minimum of 30 years
  • Cabinet records after 2009: 20 years.

Under sections 18(4) and 18(5) of the Act, a regulation is required to restrict access beyond:

  • 100 years if the records contain information concerning the personal affairs of a person
  • 65 years if the records relate to law enforcement and public safety.

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.

5. Changing an existing RAP

You can change an existing RAP by issuing a new RAP notice (DOC, 320 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.

The CEO or authorised delegate must base decisions to change RAPs on 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.

6. Publish item metadata

When setting a RAP, you need to decide whether to release the records’ item level metadata.

A key archival principle is that, where possible, people have a right to know that records, including closed records, exist. This can be accomplished by releasing item metadata.

This metadata includes the:

  • item title
  • dates
  • departmental numbers
  • format information.

The item metadata for records closed to public access can be made available via the QSA online catalogue. This will enable other forms of authorised access.

If the metadata itself contains sensitive information, it should also be restricted.

Your agency’s CEO or authorised delegate should:

  • examine the item metadata of records being transferred (on the item list)
  • identify whether the item metadata, either alone or in conjunction with series details (e.g. series title, description, dates), contains information that should be restricted
  • indicate on the RAP notice (DOC, 313 KB) whether the item metadata can be released to the public via the QSA online catalogue, or whether it should be closed from public view for the duration of the RAP.

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.

7. Resources and tools