Record Retention and Disposal Guideline

Document Number000284

Which records need to be kept and for how long?

There is no simple answer because most records have value for differing amounts of time.

The retention period for records is determined by the activity to which the record relates. There are minimum retention periods determined for all sorts of records and staff are not permitted to destroy records before this minimum time requirement, regardless of format (this includes emails). Some need to be kept for a relatively short time (hours or days), while others may need to be retained for much longer periods. The University is required to retain some records permanently. These are called State Archives.

It is unlawful to damage, alter, or destroy any records of the University without authorisation.

The State Records Act 1998 (NSW) makes it an offence to abandon or dispose of, damage or alter a State record without permission (see also the University Records Management Policy). Permission to dispose of records will be granted one of two ways: through normal administrative practice or using the General Disposal Authorities.

Normal Administrative Practice

Section 21 (2) (a) of the State Records Act says that some records may be destroyed if this is done in accordance with "normal administrative practice". What this means is further dealt with in Section 22 and Schedule 3 of the State Records Regulation 2005.

Generally speaking, "normal administrative practice" allows the destruction of:

  • ephemeral or facilitative drafts
  • working papers
  • duplicate records
  • facilitating instructions

There is no need to seek specific permission or record the destruction of these sorts of records. However, you must take great care when relying on this provision as there are very important exceptions. See the Guidelines on some aspects of normal administrative practice for more detail and contact us if you have any doubts or questions.

Disposal using the General Disposal Authorities

The State Records Authority has authorised several disposal schedules specifying how long certain records should be kept (retention periods) and whether upon the expiry of the specified retention periods the records may be destroyed or are to become State archives. The key ones for the University are:

Procedure for Disposal and Destruction of Records

Staff may only destroy or dispose of records of the University of Newcastle in accordance with the General Disposal Authorities authorised by the State Records Authority and the Guidelines on Some Aspects of Normal Administrative Practice.

Complete a Request to Destroy Records Form before destroying any records, except those disposed of according to Normal Administrative Practice.

Any enquiries about the disposal of records can be directed to the Records Management Office.

Related Information

Records Management website

Records Management Policy 000285

Creation of Records Guideline 000785

File Notes Guideline 000514

Electronic Records Management Guideline 000053

Electronic Mail (Email) Management Guidelines 000143