The truth and lies of disposing of information

13th March 2018
There are files in cardboard boxes under the stage in the school hall. There is that odd-shaped cupboard under the stairs in the old science block. Not to mention the four filing cabinets in the principal’s office. Sound familiar?

Sorting out hardcopy records and preparing them for disposal is one of those jobs that we are always ‘going to get to’, but somehow never do.

Some schools utilise off-site storage suppliers to house their inactive records. You might consider it ‘out of sight, out of mind’, but eventually you will have to spend time and resources to determine which files are ready for disposal.

While disposing of digital records is less labour intensive, the issue is often exacerbated by the fact that electronic storage space is becoming cheaper. Disposal becomes less pressing, and with each subsequent ‘new’ filing taxonomy, the older files become even harder to sort and find.

Correct and consistent disposal of records is a vitally important stage of managing our documents and data. The benefits of disposing of records include:
  • Clearing up space: regardless of whether it is physical or digital, we can always use a bit more room.
  • Records that are unattended or stored in obscure places are not usually preserved and will often suffer damage which you may not even know about.
  • Reduction in offsite storage costs.
  • Simply put, having fewer records is just easier to manage.
  • You might be non-compliant with disposal and retention standards for your state.
  • And finally, less clutter means less stress.

It’s worth remembering that any information that is destroyed is no longer accessible under the Freedom of Information Act or Right to Information legislation.

Each state’s Records Office has a retention and disposal schedule that schools must adhere to. It identifies the minimum time that records are to be kept (see links below for more information). If a document is considered permanent, it should be sent to your state records office for free storage and public access.

Keeping records forever may seem like a good idea, or merely the more natural way out, but it will eventually get out of control. You will run out of physical space for hardcopy records, or your off-site storage costs will become astronomical.

Take action now
Some simple actions that you can take right away include:
  • Review all your current holdings and storage locations
  • Audit and track all contents in a spreadsheet or records system
  • Destroy records that are no longer required using a relevant disposal authority
  • Send permanent records to your State Records Office for storage.

Disposal Authorities

By: Anne Cornish, CEO and Owner of Records Solutions
Anne has over 35 years’ experience in data and records’ management specialising in the government and education sector. Like most other industries, information management has undergone a significant change in recent years. There are new and unique challenges associated with digitisation and moving to the Cloud. Anne has been instrumental in leading schools through this transition and navigating current trends.

She has worked on projects that include:
  • statewide implementation of an eDRMS, electronic document and records management system for all offices and schools in Queensland
  • school archiving and disposal projects in both NSW and Victoria
  • capture and digitisation of records in large independent schools in Queensland.

Anne represented Australia in developing International Information Standards (ISO 15489) and continuously lobbies to promote the importance of records’ management in all schools.
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