You may be aware that on the 1 June 2018, the State Archivist issued a disposal freeze covering records that are relevant to, or may become relevant to, an allegation of child sexual abuse as a result of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
But what does that mean for your agency? Plenty of queries and questions have been coming through to us so we thought we’d clear up a few of the main ones here.
First of all, any records that your agency has determined are covered by this disposal freeze must not be destroyed until this disposal freeze is revoked.
If you want more information about why the disposal freeze was issued, head over to our other blog/news story: Child protection is everyone’s responsibility – disposal freeze for records that may become relevant to an allegation of child sexual abuse.
Now on to the details of what’s what.
Who does it apply to?
This freeze applies to all Queensland public authorities that fall under the Public Records Act 2002, not just the ones that deal with children on a daily basis. So you all have a little homework to do – don’t just look at the title and think ‘we don’t have any children’s records, we’re ok.’ We have deliberately issued the disposal freeze in this way to ensure we capture all records, regardless of which agency creates them, that may be needed for an allegation of child sexual abuse.
The freeze also applies to any contractors and service providers (and anyone else like that), that create, receive or manage records on your behalf. Not sure who is responsible for records in this case? Check out our advice (and our handy cheat sheet) on status of records when outsourcing to help you out.
What records does it cover?
Next you need to find out what records the freeze applies to.
It applies to all records relating to children and youth that may be required in the future as evidence of child sexual abuse, not just those that are subject to current allegations.
You’ll need to think about and analyse what records you might have that may have anything to do with children, youth and young people. This could be things like:
- child care
- staff, workers or contractors that come into contact with children (e.g. maintenance staff in a child care centre or other location where children frequent)
- children’s health records
- legal services provided to children and families
- staff at a facility where children visit
- events where children participate or may involve children, (e.g. the Ekka, school holiday programs, work experience)
- apprentice/intern records
- outreach and school programs
- youth justice records
- notifications from staff or registered professionals about allegations or criminal convictions involving children
- interactions between children and staff (e.g. security, customer service officers, public facing staff, bus drivers and rail staff)
- compensation records for or relating to children (e.g. injury on the school playground or while in care etc.)
These types of records are only examples to help you analyse what records your agency has that may be covered by the disposal freeze. There may be other records that your agency holds that are covered by the freeze.
The disposal freeze is focussed both on child protection and the protection of a person’s legal rights and entitlements where a future allegation of child sexual abuse may be made. So, think about what might be needed as evidence in the future, even just to corroborate other evidence.
If in doubt, keep the records. It’s better to keep more than less.
The freeze also covers any physical source records that have been digitised from the 1 June 2018. Under the Physical Source Records disposal authorisation in the GRDS (2074), records subject to a disposal freeze are one of the exceptions to destruction. You can still digitise your records, but you also need to keep the original source records as well as the digitised versions of the physical records until the freeze is lifted.
Why does it cover so many records?
We know it’s very broad and so covers a lot of records.
We deliberately made the disposal freeze broad because it is essential to protect the legal rights of child abuse survivors until the relevant records have been identified.
The Royal Commission found it often takes a very long time for allegations to be made or for victims and witnesses to speak up. So while right now these records aren’t needed, they might be in the future.
Once we’ve received your responses about the records you have identified in your agencies that are covered by the disposal freeze, we will look at the existing retention and disposal schedules we have in place and determine what record classes and retention periods need to be amended to ensure the recommendations of the Royal Commission are met and reflect the changes in community expectations.
Not all of the records covered by the disposal freeze will need a change in retention period, but at the moment we need make sure that nothing is missed and inadvertently disposed of.
While the disposal freeze is in place, any relevant records relating to the disposal freeze should be retained.
What do you need to do now?
Take some time to carefully read the disposal freeze, and all of the inclusions to make sure you’re aware of exactly what it covers, which agencies it applies to and what you need to do. The disposal freeze also includes examples of the types of records covered to help you identify relevant records for your agency. Use this information to do an assessment in your own agency and identify what records, if any are applicable for your agency. It is every agency’s responsibility to undertake their own detailed analysis of their legislative requirements, business activities and records holdings to identify affected records.
One of the things the disposal freeze requires you to do is notify QSA of what records you have and what you’ve done to protect them from disposal.
So, once you’ve done your analysis and identified what (if any) records you have that are covered by the freeze, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by 27 July 2018 with the details.
You can find full details of what you need to include in the disposal freeze itself, but here’s the short version:
- whether your agency holds records covered by the freeze
- what steps you have taken to ensure that these records are protected from disposal, and
- details of schedule coverage, including if they’re not covered or a schedule has been missed from the list attached to the disposal freeze.
For those of you that discover you don’t have any records covered by the freeze, you still need to let us know. Send us an email stating that your agency does not hold any records covered by the disposal freeze as outlined in Appendix 1.
Also keep an eye out for a few more blogs to be published soon about this disposal freeze and disposal freezes in general.
Remember, if you need help or have a query, send us an email (email@example.com) with the details of what you need more advice on and we’ll do what we can to help.
And don’t forget, formal responses to the freeze need to be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org by 27 July 2018.