Go to top of page

Case studies

‘Keeping a track of things’—DAFF’s Secretary’s & Ministerial Workflow System

Key points

  • Electronic recordkeeping effort targeted at high-profile high risk business information processes and incorporation of full business lifecycle management
  • Evaluation of risks at organisational change, operational readiness and technical architecture levels
  • Key users and stakeholders targeted in order to ensure success
  • Improved business flow, tracking, turnaround times, amendments and quality control.

Agency facts

The Australian Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry’s role is to develop and implement policies and programs that ensure Australia's agricultural, fisheries, food and forestry industries remain competitive, profitable and sustainable.

The Department employs about 4200 staff in Australia and overseas, including policy officers, program administrators, scientists, economists, meat inspectors, veterinary officers and quarantine inspectors.

The portfolio comprises the Department and thirteen agencies. Each of the agencies is responsible for their own recordkeeping.

Approach to Recordkeeping

The Department has historically maintained a ‘print to file’ recordkeeping policy, with management of files through the use of an electronic recordkeeping system. The Department has been examining opportunities to use the recordkeeping system more widely.

Secretary’s and Ministerial Correspondence Systems

In 1999 a review of systems used to manage the delivery of Secretary’s and Ministerial correspondence was commissioned. Key issues identified related to the poor ability of the systems to facilitate timely responses, difficulty in quickly retrieving previous correspondence and quality control.

Consequently the decision was taken to develop a generic workflow system to track Secretary’s and Ministerial correspondence. A further decision was made to interface the workflow solution with the Departments’ recordkeeping system .

The Department undertook a comprehensive workflow consultancy to consider the following three areas of implementation.

  • Organisational Change
  • Operational Readiness
  • Technology and Architecture

Organisational Change. The consultancy concentrated on identifying and prioritising business practices suitable for delivery through the existing infrastructure. Additionally it sought to identify:

  • organisational constraints in terms of delivery to the user, change management, and business practices
  • general organisational practices that needed to be catered for or adapted
  • appropriate models of engagement in determining user requirements
  • business improvements and definition of appropriate measures of outcomes

Operational Readiness. The consultancy sought to identify those operational activities required to deliver workflow throughout the organisation in order to:

  • prioritise practices for implementing and maintaining workflow elements including roles and responsibilities
  • define housekeeping functions necessary for the effective ongoing operation of the workflow
  • determine whether associated practices needed modification or integration

Technology and Architecture. In identifying the most appropriate technology delivery mechanism for each workflow, a range of factors were considered including:

  • suitability of existing technology for reuse in the solution (e.g. email system)
  • existing information architecture and processes including account synchronisation, domain structure, and addressing
  • system backup and recovery mechanisms
  • interface with the existing Recordkeeping system

The consultancy also identified activities for effective implementation with particular focus on stakeholder engagement in order to achieve high levels of support and commitment. The engagement activities included: information sessions; interviews and documenting of business process with flow charts; enlisting the support of key stakeholders, the Minister (and his office), key users (Executive Assistants); and meeting with the primary stakeholder (Departmental Secretary).

Introduction of the workflow system resulted in consistently better responsiveness and better quality of content . The integration of the solution with the Department’s central recordkeeping system improved capture, retention, storage, access and retrieval of the Department’s key correspondence in a controlled manner.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry please contact:

Maria Kalajic
Manager Information Management Unit
Phone: 02 6272 3304

‘All Work On-Line’—Attorney-General’s Department

Key messages

  • A vision to move to a digital environment, or as close as possible, through a strategy called ‘All Work On-Line’
  • A Knowledge and Information Framework (KIF) that recognises recordkeeping as a critical component of managing and using AGD information and knowledge assets
  • A digital NAP (Normal Administrative Practice) Policy, which provides for deletion of documents out of the EDMS
  • A strong collaborative relationship with the Information and Communications Technologies Branch
  • A comprehensive training and awareness program including an Understanding Your Public Service Accountabilities section devoted to the legislative and regulatory framework of records management and their obligations as public servants.

Agency Facts

The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) supports the Attorney-General and the Minister for Justice. Its mission is to provide a ‘just and secure society.’ The Department mainly undertakes policy development and program and grants management work, through the administration of over 145 separate pieces of legislation. These range from family and human rights law to copyright legislation, extraditions of fugitives, money laundering legislation, dignitary protection, emergency response legislation and counter terrorism legislation.

The Department has over 1500 staff, primarily situated in Canberra, with areas in Sydney, such as APEC and the Office of Film and Literature Classification, and Emergency Management Australia in Mt Macedon in Victoria. There are AGD staff in Indigenous Coordination Centres in remote areas of Australia, administering indigenous justice grants to remote communities.

Given the nature of the work undertaken, and the level of grant management, there is a need for rigorous documentation of business activities for evidence and accountability.

The AGD recordkeeping environment

AGD has a decentralised recordkeeping environment, with all officers creating and registering their own files and capturing their own records. In 2003, AGD moved to a department-wide electronic records and document management system, known as EDMS. The system is used to manage information at document level; not as a file registry system. AGD plans to upgrade in early 2008 to capitalise on new software features, particularly workflow and document assembly capability.

Culturally, there have been many challenges in managing the transition to the EDMS, which began in 2003. In 2007 it is accepted across the department and has high level support.

The Department’s vision is to move to a digital environment, or as close as possible, through a strategy called ‘All Work On-Line’. This will not completely remove the existence of paper files, due to security considerations. Due to the increase in business functions in the department that deal with criminal and terrorist activities, there is an increased need to transmit and capture highly classified information. These records are held in secure network systems, or printed to paper, with metadata about them captured into the corporate recordkeeping system.

Approach to recordkeeping

The Recordkeeping Policy focuses on the EDMS, as the corporate recordkeeping system. It stipulates corporate records should be captured into this system. Since the ANAO Audit this year, the policy has been modified to better accommodate other IT business systems, where some of the information held may constitute records.

These records can be maintained in these separate systems, once their recordkeeping requirements have been assessed and the identified risks addressed. This is a consultative process with the business area, the IT development team and the Information and Document Management Section.

The Information Services branch has developed the Knowledge and Information Framework (KIF). This places recordkeeping as a critical component of managing and using AGD information and knowledge assets. Components of the framework are strategies for:

  • Knowledge Management
  • Information Management
  • Web
  • E-Publishing
  • Flexible Learning
  • Intellectual Property Management
  • IT Strategic Plan

AGD has drafted policies using guidance developed by NAA. AGD has a digital NAP Policy, which provides for deletion of documents out of the EDMS. AGD does not use its Business Classification Scheme as a file titling mechanism; it uses a records classification scheme, mapped to the Business Classification Scheme, for classification and sentencing.

The Department utilises AS and ISO records and information standards where appropriate, in particular AS/ISO 15489, and has representation in the wider records standards development process. This is through representation on the Australian Standards Committee for Records Management IT21 and participation in the International Standards Committee for Records & Archives ISO TC46 SC11 and an international standards working group for an ISO standard for long term preservation of digital records.

Full DIRKS coverage was achieved for the Department in 2002. However, a number of new functions have been added since that time and these are currently undergoing DIRKS assessment. AGD uses its current RDA and AFDA for sentencing.

Structure and Resources for records management

The branch structure co-locates areas managing the information created in the Department. This is the Information Services Branch, encompassing Information and Document Management, Library Services, Web Services and Knowledge Management. These areas work together closely and support clients collaboratively.

A team of nine full time staff manage the paper and electronic records created and captured in the Department and deliver training and advice. We also support a dedicated EDMS Help Desk. There is a strong collaborative relationship with the ICT branch, giving infrastructure and technical support to the EDMS.

Training and awareness

All AGD officers must undertake a comprehensive training session to be able to access and use the corporate recordkeeping system. The training delivery, development of training courses and materials are undertaken in-house.

All AGD officers must also attend a session entitled Understanding Your Public Service Accountabilities, which has a section devoted to the legislative and regulatory framework of records management and their obligations as public servants. This has been extremely useful in getting the recordkeeping responsibility message across the department.

Customised training sessions, in both electronic and paper records management, are developed as required and at each EDMS upgrade. The longer term objective is to systematically deliver these across all divisions of the Department at regular intervals.

Paper and Electronic records management and challenges

The EDMS manages a hybrid environment of electronic and paper. Managing email and records held on shared drives are challenges for the Department, with some shared drives already rendered read-only. This allows access to information contained in shared drive folders and reinforces the EDMS as the appropriate repository for corporate records.

The EDMS is a flat file structure and there is a mixed reaction to searching and locating information in EDMS, compared to navigating a folder structure. We have implemented a container with sub-containers to replicate this navigation structure in EDMS. This has been well received across the Department.

A separate network is being developed for a particular workgroup in the Department, with its own discrete EDMS. This gives rise to challenges in managing the corporate records captured into this system.

Many staff travel abroad and working remotely with the EDMS is an issue. This has been overcome to some extent through the use of Citrix and VPN broadband.

All Work On Line

This vision is to manage, as much as possible, all aspects of the Department’s business activities digitally. From a records management perspective, initially the major impact of this vision will be scanning all appropriate paper documents into the EDMS. The objective of the scanning project is to facilitate greater efficiencies and flexibility, by enabling staff to access corporate records electronically.

The current ad hoc scanning practices and workflows across the Department are being examined along with the ability to automatically scan, on a large scale, into EDMS to develop a best practice, consistent approach to scanning across the Department. The project will identify the criteria for scanning of legacy records and active records in on and off-site holdings and determine the management of source records.

Overall this will reduce paper file management and create efficiencies in storage costs. It will also increase staff access to records from multiple locations, as well as the control, tracking and auditing of these assets. The move to a complete digital environment will incur a major cultural shift in the Department and require significant measures to be in place to manage this change.

An upgrade, in conjunction with scanning, will enable the Department to capitalise on electronic workflow and electronic document management to manage business processes online.

Approximately 50% of the records created by the Department are deemed RNA or Retain Permanently. The All Work On Line strategy raises long term digital preservation challenges in maintaining the records in a range of systems, either for transfer to the National Archives or to be retained permanently within the Department.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Attorney-General’s Department, please contact:

Sandra Kentish
Director, Information and Document Management
Phone: 02 6250 6009

‘Keep the Knowledge’—The Australian Bureau of Statistics

Key points

  • ABS understands the legislative and business requirements for creating records as evidence of its activities.
  • ABS uses a risk-based approach to its recordkeeping.
  • ABS has created a recordkeeping culture through effective training, and configuring it systems to support automated recordkeeping.

Agency Facts

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) is Australia's official statistical organisation. It mission is to assist and encourage informed decision-making, research and discussion within governments and the community, by leading a high quality, objective and responsive national statistical service.

ABS has 3800 staff operating in all capital cities around Australia.

The principal legislation determining the functions and responsibilities of the Australian Bureau of Statistics are the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 and the Census and Statistics Act 1905. There are provisions in the Census and Statistics Act 1905 which impact on the management and access to the Bureau’s statistical data as Commonwealth records and the agency has chosen to frame its recordkeeping and data retention policies around a general business and statistical business divide.

Approach to Recordkeeping

As of the 1 st January 2006 the agency declared itself to be a digital recordkeeping environment. Within this environment ABS policy dictates that paper is only retained where a specific legislative, evidence, business reason or risk requires it. In practice this translates to the continuing retention of official personnel files and some contract documents which are retained for evidentiary purposes. The contract documents are maintained as a portfolio rather than files.

ABS’ approach to recordkeeping is heavily influenced by ideas framed in a 1993 APS study into the management of electronic documents1 and the agency has had three attempts at electronic recordkeeping, learning from each experience. To achieve its recordkeeping objectives the agency has configured its desktop productivity tools and storage spaces to achieve automatic recordkeeping. The approach is risk-based, cost-effective and lifts the recordkeeping burden from staff.

The Bureau’s preference is to manage information in the places where it is created and the agency has learnt from experience that the scale of the modern working environment means moving content to other storage systems significantly diminishes its usefulness and retrievability. Consequently, the agency is presently trying to influence its desktop software provider to provide records management capabilities within its application.

The Corporate File (ABS’ records archive) manages captured records at a broad rather than detailed level of records classification (a bucket approach to recordkeeping). At a simple level this has had the effect of creating a growing store of records to be managed (currently 560,000 records with the potential to harvest over 5 million). If business systems are included i.e. Personnel, Finance, website, etc. the number of records to be managed is in the tens of millions.

Within its recordkeeping system records are also managed as ‘linked item’ (used in preference to numbered/named files), category and repository or application level as well as through the Business Classification Scheme developed via DIRKS. This is a very different approach to most organisations but the agency has found it facilitates retrieval and provides context around any set of information or records retrieved.

Policy and Strategy

The agency’s Object Management Policy, adopted in 1993, formalised a strategy to support collaboration, information sharing and recordkeeping and divided the ABS information environment into three domains—Corporate—Workgroup—Personal.

Figure 1: ABS information domains

Figure 1: Domains-Corporate, Workgroup, Personal

ABS encourages staff to undertake work-related duties in the Workgroup and Corporate domains as this enables the records they create to be managed as corporate assets. Within the Corporate and Workgroup domains the majority of content is open, with the agency “securing only what needs to be secured”.

When employees work in the Corporate and Workgroup domains their recordkeeping responsibilities are automatically undertaken on their behalf through the provision of “records management enabled” work places.

Enabling automatic recordkeeping has become a key strategy in capturing the outputs and processes undertaken by ABS staff employees and is a key technique in retaining corporate memory. The strategy minimises duplication of content within the information environment and has resulted in a series of well managed high-value corporate information repositories (including the agency’s archive – the Corporate File).

Content created in the Personal domain (essentially personal email and items created on personal, network or hard drives) IS NOT automatically records managed and is considered to be managed under Normal Administrative Practice (NAP). The agency provides a set of tools and a range of incentives to encourage migration of any content of value to the “records managed” domains.

Future Directions

For the present the agency is prepared to accept the risk of growing its archive as it waits for the capability of its recordkeeping staff and technology to synchronise. The agency is currently investigating auto-classification tools that will assist professional recordkeeping staff identify and categorise material in its ‘buckets’ to the required recordkeeping levels. These tools will enable the agency to manage the large amounts of records it needs to manage.

Specific Better Practices

Provision of email at the role based workgroup level. This allows staff to decide if the content is work-related or personal. The decision to recordkeep, or not, is made by simply deciding in which domain to work i.e. workgroup or personal.

“Keep the Knowledge”—a quirky short recordkeeping interactive which explains to staff their recordkeeping responsibilities and how they can meet them. A ten question quiz tests and confirms the messages delivered in the interactive. This interactive is part of the induction process for all staff.

Popularising a set of knowledge behaviours which encourage staff to create information that can be used and shared. These behaviours are tailored to support the requirements of each domain.

On leaving the ABS staff are also required to confirm (one of the few paper documents they ever sign) that they have moved any relevant material in their Personal space into the Workgroup or Corporate Domain from can be automatically records managed.

ABS operates a cost-recovery model for IT services and storage. The archive and the process of transferring material are corporately funded in order to encourage workgroups to transfer material. Material lodged in the archive is preserved in the context in which it was created and remains linked to its original workgroup.


Four staff support recordkeeping in ABS (2.2 FTE in the recordkeeping function and 0.5 IT staff). The in-house developed recordkeeping system, the Corporate File, is embedded in the desktop productivity tools and storage spaces.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Australian Bureau of Statistics please contact:

Tania Hughes
Manager, Recordkeeping
Phone: 02 6252 5564

1 Information Exchange Steering Committee, Management of Electronic Documents in the Australian Public Service—a Report prepared by the IESC's Electronic Data Management Subcommittee, 1993


‘Integral to our business’—Australian Taxation Office

Key messages

  • Conducted its own Self Assessment Audit to identify gaps in sound and better practice
  • Implemented a set of conformance measures (reported quarterly) which indicate, at a broad level, the behavioural shifts occurring in the creation, storage and disposal of records
  • Use of a series of frameworks to support a risk based assessment approach; prioritise investment commensurate with the value of the information asset; ensure assurance; and manage information as a core resource
  • New systems subject to conformance assessment.

Agency Profile

The Australian Taxation Office (the Tax Office) is a statutory agency under the Department of Treasury portfolio. It is responsible for the managing and shaping of tax, excise and superannuation systems that fund services for Australians, giving effect to social and economic policy.

The main areas administered are:

  • income tax (including pay as you go (PAYG) withholding and instalments, capital gains tax and fringe benefits tax);
  • Goods and Services Tax (GST);
  • excise duty;
  • fuel grants and benefit schemes;
  • Superannuation;
  • higher education funding (on a joint basis); and
  • Australian Business Number and Australian Business Register.

Support is also provided for the delivery of community benefits with roles in other areas such as private health insurance, family assistance and cross-agency support. A further responsibility is overseeing the Australian Valuation Office.

The office currently has a staff of approximately 22,000 in 66 locations across all states of Australia. In 2005–06 the Tax Office processed 13,478,046 income tax returns; 12,865,735 activity statements and 18,118,305 payments through electronic and paper inbound channels.

ATO Environment

The Tax Office is currently undertaking a significant Change Program; the easier, cheaper and more personalised program—that will deliver new products and services for the community, and new business processes and systems for the agency. The program will introduce two core systems, replacing seventy five revenue based processing systems, for our taxpayer-related work, and enterprise-wide business processes for our employees.

The two core systems are:

  • a workflow system with three components—client relationship management, case management and work management; and
  • a single accounting, processing and registration system.

These two core systems are supported by systems that:

  • receive correspondence from the community, independent of channel;
  • generate correspondence to the community;
  • store, retrieve and dispose of taxpayer documents and information products used internally and externally;
  • author, approve and maintain information products used internally and externally, as well as letter templates; and
  • generate reports for all levels of management within the organisation.

The Tax Office’s core administrative transactions (such as personnel and financial) are managed electronically through a single enterprise system.

Records Profile

Physical records —The Tax Office currently has 71 kilometres of physical material stored off site across 20 locations and managed through external service providers.

Electronic records —The Tax Office is currently undertaking a data profiling exercise in respect of its electronic administrative record holdings. That is, those records which are not collected or created as part of a ‘line of business’ transactional system e.g. Tax Administration or electronic personnel system, but are created using, typically, the Microsoft office suite e.g. word documents and emails. Preliminary data shows that the Tax Office has an electronic holding of approximately 25 terabytes, which is in excess of 190 million items.

The Tax Office supports and encourages electronic interactions with taxpayers. Where the transaction from the taxpayer is not electronic, the Tax Office is moving to increase the use of imaging technology. The Tax Office currently images 20 million of the 26 million forms and items of correspondence it receives annually.

People —The central records capability has 25 staff located in Canberra. Support from a distributed capability of approximately 20 business staff, the Records Management Business and Service Line Co-ordinators is also leveraged.

A Business Driven Design

In 2003 the ANAO conducted an audit on Recordkeeping in Large Organisations (ANAO Report No. 7, 2003-04). The Tax Office Executive believed that the report highlighted risks and recommendations that may be applicable to the Tax Office and commissioned a Self Assessment Review. The results of the Self Assessment identified gaps between the audit criteria and sound and better practice referenced in Report No. 7 (2003-04) and Tax Office practices.

In January 2006 the Tax Office Executive endorsed a program plan which was designed to ensure that the recordkeeping and records management capability remained contemporary and mitigated any enterprise business risks as they emerged. Support from the most senior levels in the Tax Office has ensured the organisational priority and accompanying resources have been sufficient to progress the work to date.

Recordkeeping is considered a core competency and capability that supports the business operations of the office. The Tax Office Corporate Plan 2006-07 identifies recordkeeping as a key priority: “Develop and implement policy and processes to help the Tax Office and its staff meet their recordkeeping and record management obligations”.

Our Strategy

In keeping with the ‘Sound and better practice’ recommendations made ANAO Report No. 7 (2003–04) the Tax Office established a dedicated ‘high level record keeping analysis and strategic unit to undertake systemic analysis of record keeping and information needs, to help design new record keeping systems, develop corporate record keeping policy and to assist implementation through training and review’. This unit had a focus on recordkeeping activities from a Tax Office business and operational perspective. The team was drawn together from staff experienced in the business of the Tax Office.

Governance has been a key consideration when analysing recordkeeping issues within the Tax Office. A key observation of the Self Assessment identified the need for recordkeeping measurement at a systemic level. The Tax Office has recently implemented a set of conformance measures which indicate, at a broad level, the behavioural shifts in the creation, storage and disposal of records. The conformance indicators are reported on a quarterly basis to the Tax Office Executive.

Guiding Frameworks

COSO (Committee of Sponsoring Organisations) Framework

Report No. 7 (2003-04) utilised the Committee of Sponsoring Organisations of the Treadway Commission (1992) COSO framework which is recognised as a comprehensive framework for internal control. This framework, as used by the ANAO, provided the Tax Office with a sensible approach to the issues that a large organisation encounters and recognised that recordkeeping is part of the business of the agency and not a separate/ distinct capability. The COSO framework has been used as a constant reference point.

The framework supports a risk based assessment approach, a prioritisation of key aspects and investment commensurate with the value of the information asset. In many respects, it was a non-traditional approach to recordkeeping analysis and design. It treated recordkeeping as a normal business issue and applied standard project management methodology.

Certificate of Assurance Process

The Tax Office’s governance and assurance framework and the Certificate of Assurance process is fundamental to the recordkeeping assurance activities. It was recognised early in the analysis that the Tax Office had substantial, robust and well understood governance arrangements that would support the need of the Record keeping and Records Management Compliance Plan. The use of the existing framework avoided the need to develop anything extraordinary to the business of the Tax Office.

Information Management Strategic Framework

The Tax Office has an Information Management Strategic Framework which assists the office manage its information effectively in all respects as a core resource. This framework is further supported by the Information Management Strategic Plan.

Key Features

Two key features of the Tax Office’s approach have been the:

  • design and implementation of the recordkeeping assurance process; and
  • conformance assessment of new systems and the decommissioning of legacy systems.

Recordkeeping Assurance Process

In implementing the shifts that the office required, the assurance process was designed as a three phased approach.

The phases are:

  • Inform and Educate —ensures that all staff are aware of the Record keeping policy and educated in the application of the policy in their day-to-day work.
  • Act and Comply— staff with the understanding act in a manner that:
  • brings about conformance with the recordkeeping policy; and
  • is integrated with and contextualised in business operations.
  • Monitor and Assure —systems and processes are in place to measure conformance at an operational and systemic level.

This approach, supported by a Record keeping and Records Management Compliance Plan, provides a transparent approach to the enterprise monitoring and assurance activities. Staff are aware of what is expected of them to conform and the types of questions and evidence that may be required in order to support the assurances given.

Assurance is provided at the Division Head level and submitted to the Commissioner.

The Certificate of Assurance process is supplemented by Self Assessment activities undertaken on an ‘as needed’ basis. Benchmarks have also been established through the use of the Public Service Commission State of the Service Report series and other public, private and industry information.

Currently, the Tax Office is transitioning from the Inform and Educate phase to the Act and Comply phase of the Compliance plan. In this phase we have focussed on support products and tools that clearly articulate the business value of good recordkeeping.

The Compliance Plan is actively supported by the Business and Service Line Records Management co-ordinators. Focus for these co-ordinators is translating recordkeeping into a business perspective and ensuring that initiatives are correctly sequenced to support overall compliance.

Conformance Assessment

New systems being introduced as part of the Change Program are now subject to a conformance assessment that is aligned with the Certificate of Assurance process. The use of the existing Certificate of Assurance process has enabled recordkeeping conformance to be established as a design intervention.

Decommissioning of legacy systems has also been effected utilising a risk based approach. Many of these systems were designed, built and implemented prior to any contemporary policy being in place. The Australian Standard AS ISO 15489 (2002) Records Management was used a guide. Focus was placed on the create/collect and manage functions as well as the disposal process. The outcomes of this assessment are again reported through the Certificate of Assurance process.

Influencing the Future and Securing the Past

The Tax Office recognises that good recordkeeping and records management are an integral part of doing business in the Tax Office.

Their integration into enterprise business processes, the management environment around those processes and systems support remain key challenges, as does the ability to influence the program of change to business process design and technology advancements.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Australian Taxation Office please contact:

Maxine Shakespeare
Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer
Phone: 02 4293 1540


‘Getting it Right’—Centrelink

Key Messages

  • Centrelink is concentrating its key recordkeeping effort on its core business system which it maintains using a hybrid approach.
  • A paper recordkeeping system is used to manage the records in its unstructured systems in conjunction with a policy of “print to file.”
  • Several formal frameworks are utilized to manage recordkeeping and the “Information Management Strategy for 2006–08”, which includes recordkeeping requirements, will be used as the framework to update policies, procedures and systems to support digital recordkeeping.
  • Everyone in Centrelink has recordkeeping responsibilities as part of their normal duties.

Agency Background

Centrelink is a service provider for a large number of policy departments, and delivers a wide range of Commonwealth payments and services to nearly 6.5 million citizens across Australia. Recently Centrelink and five other agencies were brought under the umbrella of the Department of Human Services.

People can access Centrelink by a range of channels that are serviced by over 25,000 staff nationally. These channels include over 400 local Customer Service Centres, a nationally networked Call Centre, internet access, Interactive Voice Response (IVR), SMS and secure on line mail.

Given the large public outlays of over $63 billion pa in the provision of income support payments and entitlements, and the legislative framework Centrelink operates in, there is a strong requirement for good recordkeeping.

The Centrelink Recordkeeping Environment

Centrelink maintains records to support the transactions and decisions made in relation to customer entitlements and services, as well as records for administrative transactions and decisions. The records are a combination of electronic and paper.

For customer records, a large transaction system is used to capture, assess and generate payments and entitlements. In Centrelink this is referred to as the Income Security Integrated System (ISIS). An electronic archive supports ISIS for storing parts of the customer record that do not require immediate online access. As people can access Centrelink by a range of channels, the systems supporting the channels, such as internet access and IVR, also require recordkeeping functionality.

Paper claims and supporting evidence such as proof of identity, proof of income and assets are also required to be kept as a record. This documentation that is “born as paper” is kept as a record using a commercial off the shelf recordkeeping software system. This system is used to record the paper based customer evidence, and to record where the paper record is located. A unique Centrelink Reference Number (CRN) is used as the common recordkeeping meta data between the ISIS electronic record and the paper recordkeeping system.

For administrative records, there are a range of unstructured systems that do not have recordkeeping functionality, such as email and shared drives for electronic documents. Centrelink also has a range of structured finance and staff transaction systems that have some recordkeeping functionality.

The paper recordkeeping system is used to manage the records in these unstructured systems in conjunction with a policy of “print to file.” It is also used to support the finance and staff transaction systems by creation of administrative paper files for the paper documentation and evidence. Given the large volumes of records, coupled with difficulties in compliance and access, this is a recognized area for improvement.

Approach to Recordkeeping

Several formal frameworks are utilized for recordkeeping within Centrelink. These include:

  • the use of National Archives of Australia (NAA) approved Record Disposal Authorities (RDAs), and the Administrative Functions Disposal Authority (AFDA);
  • compliance with AS ISO standard 15489 and use of the NAA “Design, Implement a Recordkeeping System” (DIRKS) process;
  • an agency Information Management Strategy;
  • published Recordkeeping Policy and guidelines;
  • Chief Executive Instructions (CEIs);
  • staff induction and ongoing training;
  • compliance and improvement via internal and external audit and risk programs.

The policy departments; the government of the day; and citizens are also assured of payment correctness via the legislative framework Centrelink operates in including the appeals system; Freedom of Information access; and the Privacy Act.

Looking internally, Centrelink is presently updating its Information Management Strategy for 2006–2008, which includes requirements for recordkeeping policy and procedures.

  • The national record management team are responsible for the development, implementation and regular review process of records management policy and procedures for administrative and customer paper based records, ensuring that the AS ISO 15489 is met.
  • Centrelink has published Chief Executive Instructions (CEIs), which includes recordkeeping requirements.
  • Recordkeeping is also reviewed as part of the internal and external audit and risk program. The national record management team work with the auditors to ensure that audit requirements are met and that any adverse audit findings are addressed appropriately.

Looking externally, Centrelink uses the National Archives of Australia recordkeeping framework, ensuring that the relevant recordkeeping standard AS ISO 15489 is met.

  • For administrative records, the generic Administrative Functions Disposal Authority (AFDA) is used to determine what records are kept and for how long.
  • For customer records, Centrelink is the service provider on behalf of a range of policy departments. As the physical custodian of the record, Centrelink uses the Record Disposal Authority (RDA) of the policy department to determine the retention period of records, sentencing and disposal.
  • As a customer may receive more than one payment, entitlement or service through Centrelink, and these may be on behalf of different policy departments, Centrelink applies the longest retention period of the applicable RDAs to the customer record.
  • Centrelink is presently undertaking the National Archives of Australia DIRKS process. In 2006–07 this includes a review of Stage B and the development of Stage C of the DIRKS process, resulting in the approval of a Centrelink RDA by NAA.
  • Centrelink also ensures that RDA's of our policy departments are adequate for the business that we are delivering on their behalf.
  • The National Archives self assessment workbook for Information Management and Recordkeeping will also be used to review and improve recordkeeping in 2006–07.

Paper Records Management

Centrelink has implemented targeted records management solutions for its customer and administrative paper files. For customer records this acknowledges a hybrid recordkeeping environment where the customer record comprises the electronic record on ISIS as well as the supporting evidence as recorded in the paper recordkeeping system. This has significantly improved the capability to know what records exist; where they are located; and to retrieve the records when required.

Approximately 19 million paper files and “batched” documents are bar coded and recorded in the recordkeeping data base. The records are stored in a network of 9 purpose built Record Management Units (RMUs) around Australia. These RMUs have capacity to expand the racking vertically like a meccano set by adding mezzanine flooring and additional shelving, thereby significantly increasing the storage foot print of the warehouse. The RMUs are located in light Industrial areas, which reduces the storage cost when compared with keeping records in business area Customer Service Centre office space.

Synergies have also been achieved within the Department of Human Services, through Centrelink providing the Child Support Agency a paper record management solution. The existing Centrelink paper record management capabilities were leveraged to provide this solution, including the recordkeeping system, storage in the network of Centrelink RMUs, courier contracts for transport, and secure waste disposal contract arrangements. This has resulted in nearly one million Child Support Agency paper records being bar-coded, recorded and stored.


There are approximately 230 staff nationally undertaking direct records management duties, and due in large to the in-house solution for paper record management. The number of staff fluctuates through out the year depending on peaks and troughs. The staff mainly consist of ongoing employee's, with non-ongoing employed to assist during peak periods. Specific duties range from file creation, registration, maintenance, sentencing, disposal, storage, through to policy and procedures, training, outreach, addressing and resolving internal and external audits.

Training and Awareness

Everyone in Centrelink has recordkeeping responsibilities as part of their normal duties. This aligns with the National Archives Capability Framework and Centrelink’s recordkeeping policy.

Within Centrelink, a “Getting it Right” communication campaign was used to increase staff awareness, training and compliance with recordkeeping responsibilities.

All network staff (Customer Service Advisor's) receive induction training under the “Getting It Right” program. The record management components of the training concentrate on recordkeeping in relation to customer records, with generic reference to administrative recordkeeping.

All new graduates in the National Support Office receive induction training where the record management components of the training concentrates on recordkeeping in relation to administrative records, with generic reference to customer recordkeeping.

Records management also features in “the Essentials Program” which comprises non-compulsory awareness courses run for existing staff wishing to improve their knowledge of Centrelink. “Team talks” provided by record management staff are available on request and are shaped to the specific business needs of that team.

Centrelink continuously strives to identify and implement best practice with management support, stakeholder input and colleague buy in. In a large organization such as Centrelink, this requires that records management be recognized as a stakeholder. The profile of recordkeeping is raised by using marketing material from the NAA “Keep the knowledge, make a record” suite of products to raise awareness of services and responsibilities.

Centrelink participates in information sharing and learning that address record / information management, to keep abreast of industry trends and standards. Records Management Team staff attend meetings, conference and information sessions provided by both government and private industry including AGIMO, RMAA, NAA, DHS Communities of Practice, vendors, or other appropriate information specialists.

Next Steps

The “Information Management Strategy for 2006–08”, which includes recordkeeping requirements, will be used as the framework to update policies, procedures and systems to support digital recordkeeping. This will be complemented by completing National Archives “self-assessment work book for information management and recordkeeping”. This will ensure compliance with best practice.

The known gaps in Centrelink’s recordkeeping approach at this stage are in relation to administrative recordkeeping for emails and electronic documents. There is also the opportunity to implement imaging for paper records and associated workflow. It is anticipated that gaps and opportunities in recordkeeping requirements and/or capabilities will be addressed by specific business cases.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in Centrelink, please contact:

Noel Thomas
Business Manager, Records Management
Phone: 02 6244 5669

‘It’s your business’—DEST

Key points

  • DEST understands the legislative framework for open and accountable government to ensure good recordkeeping.
  • DEST supports a high level framework for the creation and management of records within DEST
  • DEST is committed to supporting continuous improvement in best practice recordkeeping through supportive cultural change and ongoing review of business processes.

Agency Facts

DEST provides national leadership and works in collaboration with others including the community in support of the Government’s objectives. It develops and implements policies to ensure the continuing relevance of education, science and training to contemporary needs and the growing requirement for lifelong learning. DEST manages many diverse programs through third party providers in education, science and training sectors. These programs have been reasonably discrete but are moving closer together as government policy develops and changes. DEST has 2500 staff operating in Australia and at overseas posts.

Approach to Recordkeeping

DEST developed a strategic direction to move from paper based recordkeeping to electronic information management. To engage the business areas and demonstrate delivered improvement, DEST took a pragmatic phased approach to delivery and implementation. This enabled the gradual introduction of change and minimised the impact on work practices.

DEST reviewed its existing recordkeeping practices and identified emails as the group of departmental records in greatest need of management, so these were addressed first. As the benefits of electronically filing emails were recognised, demand increased for additional functionality leading to the implementation of document filing of final and significant versions.

To minimise the impact of change and reduce concern the electronic recordkeeping system was implemented with the default of mixed mode files. This meant files could be paper based with electronic documents attached. This is gradually being changed to offer complete electronic filing through re-education and improved use of the recordkeeping system. Future considerations for scanning incoming Australia Post mail and continual analysis of business process to support relevant capture of records will allow DEST to consider decreasing paper file creation and only accept paper files in exceptional circumstances.

As mentioned, DEST took a deliberate phased approach to new initiatives in capturing and sharing departmental information. The focus was on a ‘hands on support approach’ and ‘how can we help you’ method.

DEST recognised that there was different types of information being stored on the desktop environment—Individual, Team and Corporate.

  • Individual Level—This was categorised as personal information using the staff member’s local drive or LAN.
  • Team Level—This information was shared by teams/ peers and workgroups and seen as the collaborative space in development of records/reports/policies.
  • Corporate Level—This category was for the final draft and record of activity. This information was captured as a final and put into the recordkeeping system and made accessible to all staff unless it was deemed need to know or security classified.

It is recognised that there needs to be a stronger emphasis on wider distribution of information at the Team and Corporate Level to encourage knowledge sharing and reuse of information. Initially the practice was to lock down information to encourage staff to feel comfortable about capture of information with some assurance that information was secure and not at risk of exposure. However, with continued education staff are now aware of how the recordkeeping system can capture records and protect the information through security classifications and access privileges.

DEST recognises that workgroup support was integral to take up of the recordkeeping system. A business support team comprising of system trainers, business analysis and a technical team is the main resource for workgroup support. As part of a broad mandatory compliance program in line with the recordkeeping policy principles, workgroups need to have in place a plan or framework within each Group structure that commits to providing a list of corporate files, and an understanding of the recordkeeping system through training attendance. The business support team have an ongoing role to provide support to the compliance program through regular workgroup visits and workgroup and individual training for staff to understand good recordkeeping practice and document management process.

DEST has continued to promote rollout and use of the electronic recordkeeping system, however technical implications and network performance issues have delayed rollout to the State and District offices. The pilot for States is scheduled to commence in Brisbane in November 2006.

Policy and Strategy

In March 2005 the Department issued a range of policy documents themed under the banner Recordkeeping—“It’s your business”. These included:

  • Recordkeeping Policy
  • Management Instructions – Corporate Administrative Records
  • Recordkeeping Guidelines for Managers
  • Frequently Asked Questions

These documents provide specific directions on how DEST can meet its recordkeeping obligations.

Its Recordkeeping Policy actively acknowledges its legislative and regulatory requirement to keep records in addition to recognising their value as a strategic resource and vital assets in support of day-to-day operations.

DEST has in place a recordkeeping compliance framework at Group level as a minimum to ensure business area have agreed responsibilities for a recordkeeping plan, training and file structures.

Specific Better Practices

The DEST policy framework package focused on a high level policy statement with a more specific Management Instructions to give broad advice on recordkeeping procedure. The package was designed to allow expansion of the policy as we broaden the focus to include information management initiatives such as web content, improved archiving of information, improved management of emails and ongoing development of core business systems to include life cycle management. This policy has been endorsed by the National Archives of Australia as best practice policy framework for the Commonwealth. Each of these policy initiatives is outlined as:

Recordkeeping Policy

  • the comprehensiveness of the policy (including content on compliance, authority, definitions, scope and legislative basis)
  • the Recordkeeping Responsibility Matrix (which outlines levels of responsibility for policy, risk management, governance, quality assurance/audit, recordkeeping, systems and training)

Management Instructions—Corporate Administrative Records

  • Including discussion of security, methods for converting paper documents, disposal and advice on the copying or conversion of records
  • Recordkeeping Glossary
  • Audit trails checklist to be maintained when changing or removing a record
  • Symbols to be used and types of sensitive information which should not be included in a file title

Recordkeeping Guidelines for Managers

Guidelines for managers including; statements of “best practice” for recordkeeping within a Group; and, a Manager’s Checklist for Good Recordkeeping.

The continuous improvement and graduated buy in approach will allow DEST to have ongoing reviews of the recordkeeping policy and management instructions to expand capture from workgroup space to corporate space.

DEST will need to ensure that capture of information focuses on capture of records of lasting value rather than capture of specific files. This will be achieved through the DIRKS analysis. While it is recognised that the original basis of DIRKS was for disposal of Commonwealth records, DEST recognises that the DIRKS process will help add value to designing business categories of information and improving automation of capture and disposal management.

Future Directions

The next phase of the recordkeeping project will see full electronic document and records management introduced. This will entail introduction and marketing of version control, business process analysis, collaborative work practices including sharing and reusing data consistently.


Two teams support the recordkeeping function in DEST. The Records Management Operations team comprising of core functional responsibilities for file creation, quality assurance , mailroom management and archiving commonwealth records. The other team, the Business Support team has responsibility for training in EDRM, recordkeeping plans and business analysis.

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Department of Education, Science and Training please contact:

Michael Nagle
Director, Collaboration and Information Management Section
Phone: 02 6211 6337

The portion of the ‘DEST Recordkeeping Responsibility Matrix’ relating to The Policy. Other responsibilities relate to Risk Management, Governance, Quality Assurance/Audit, Delegations, Recordkeeping, Recordkeeping Systems and Training.

Responsibility The Policy Authorise this policy Promulgate this policy Provide adequate support and resources to ensure a successful record keeping program Act as the champion for record keeping within DEST The ownership of this policy document Ensure compliance with other DEST policies Promote compliance with this policy Develop strategies to support this policy Implement strategies to support this policy Monitor and measure the effectiveness of the record keeping strategies Oversee the implementation of this policy Ensure this policy is reviewed and kept up to date
RMU Archivist                          
RMU Operations Manager                          
Records Manager                          
Director, RMU                          
Group Manager Audit                     Yes    
Chief Lawyer                          
Section Managers                          
Branch Managers                          
Group Managers       Yes           Yes      
Business System Owners                          
Chief Information Officer                          
Recordkeeping Executive         Yes Yes Yes   Yes Yes   Yes Yes
Deputy secretaries         Yes                
Secretary   Yes Yes         Yes          

1 DEST, 2005, Recordkeeping Policy

‘Managing electronic information’—DEWR

Key Points

  • DEWR's success is underpinned by the use of its intellectual resources to deliver quality and valued products. A key element is the department’s information assets. It is important that appropriate standards and contemporary technology are applied in the management and use of these assets.
  • DEWR staff are accountable for the effective management of information and must comply with relevant legislative and departmental obligations in this regard.
  • DEWR is committed to supporting continuous improvement in best practice information management through ongoing development and promotion of business processes.

Agency Facts

DEWR’s role is to develop policies and implement and manage programmes directed at maximising Australians’ ability to participate in the workforce and improve the productivity of enterprises in Australia. To do this, the department provides government with high-quality advice and services designed to achieve three outcomes:

  • Efficient and effective labour market assistance
  • Higher productivity, higher pay workplaces
  • Increased workforce participation

The department’s outcomes work towards achieving the government’s broader economic, employment and social goals. In doing this, they contribute substantially to other government policy measures directed at sustaining a sound economy.

DEWR has 3500 staff operating in all capital cities and regional areas around Australia.

Approach to recordkeeping

DEWR understands the legislative and business requirements for creating records as evidence of its activities. The current recordkeeping environment provides for appropriate mechanisms to facilitate compliance with the Archives Act and the Australian Standard AS ISO 15489. DEWR’s recordkeeping practices are aligned to the DIRKS methodology.

DEWR manages its records both in paper and electronic formats. In the last financial year, the department created 69,000 paper files of which approximately 45% were case files. DEWR’s financial transactions and information is captured and managed electronically by business systems such as, Business Information System (BIS).

The Information Management strategy is to shift the focus from paper to electronic (where possible) and this is currently being progressed. An example of this strategy at work is evidenced in the approach being taken with the new SAFE (PROTECTED) Project (see—Specific better practices section for more details).

Policy and Strategy

DEWR’s recordkeeping environment is an integral part of DEWR’s Information Management practices. This is acknowledged by the inclusion of Information Management in the Chief Executive Instructions.

Recordkeeping is fundamental to the principal documents that make up the Information Management Reference Set which provide the framework for Information Management within DEWR:

  • The IM Vision Statement
  • The Information Management Practical Guide
  • Information Management Framework
  • The Recordkeeping Policy
  • Records Management Guideline
  • The IM Strategy 2005-2007

Future directions

The successful management of DEWR’s information resources has an importance beyond the efficient conduct of our business processes. Our Mission is to ‘maximise the ability of all Australians of working age to find work, particularly those that face the most severe barriers to work; and support strong employment growth and improved productive performance of enterprises in Australia’.

DEWR’s vision for Information management is that documents, records and e-mails (including attachments) of departmental value will be saved with minimal action and the attribution of metadata will be automated as much as possible. Information will be searchable and accessible regardless of where it is stored or where staff are located. Fragmented shared drives will not be required and inactive documents will only remain available for a specified period. There will be a consistent and logical approach to structuring and classifying our information assets and all information will be read-only by default.

The application of business processes to meet our statutory requirements (privacy, accessibility and security) will be acknowledged as leading practice in the APS.

DEWR has recognised the challenge facing government agencies to manage records in an electronic environment. DEWR is meeting this challenge with the view to balance compliance with an enhanced user experience. In particular, wherever possible, remove any unnecessary burden caused by duplicating information in both an electronic and a paper environment.

Specific better practices—WIMS Document Manager (DM) and SAFE


The Workflow and Information Management System (WIMS) is a desktop information facility to capture, manage and retrieve electronic information. WIMS has been operational since October 2000. WIMS was progressively rolled-out to the organisation and is currently available to all departmental staff. WIMS has provided considerable insight into the Department’s information management needs. It has enabled the department to manage documents consistently, provide evidence of the decisions we make and make better use of the work people do.

WIMS has the following key features:

  • It is an electronic document management system designed to provide an effective and easy way to manage the ever growing amount of electronic documents with which staff need to deal, in such a way that makes electronic documents easy to store and find again; protects them from unauthorised access but makes them easy to share; and assists the organisation in meeting its compliance obligations for the storage of electronic documents
  • it is integrated with other IT systems such as word processing, spreadsheets and email. It is separate from the management of information systems (e.g. for financial, human resource or contract management) and workflow systems
  • it has a strong change management, training and user support focus. WIMS training is consistently highly regarded.

DEWR is currently undertaking a project to replace WIMS with 80/20’s

Document Manager (DM)

DM is an advanced electronic document management system and importantly will give the department an improved capability to better manage its work related documents.

Following extensive consultation a new folder hierarchy (organisationally based) and metadata model will be introduced. Throughout the consultation process customised metadata fields were identified, these will enable users to save and search for their documents in a more efficient manner.

There will be in introduction of ‘core’ folders to help staff identify their information. Core Folders will exist in the organisationally based folder hierarchy and will help provide commonality across all of DEWR.


DEWR network is currently vetted to the IN-CONFIDENCE level, which means the security classification of information managed within the network should not exceed the IN-CONFIDENCE level.

To assist the management of classified electronic information at the CABINET-IN-CONFIDENCE and PROTECTED level the department created a secure environment called SAFE. It is an isolated working environment where DEWR employees are able to store, edit and email PROTECTED and CABINET-IN-CONFIDENCE information.

SAFE is built around SharePoint technology and introduces the concept of ‘sites’ and ‘libraries’. As part of the creation of these sites, the Information Management Team is assessing the content and assigning a retention period on the site (and its libraries). This approach will ensure that classified electronic information is treated in much the same way that DEWR treats its paper records. This does not however remove employees responsibility to print and place on file all documents of business activities considered official records.

Resource implications

DEWR currently has a team of 20 staff engaged in the Information Management Team. This team is responsible for all aspects of information management within DEWR including:

  • support and administration of information systems (including WIMS, TRIM, Corporate Directory and the Corporate Reference Data System)
  • policy development and dissemination
  • records management activities (including creation, sentencing and destruction of departmental records)
  • all change management aspects of information management (including training)

For further information on the recordkeeping practices in the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations please contact:

Simon Mann
Director, Information Management
Phone: 02 6218 4226

‘Keeping our corporate memory’—National Archives of Australia

Key points

  • Aims to achieve an entirely electronic environment
  • Uses work process analysis for high-risk business activities to identify and manage records
  • Focuses on managing both structured and unstructured records
  • Emphasises recordkeeping training.

Agency profile

The National Archives of Australia was established under the Archives Act 1983. It is a budget funded executive agency within the Communications, Information Technology and the Arts portfolio. The Archives maintains records created by Australian Government agencies, which form the archival resources of the nation. The Archives responsibilities are to:

  • play the leading role in the management of Commonwealth records
  • make available to the public Commonwealth records more than 30 years old, with certain exemptions
  • encourage and facilitate the use of the archival resources of the Australian Government
  • provide leadership in developing and coordinating the preservation and use of the archival resources of Australia.

Keeping our corporate memory

The Archives needs to create records if it is to fulfil its role as manager of archives from Australian Government agencies. This case study focuses specifically on the administrative and business records that the Archives creates as part of its legislative requirements.

Information Management Framework

The Archives uses an Information Management Strategic Framework that recognises the nature of information as a key corporate asset. This framework contains a set of principles and broad strategies to guide and inform information management activities, the aim being to:

  • improve the Archives’ collection, use and management of information to support the quality services it provides its key audiences
  • improve efficiency and productivity
  • reduce risks associated with poor delivery of information and ensure compliance with statutory requirements.

Internal records management environment

Decentralised records management system responsibilities

The Archives implemented a decentralised information and records management model in February 2007, coordinated by an Information Management Policy Committee. The Committee, with senior representatives from each branch, aims to:

  • ensure that the Archives pursues an agency-wide integrated, coherent and cost-effective strategic approach to information management
  • coordinate and oversee the development of suitable policies relating to information management in the NAA
  • advise relevant directors on strategies and tactics to facilitate the better management of information within the Archives
  • promote internally the value of well managed information to National Archives staff.

Staff from the Archives’ Government Information Management Branch support the committee. Responsibilities for different elements of records management within the Archives are:

  • Government Information Management: EDRMS system ownership, policy direction and recordkeeping advice and procedural development
  • Communications and Technology: EDRMS administration
  • People and Corporate Support: paper files and mail services and the National Archives’ library
  • Communications and Marketing: the National Archives’ intranet.

Recordkeeping Policy

The Archives’ Recordkeeping Policy supports the Information Management Strategic Framework by establishing an organisational position on the creation and management of records to support its business functions. The policy applies to all Archives’ staff, its operations, all records that support business activities and business applications used to create and maintain records. The policy:

  • identifies legislation and standards the Archives is committed to following
  • defines which systems should be used to save records, and where they should not be saved
  • lists processes that the Archives’ recordkeeping systems are expected to perform
  • identifies the requisite characteristics in designing recordkeeping systems
  • sets out responsibilities for all staff in key positions, and areas responsible for records management
  • details broad directions for all staff in creating a record and including it in an approved recordkeeping system

Every new staff member receives a copy of the policy document which is also available on the intranet and the public website. It is promoted in induction sessions with its key messages incorporated into EDRMS training sessions and documentation. Recordkeeping and records management responsibilities have been included in individual performance agreements.

Recordkeeping procedures

The Archives regards email as a high-risk area of recordkeeping and has developed a guide to the identification of emails that should be saved into the EDRMS, when to save them, responsibilities for saving email thread discussions, naming guidance and disposal advice.

There are also procedural documents that cover the creation and management of records relating to:

  • contract, project and risk management
  • web development activities and
  • in-confidence records

The policy addresses file and document nomenclature. There are also procedures for the high-risk core function of disposal authorisation, with instructions on records creation and management.

Record formats created by the Archives

Operating in an electronic records environment

The Archives aims to maintain born digital records within an electronic environment. Currently, the practice of printing a record and placing it on a paper file is used only for a limited category of records e.g. national security classified records and reference cases. The creation of records in paper format requires authorisation.

Managing structured and unstructured electronic records

The Archives creates both structured and unstructured electronic records. Unstructured data is that not managed in structured databases. It is narrative and contextually organised. To be managed as a record, it needs to be captured into a system with recordkeeping functionality. Structured data is collated and managed in e.g., business information system databases. Its predictive and repetitive format means that it requires a different management approach to unstructured data.

Management of unstructured electronic records

The Archives primary recordkeeping system is an electronic document records management system (EDRMS). It was implemented in 1998 with a major system upgrade carried out in May 2006. The system, available to all staff, is used to store corporate administrative records, including word documents, email, PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets and scanned documents.

The EDRMS also captures digitally-imaged surrogates of original paper-based records. The originals are destroyed after the quality of the scan is checked—except for certain categories of records where it has been decided to keep paper documents. The decision on the retention of paper records followed guidelines in the General Disposal Authority (GDA) for source records that have been copied, converted or migrated. This authority also covers scanned records approved for destruction. Staff can refer to these procedures.

The Archives encourages and trains staff in the use of the version control functionality so they create their working documents in the system and don’t use shared areas or hard drives to draft documents.

The Archives’ business classification scheme (BCS) has been incorporated into the system and functions and activities are used to name electronic containers. A daily quality check is carried out on the names of files to ensure use of the appropriate function and activity sets.

No disposal has yet been carried out on records in the EDRMS, but containers are closed after five years to prevent the attachment of new documents and provide a disposal trigger.

Management of structured electronic records

The Archives operates a number of linked databases and software applications that capture and manage records. These include RecordSearch, which captures and maintains records on the Archives’ core functions, finance and personnel management systems. RecordSearch was developed and released in the mid 1990s with additional modules added over time. It’s planned to review RecordSearch’s recordkeeping functionality because this had not been part of the original detailed analysis carried out for the purpose of automating the process.

The Archives is currently implementing e-commerce and content management systems, with the latter linked to the EDRMS for capturing and managing records.

Web based records

EDRMS staff currently manage the development of web content with the authorisation process managed according to established procedures. Snapshots of the website are taken every six months or whenever there is a major upgrade. Snapshots could not be saved into the first version of the EDRMS, but the system upgrade in May 2006 now allows this and previous snapshots will be captured retrospectively. The AGLS metadata set is applied to web content.

The Archives is currently transferring the management of the website to a content management system. While this system has limited records management functionality, its capability has been boosted by integration with the EDRMS.

Staff training

The Archives highly values staff training to ensure that records are created and captured into authorised recordkeeping systems, particularly the EDRMS. EDRMS training has been run on a regular basis since the introduction of the system, with four formal sessions held each year in Canberra for new staff or those seeking to update their knowledge. State offices are visited annually for training. In Canberra, staff that need training between formal sessions receive one-on-one tuition. The Archives’ dedicated training officer advises on good recordkeeping practices and procedures (e.g. advice on titling and what records to create), and delivers training on IT desktop software applications and recordkeeping messages.

Support material to help staff use the system includes:

  • an EDRMS Manual, which includes system use and recordkeeping advice
  • an e-learning package, which is particularly helpful for state office staff with no ready access to a trainer
  • help-sheets covering common records management issues e.g. creating files, capturing documents and emails and searching.

Internal Audit

Regular feedback is provided to the Audit Committee against recommendations made in the ANAO Audit Report on Recordkeeping (No. 7 2003–04).

Records improvement projects

In 2002 the Archives undertook a post implementation review of the EDRMS by using methodology outlined in the Designing and Implementing Record Keeping Systems (DIRKS) Manual. The outcomes of this project guided the work of the Information Management Section for several years.

The Archives has completed DIRKS Steps A (analysis of the organisational context), B (analysis of business activities) and C (identification of recordkeeping requirements). The resulting functions based Records Authority is currently being assessed.

Step B involved a risk analysis of all core business activities, with the Work Process Standard AS 5090 used to undertake a detailed transactional analysis for recordkeeping purposes for two high-risk activities—disposal authorisation and record access examination activities. The analysis identified individual steps in performing the business activity, indicating at what point records should be created and in what formats. Procedures for these activities will be reviewed to ensure adherence to recordkeeping requirements identified in the analysis.

Future projects and directions

Over the next five years the Archives plans to:

  • develop an information architecture, that identifies records and where they are stored
  • review and improve the recordkeeping functionality of RecordSearch
  • identify strategies for addressing staff use of unauthorised storage spaces for creating and keeping their records
  • apply the Archives’ disposal authority to both legacy paper records and records in the EDRMS
  • develop and test a preservation plan.

For further information on recordkeeping practices in the National Archives of Australia please contact:

Colleen McEwen
Director, Information Policy & Taskforce Response
Phone: 02 6212 3732

Last reviewed: 
16 May 2018