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State Records Guidelines No. 6

Developing a Functional Records Disposal Schedule

Issued: 13 July 2005 


This guideline is issued under the provisions of Section 10A of the Archives Act 1983. Guidelines issued by the State Archivist under this Section set standards, policy, and procedures relating to the making and keeping of State records. This section also requires all relevant authorities to take all reasonable steps to comply with these guidelines, and put them into effect.

Ian Pearce
State Archivist

Table of Contents

1. Purpose

This guideline is to provide information about, and stipulate the process to be followed for developing a function based records disposal schedule for authorisation by the State Archivist.

2. Introduction

The development of a functional disposal schedule involves analysing the business functions and activities of the agency to identify the records created and determine how long these records need to be kept. Once a schedule is compiled, it is assessed and authorised by the State Archivist.

A Records Disposal Schedule is a detailed inventory of records created and stored by an agency, listed by record classes identified within the contextual framework of the agency's functions and activities, and identifying the appropriate disposal action. These comprehensive documents are formally authorised by the State Archivist and the destruction periods identified in the schedule can be acted upon without further reference to the Archives Office. The prompt and orderly disposal of non-current records is essential to an accountable and efficient records and information system. The most effective way of doing this is to prepare and adopt comprehensive functional disposal schedules.

The Archives Office has issued a number of disposal schedules which cover records which are common to more than one agency. The Disposal Schedule for Records of Common Administrative Functions (DA No. 2157) authorises the disposal of a range of administrative records which are common to most agencies.

A list of current disposal schedules is available on Copies of all schedules can be downloaded from this site.

It is important for agencies to complement these schedules with their own functional disposal schedules to cover records created in the process of undertaking their unique agency functions. Agencies that undertake a range of functions may need to develop several functional disposal schedules.

Developing a functional disposal schedule is a major project and should be undertaken using the standard project management methodology. The Inter Agency Policy and Projects Unit, Department of Premier and Cabinet, has developed a set of project management tools to assist project participants working within Tasmanian Government projects. These tools are available at

The projecttimetable should allow for key stages in the disposal authorisation process, such as:

  • drafting and internal review processes
  • the initial review of the draft schedule by the Archives Office (AOT) project officer and negotiation of changes to it
  • sign off by the relevant authority and senior management of the agency before formal submission

Agencies should contact the Archives Office at an early stage of the project planning phase to discuss the proposed timetable and to enable an Archives Office project officer to be assigned. This AOT project officer will provide guidance to the agency during all stages of the project, including appraisal and formulation of disposal classes.

3. Definitions

agency - is used in this guideline to refer to all agencies, authorities, statutory offices, departments, councils and other organisations that are subject to, and defined in, the Archives Act 1983.

appraisal -the process of determining the value of the record or series of records.

disposal - involves either the destruction of records; their transfer to the Archives Office for retention as part of the State archives; their transfer to another custodian; or some other process approved by the State Archivist which removes them from the custody of their creator or current keeper.

permanent records -records that must be transferred to the Archives Office 25 years after the date of creation for retention as State archives.

record - is a document or an object that is, or has been, made or kept by reason of any information or matter that it contains or can be obtained from it or by reason of its connection with any event person, circumstance, or thing. A document includes any printed or written material and an object includes a sound recording, coded storage device, magnetic tape or disc, microfilm, photograph, film, map, plan, or model or painting or other pictorial or graphic work.

relevant authority - means the Secretary or head of a Government department or agency, or the person directly responsible to the Minister concerned for the administration and direction of that department, service; or body. It means, in relation to a State authority or a local authority that is incorporated, that authority; or in relation to a State authority or a local authority that is unincorporated, the secretary, clerk, or other principal executive officer of that authority.

series -a set of records which have been created from or for the performance of a function or identifiable part thereof. The records comprising the series will usually be linked through a numerical, alphabetical, chronological or other identifiable sequence, or result from the same administrative accumulating or filing process.

temporary records - records that can be destroyed under the authority of an authorised disposal schedule after a minimum retention period or once certain requirements have been met.

4. Appraisal of records

As described in the Australian Standard for Records Management (AS ISO 15489) appraisal involves analysing the business activities of an organisation to identify what records should be created and how long they need to be kept.

Appraisal may be undertaken for a variety of reasons, including:

  • compilation of a functional thesaurus to manage and provide access to records
  • development of a functional disposal schedule covering the functional records created by the agency

4.1 Business classification scheme

A business classification scheme is a hierarchical model of the relationship between an organisation's functions, activities and transactions. It provides the core foundation for the development of recordkeeping tools including a functional thesaurus and a records disposal schedule.

The business classification scheme is derived from an analysis of the business functions and activities of the agency. To identify the business functions and activities of the agency the analysis focuses on:

  • the goals and strategies of the agency
  • the broad functions of the agency which support the pursuit of these goals and strategies
  • the activities of the agency which constitute the functions 
  • the groups of recurring transactions which constitute each activity 

The business classification scheme provides the framework for a functional disposal schedule. The arrangement of the disposal schedule reflects the hierarchical arrangement of the business classification scheme. 

  • the first level is expressive of the business function
  • the second level is based on the activities constituting the function
  • the third level describes the records created in undertaking the activities or the groups of transactions which take place within each activity

As the functions and activities are an integral part of the records description, it is important that these are understood by the Archives Office before a schedule is authorised. A review of the business classification scheme prior to writing the schedule will enable the Archives Office to suggest any necessary adjustments before detailed work on the disposal class descriptions is completed. 

The business classification scheme submitted to the Archives Office should contain all the unique functions and activities undertaken by the agency. All functions and activities must have scope notes which provide clear definitions of each function and activity, and where relevant, include cross references to related terms.

Where an activity is linked to more than one function, the scope note should be structured to include the relationships to all functions. In these instances, references to the relevant functions should be included to put the activity in context for each function.

The layout of the business classification scheme can make it easier to see if there are any inconsistencies or overlaps in your analysis. You should ensure that:

  • an appropriate unit of business activity is selected as the basis for each function
  • each function and activity has a defined scope
  • · the scope of each function mutually excludes the other functions (including any common administrative functions covered by Keyword AAA and the Disposal Schedule for Records of Common Administrative Functions - DA No. 2157)
  • the combined functions account for all of the business the organisation carries out

4.2 Determining how long to retain records

Identifying an agency's recordkeeping requirements is an essential step in the appraisal process and provides the rationale for the disposal of records.

Recordkeeping Advice No. 2 - Records Appraisal provides information about identifying an agency's recordkeeping requirements in order to determine how long records should be retained to meet regulatory, business and stakeholder requirements.

To ensure accountability it is essential that the process of identifying recordkeeping requirements is well documented and provides the necessary detail to substantiate the disposal recommendations submitted to the State Archivist in draft disposal schedules. This documentation should be retained for at least the life of the disposal schedule. Recordkeeping Advice No. 2 - Records Appraisal provides advice on the details of the identified recordkeeping requirements that need to be documented.

5. Disposal classes

A disposal class is a group of records that document the same activity or transactional process, and have the same disposal action.

The terminology used to describe the disposal class should reflect the terminology used in the agency and should be easily understood by new staff, Archives Office staff etc. The description must be accurate, concise and unambiguous. It must clearly identify the records and distinguish them from records included in other disposal classes. If necessary, a cross reference to other related classes can be included in the description. Recordkeeping Advice No. 13, Writing Disposal Classes provides advice on formulating disposal classes.

6. Status and disposal action

All disposal classes have either 'PERMANENT' or 'TEMPORARY' status.

All disposal classes identified in a disposal schedule as having temporary status will have a disposal action which is the authorised date for destruction. These disposal actions specify the length of time for which the record must be retained before it can be destroyed under this authorisation. The retention periods for these temporary records are usually described as follows:

  • destroy x years after action completed (which means after the date of the last transaction)
  • destroy when reference ceases
  • destroy x years after (specific event such as expiry of lease, when approval ceases)

All disposal classes identified as having permanent status should be transferred to the Archives Office 25 years after the date of creation. It is not necessary to include retention periods in the disposal action for permanent records.

7. Layout of the schedule

The arrangement of the disposal schedule reflects the hierarchical arrangement of the functions and activities included in the approved business classification scheme as follows: 

1. functions arranged in alphabetical order

2. activities constituting each function arranged in alphabetical order under the relevant function

3. disposal classes listed under each activity

Each function, activity and disposal class should be allocated a temporary number to facilitate discussion during the review process. The Archives Office will apply a disposal reference number to all functions, activities and disposal classes when the schedule is issued. A draft disposal schedule layout template is available.

8. Submission of draft disposal schedule

There are two main stages in the process of obtaining approval for a functional disposal schedule. The first stage is the submission of an initial draft for review and comment by the AOT project officer and the second stage is the formal submission of a final agreed draft for approval and authorisation by the State Archivist.

The initial draft disposal schedule may be submitted to the Archives Office in electronic format, either as a document created from the disposal schedule template available on the Archives Office website at, or as a report generated by software tools that are used to develop a functional disposal schedule. If agencies are intending to utilise software tools to develop the disposal schedule, the suitability of the report formats and outputs of the software should be discussed with the AOT project officer before work commences.

All disposal classes included in the draft disposal schedule must be accompanied by appraisal notes that provide descriptive information about the records and document the recordkeeping requirements for the records described in the class. These should include the reasons for the recommended disposal action including any regulatory, business, community and stakeholder requirements. Recordkeeping Advice No. 2, Records Appraisal provides advice on documenting recordkeeping requirements.

The draft schedule and supporting appraisal notes will be reviewed by the Archives Office. Following an initial assessment, the AOT project officer may provide comments or request further information or explanation from the agency representative. The provision of comprehensive appraisal notes will assist the AOT project officer to review the draft schedule and reduce these comments. The agency representative should respond to these comments and submit a revised draft schedule with justification for any revisions. This process may be repeated several times depending on the stage of the development of the draft schedule and the quality of the information supplied.

Usually the review process will take a few months. Timing will depend on:

  • the stage of development of the draft schedule when it is first submitted for review
  • the quality of the appraisal notes submitted
  • how many changes are required to finalise the draft schedule
  • how many draft schedules from other agencies have been submitted for review (schedules are usually reviewed in order of receipt)

9. Schedule introduction and interpretation sections

The AOT project officer will add the Introduction and Interpretation sections to the disposal schedule when the schedule is issued. If any special instructions need to be included in the disposal schedule, these should be forwarded to the Archives Office with the final draft schedule.

10. Authorisation and issue of the schedule

When both the AOT project officer and the agency representative agree on a final draft, the relevant authority should formally submit the draft to the State Archivist for approval and authorisation. If the final draft is submitted in hardcopy, an electronic version should also be sent to The State Archivist may request further clarification or changes to the schedule. When the State Archivist approves the schedule, it will be formally issued and the agency will be notified.

Compliance checklist


Contact has been made with the Archives Office to discuss the proposed timetable.




The project timetable allows for key stages in the disposal authorisation process.




A comprehensive Business Classification Scheme (BCS) has been submitted to the State Archivist for consideration as the framework for the functional records disposal schedule.




The Archives Office review of the BCS is completed before proceeding with the development of the disposal schedule. 




The recordkeeping requirements for all records described in the disposal schedule are identified and documented.




Disposal class descriptions clearly identify the records and distinguish them from records included in other disposal classes.




Each function, activity and disposal class is allocated a unique number to facilitate discussion during the review process.




An electronic version of the draft disposal schedule is submitted to the AOT project officer for review.

If using special software, contact AOT to discuss report formats.




Appraisal notes documenting the recordkeeping requirements for all disposal classes are submitted with the draft disposal schedule. 




Appraisal notes are retained in the agency for the life of the disposal schedule.



 11. Respond to comments or questions raised by the AOT project officer in relation to the draft schedule and submit a revised draft schedule.

Note: this stage may be repeated depending on the stage of the development of the draft and the quality of the information supplied.

 Yes  No
 12. Any special instructions that need to be included in the disposal schedule are forwarded to the Archives Office with the final draft disposal schedule.  Yes  No