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Annual performance statement

The National Archives’ annual performance statement for 2019–20 provides a comprehensive overview of how the organisation performed throughout the year.

Reporting framework

The National Archives achieves its purpose through one outcome, delivered through a single program, as outlined in the Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS) 2019–20. The annual performance statement provides an analysis of the agency’s performance in 2019–20 against the performance criteria and targets also set out in the 2019–20 PBS and 2019–20 to 2022–23 Corporate Plan.

Figure 2 outlines the performance reporting structures set out in the PBS and the Corporate Plan, and shows how the performance criteria are addressed in the annual performance statement.

Figure 2 I Relationship between Portfolio Budget Statements, Corporate Plan and annual performance statement Figure 2 I Relationship between Portfolio Budget Statements, Corporate Plan and annual performance statement

Performance overview

Table 1 details the National Archives’ results against the four performance criteria set out for 2019–20 in the Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–23 and the PBS (pages 157–170).

Table 1 I Summary of results against 2019–20 performance criteria

Program 1.1 The Archives provides stewardship of the records of the Australian Governmen to provide access to the evidence and memory of our nation, connecting Australians with their identity, history and place in the world.

Performance criteria

Target

Goal

Result

The National Archives leads Australian Government agencies in achieving digital transition through whole-of-government information policy guidance

New approach to support Australian Government digital information management capability released by 30 September 2020*

Deliver a draft policy for consultation by 30 June 2020

Draft policy delivered by 30 June 2020

Australian Government agencies are surveyed against DC2020 Policy targets and outcomes reported to the Prime Minister and the Minister

97% of agencies complete survey by 2020–21*

97%

98%

Qualitative evaluation of progress towards DC2020 Policy outcomes; using survey responses and case studies

Deliver qualitative evaluation of progress towards DC2020 Policy outcomes

Qualitative evaluation delivered

Records of enduring national significance are identified and transferred into the national archival collection for safe keeping

80% of Australian Government entities have comprehensive record authority coverage by 30 June 2020

80%

79%

Qualitative evaluation of records of enduring national significance transferred for safe keeping; using case studies of programs to preserve records at risk in the national archival collection

Qualitative evaluation of records of enduring national significance transferred for safe keeping using case studies

Case studies of programs to preserve records at risk in the national archival collection delivered

The national archival collection is accessible, promoted and made available through multiple channels regardless of original format

3% annual increase in public engagement with the National Archives

3%

27%

Qualitative evaluation of the accessibility and engagement with the National Archives' collection, the channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders; using case studies

Qualitative evaluation of accessibility and engagement

Case studies of channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders delivered

* Note: The measure as it was published in the 2019–20 PBS relates to 2020–21; however, this performance measure has been progressed or met during 2019–20.

Performance results

Performance criterion one

Performance criterion: The National Archives leads Australian Government agencies in achieving digital transition through whole-of-government information policy guidance

Measure

New approach to support Australian Government digital information management capability released by 30 September 2020.*

* The measure as it was published in the 2019–20 PBS relates to 2020–21; however, the work program progressed this performance measure to deliver a draft policy provided to agencies for consultation by 30 June 2020.

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 162

National Archives of Australia Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–23

Delivery strategy

Strategy 1 – Establish frameworks for best practice management of Australian Government information and data by Australian Government agencies toward achievement of Digital Continuity 2020 Policy targets

Result

Achieved

Analysis of performance

In 2019, the Australian Government published its Australian Public Service reform agenda, Delivering for Australians, to support stronger growth of Australian businesses and more jobs while protecting the vulnerable. In 2020, as Australia works to overcome the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, those goals have become even more important. The pandemic has also further highlighted the importance of standardised and interoperable data and systems to facilitate the collection of accurate and timely data. Holistic and well-planned information management is foundational to support, as well as transform, how government operates. Transformation relies on trusted information and data made available to government and the community primarily through digital technologies by a capable and skilled workforce.

The government requires accurate and reliable information to make decisions and take actions that ensure the effective delivery of services and benefits to the Australian community. The need for government to retain and preserve evidence of its decisions and actions, as well as the rights and entitlements of members of the Australian community, through creating and maintaining authentic, complete and accessible records has never been greater.

Sound information governance is critical to achieving those outcomes. Australian Government agency heads and executives have an essential role in providing leadership to enable and support good information management practices and behaviours within their organisations. Well-managed information improves business efficiency, mitigates risks, and is essential for government accountability and transparency. The value of government information is maximised when it can be used, shared and re-used.

Accordingly, in the 2020–21 financial year the National Archives will release its new whole-of government information policy, Building Trust in the Public Record: managing information and data for government and community. Development of the new policy began during 2019–20 leading to the release in July 2020 of an exposure draft for agency and broader stakeholder comment. This will inform the final version of the new policy, which will take effect from 1 January 2021 following the conclusion of the DC 2020 Policy in December 2020. This new policy will continue to promote good information management as essential to building trust in Australian Government information and will maximise its value to meet the current and future needs of the government and community. It will also enable the government to continuously improve how it creates, collects and manages its information and data assets.

After the policy formally comes into effect next year, the National Archives will measure the progress of its implementation by Australian Government agencies through the organisation’s established whole-of-government surveys of their information management capability. The National Archives plans to review the policy and its implementation after the first 12 months of its release to ensure its relevance, practicality and effectiveness.

Performance criterion two

Performance criterion: Australian Government agencies are surveyed against DC2020 Policy targets and outcomes reported to the Prime Minister and the Minister

Measures

97% of agencies complete survey by 2020–21.*

* The measure as it was published in the 2019–20 PBS relates to 2020–21. However, this performance measure was met and exceeded during 2019–20; 98% of agencies had completed the 2019 Check-up PLUS survey by 30 June.

Qualitative evaluation of progress towards DC2020 Policy outcomes; using survey responses and case studies

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 162

National Archives of Australia Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–23

Delivery strategy

Strategy 1 – Establish frameworks for best practice management of Australian Government information and data by Australian Government agencies towards achievement of DC2020 Policy targets

Result

Achieved

Analysis of performance

Digital Continuity 2020 Policy

Since 2011, the National Archives has surveyed Australian Government agencies to assess the maturity of their information management capability. Completion of the survey is a mandatory requirement of the DC2020 Policy for all Australian Government entities. The significance and value of this survey to information managers in all agencies are evidenced by the completion rate of 98 per cent across government in 2019.

The most recent Check-up PLUS survey (2019) indicates that the DC2020 Policy has achieved significant progress in transitioning agencies to digital and whole-of-government information management capability. Key improvements in meeting policy objectives were as follows:

  • 81 per cent of agencies manage most information and data digitally, up from 30 per cent in 2010
  • 71 per cent of agencies have implemented processes to remove paper and automate the collection and creation of information and data, up from 58 per cent in 2018
  • 45 per cent of agencies use appropriate technologies to automate processes, up from 31 per cent in 2018.

Figure 3 shows the relative information management maturity of all agencies.

Figure 3 I Average information management maturity level across agencies (Check-up PLUS 2019 survey) Graph representation of the maturity level of agencies surveyed. Level 5 - 1 agency; level 4.5 - 7 agencies; level 4 - 20 agencies; level 3.5 - 33 agencies; level 3 - 54 agencies; level 2.5 - 29 agencies; level 2 - 18 agencies; level 1.5 - 4 agencies.

n = number of agencies surveyed

The survey results reveal that the number of high-performing agencies (fully mature in all areas of information and data management)1 is 28 out of 166 (17 per cent). With strong capabilities enabling people to find, understand and access information, those high-performing agencies can capitalise on efficiencies resulting from rapid access to reliable information. The survey data also indicates that high-performing agencies are more readily able to share and re-use their information and data between systems, and have reduced storage costs and risk of information loss.

However, implementation is progressing at varying rates among agencies. The 2019 survey identified a number of gaps in capability. One-third of agencies are not expected to adequately meet the requirements of the policy by December 2020.2 A similar number indicated that they have insufficient resources to identify information of long-term value or arrange the destruction of material of shorter term value. The National Archives has provided targeted assistance to those agencies through programs such as the Agency Implementation Support Program, discussed in the case study below.

1 Based on an average information management maturity score of 4 or higher.

2 ‘Adequate’ is defined as an average score of 3 or higher out of 5, or a score just below 3 with a minimum of one high score in one or more of the five information maturity indices.

Case study

Agency Implementation Support Program

In August 2019, the National Archives initiated the Digital Continuity 2020 – Agency Implementation Support Program to assist those agencies that were identified as being in the lower third of information management maturity. This was an additional engagement channel to help those agencies improve the maturity of their digital information management practices in the final phase of implementation of the policy. The practical objective of the program is to link those agencies to targeted support and online advice and tools.

In November and December 2019, as part of the program, representatives from 24 agencies took part in round-table and telephone consultations. They shared their experiences of limitations and challenges in their digital information management practices and identified additional advice that they felt would be helpful if it were added to the National Archives’ existing online content.

The main limitations identified by agencies were resources and culture, the need for increased senior executive support and technology. Some challenges to be addressed, according to agency representatives, include the management of unstructured information stored in dispersed locations; assessments of business systems for information management compliance and interoperability; and digitisation of legacy analogue records.

Agency representatives expressed a desire for reducing red tape and getting more specific and practical advice from the National Archives, as well as better networking opportunities at various levels for sharing information and experiences. A convincing case was put forward for individual agency engagement with the National Archives, when required, to provide advice tailored to specific agency needs.

As a result of the program’s work in 2019–20, the National Archives developed online advice on dealing with data and datasets, and on the disposal of records in the absence of an agency specific records authority. Work continues on liaising with individual agencies, when requested, to provide tailored advice and solutions on better practice information management.

Performance criterion three

Performance criterion: Records of enduring national significance are identified and transferred into the national archival collection for safe keeping

Measures

80% of Australian Government entities have comprehensive record authority coverage by 30 June 2020

Qualitative evaluation of records of enduring national significance transferred for safe keeping; using case studies of programs to preserve records at risk in the national archival collection

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 162

National Archives of Australia Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–23

Delivery strategy

Strategy 2 – Secure and preserve Australian Government information of enduring national significance for the national archival collection

Result

Substantially achieved

Analysis of performance

Australian Government entities have comprehensive records authority coverage

In 2019–20, a new approach was taken to provide records authority coverage for smaller PGPA Act agencies, which often have a single well-defined core business and no unallocated resources with which to develop a records authority. Under this approach, appropriate existing general records authorities that would identify and safeguard ‘retain as national archives’ records were authorised for use on agencies’ core business records.

In addition, for small agencies with unique core businesses that could not be covered in the manner described above, the National Archives proactively identified and drafted records authorities for agency approval. Agencies welcomed this approach and responded positively. Two new records authorities using this approach were issued by the end of 2019–20, and several more in an advanced stage of development will be issued early in 2020–21.

The development of records authorities is currently dependent on two factors:

  • the resources an agency can commit and the timeliness of its contributions and clearances
  • the complexity and breadth of the functions of government to be covered by the records authority.

Although the target was substantially met (79 per cent of the 80 per cent target), the resources available within the National Archives to manage and deliver records authorities continue to present challenges for the agency’s priorities. In 2019–20, COVID-19 also slowed the issue of several records authorities. As agency response times were drawn out as a result of the necessity for agency staff to work from home, original estimates for records authority completion were affected.

Records of enduring national significance transferred for safe keeping

The total collection intake target of $7.5 million was achieved, as many records of archival significance were transferred to the National Archives’ custody during 2019–20.

Transfer programs and records transferred into the collection included the following:

  • Bureau of Meteorology: The bureau transferred hydrology and severe weather reports, including oversized maps and charts for storm and tornado flooding, photographs and tornado case histories. The transfer covered a variety of records created between 1917 and 2006. [Series J1324]
  • Federal Executive Council: The National Archives now has the complete set of records of submissions and approvals in the series that cover the work of the council from its inception in 1901 until 2012. [Series A1572 and A1573]
  • Directorate of History and Heritage Services, Royal Australian Air Force: The National Archives has begun the transfer of the first of four series of bound volumes that capture the deliberations of the Air Board and Air Council between their formation in 1920 and their disbandment in 1976. [Series A14487]
  • Australia Council: Records relating to grant applications, awards and community partnerships have been transferred. They cover cultural activities such as theatre programs, dance troupes, poetry and fiction [Series C2943]. Some examples are:
    • Major organisations partnership – Queensland Theatre Company and Jagera Jarjum Dance Troup
    • Produce CD master of David Page’s music for Bangarra Dance Theatre’s ‘Fish’
    • Wramungu Pujjali – series of cultural workshops for males in Tennant Creek and Barkly Region
    • Cultural programs in correctional facilities to enhance employment opportunities for offenders (Queensland)
    • Consultation and design phase of a public art project at the Lalor shopping precinct and library.

Programs to preserve records at risk in the national archival collection

The National Archives’ preservation and digitisation strategies identify the categories of records in the collection that are most at risk of being lost in the next 10 years. The records are prioritised by their format (or type of deterioration). The highest priority formats identified in the strategies include digital formats, magnetic media (obsolete technology for playback and degradation due to hydrolysis), nitrate and acetate-based film (acetic and nitric acid deterioration), colour film and print material (dye fade), and documents on poor-quality paper (damage through handling). Many records are preserved through digitisation, while others are preserved through treatments to the original item. Some 157,777 at-risk records were preserved in accordance with the preservation and digitisation strategies during 2019–20, including:

  • 44,611 records that received physical preservation treatments
  • 113,166 records that were digitised to preservation standards, comprising
    • paper – 49,546 records (2,901,025 pages)
    • photographic – 61,768 records
    • audiovisual – 1,852 records (approximately 370 hours).

Preservation and digitisation strategies also support other National Archives initiatives for access to content. The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Strategy and Implementation Plan are commitments to broaden and strengthen the agency’s capacity to engage with and meet the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Series A8739, consisting of black-and-white and colour negatives from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, was identified for preservation digitisation in accordance with the implementation plan. The negatives document events relating to Indigenous Australians and their work and lives. To date, this project has digitised 75 per cent of the series (4,209 images) to the National Archives’ Preservation Digitisation Standards and made them accessible online to all Australians.

One of the primary aims of the National Archives’ 2020 Strategic Plan is to expand the agency’s digital archiving capability to handle the increasing volumes of data to be transferred from Australian Government agencies. An important aspect of digital continuity is digital preservation. Preserving digital and audiovisual information often requires migration to new platforms and formats. In 2019, the National Archives significantly increased its digital archive storage capability through the implementation of new enterprise-grade storage.

As a part of the Digital Preservation Strategy, all existing audiovisual preservation digital files are being migrated from the current Audiovisual Linear Tape Open (LTO) Tape Library to the new Enterprise Storage. The data migration project commenced in August 2019 and, to date, 50 per cent of the LTO tapes have been successfully migrated, comprising 159,843 files or 574 terabytes of data. A significant proportion are digital files produced from a Deadline 2025 mass outsourced digitisation project. Digital preservation treatments were included in the digital workflows, such as metadata extraction, file renaming, file failures and 100 per cent quality control of files in new storage.

Deadline 2025 follows an international call to action to save magnetic media on audio and video tape at risk due to obsolescence and degradation. This is a key priority under the National Archives’ Corporate Plan, and since 2015 the agency has implemented multiple strategies to support this work.

This year, the Service Panel for Outsourced Digitisation of Audiovisual Materials was formed and is available for all agencies to use, enabling vendors and agencies to digitise more records to established archival standards. Internal capacity and capability have been increased through procurements of new equipment, and new developments and innovations have been implemented for archiving bulk digital records returned from vendors. In addition to internal digitisation, more than 700 audio tapes were outsourced this year. The digitised tapes were critically endangered ¼-inch audio tapes including the Science Show with Dr David Suzuki in Australia and National Press Club lunches with speakers such as David Williamson, Jose Ramos Horta and Prime Minister John Howard. Classical concert recordings of performances by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra were also among the titles digitised.

The National Archives received $10 million over four years from 2019–20 as an election commitment to digitise 850,000 World War II service records and make them available online. The records document the service of the men and women of the Australian armed services – Army, Navy and Air Force – during the war. They include paper documents such as attestations, service forms and correspondence related to their service and often also include photos and negatives. Since 1 July 2019, more than 14,179 World War II service records (600,169 pages) have been digitised under this project and released for public access online through the National Archives’ website. To assist with the public release of the records, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the National Archives signed a data management agreement for the bulk release of 498,740 records. The agencies have worked together to address potential privacy issues prior to public release.

Case study

Digitisation of at-risk colour films from the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority

In September 2019, the National Archives digitised 40 at-risk colour films from the unique and significant Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority collection to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the authority, which is now Snowy Hydro Limited. Snowy Hydro is responsible for the most significant hydro-electricity and irrigation system in Australia, built from 1949 to 1972 by a primarily migrant workforce.

The 16-mm films document the building of power stations, tunnels and dams during the 23-year period. Original reversals, interpositives and composite prints were scanned in 5K resolution on a Lasergraphics ScanStation to preservation standards, bringing the footage to light in a quality never seen before. This project is an example of Agency Digitisation Service requests meeting both the needs of the agency and the preservation targets of the National Archives. The National Archives’ digitised footage is highlighted at the Snowy Hydro Discovery Centre’s state-of-the-art immersive theatre experience.

Performance criterion four

Performance criterion: The national archival collection is accessible, promoted and made available through multiple channels regardless of original format

Measures

3% annual increase in public engagement with the National Archives

Qualitative evaluation of the accessibility and engagement with the National Archives’ collection, the channels used and cooperation with other stakeholders; using case studies

Source

Portfolio Budget Statements 2019–20, page 162

National Archives of Australia Corporate Plan 2019–20 to 2022–20

Delivery strategy

Strategy 3 – Connect researchers and the community to the national archival collection and enhance understanding of the role of the National Archives

Result

Achieved

Analysis of performance

The National Archives’ public engagement is measured under three streams of activity:

  • onsite – visits to the agency’s offices and research centres located in every capital city
  • offsite – attendance at travelling exhibitions, and National Archives and partner events and activities held at other venues
  • online – visits to the National Archives’ websites, social media activity and digital media audiences.

Annual performance in 2019–20 was mixed across the three streams compared to 2018–19, as follows:

Activity stream

2018–19

2019–20

Comparative result

Onsite

139,108

93,652

33% decrease

Offsite

156,038

111,174

29% decrease

Online

28,373,960

36,106,068

27% increase

Total

28,669,106

36,310,894

27% increase

Overall, public engagement increased by more than a quarter in 2019–20, driven by a doubling of digital and broadcast media audiences in quarters three and four (from 7.4 million in 2018–19 to 16.5 million in 2019–20). This large increase was the result of extensive media coverage of the annual Cabinet records release and the High Court ruling on the Kerr Palace letters. Aggregate public engagement through other online channels (websites, social media and RecordSearch collection database) remains relatively steady year on year.

The increase in online activity offset a large decrease in onsite and offsite engagement, which were each down by a third from 2018–19 figures. The decrease in engagement was largely the result of program closures and venue restrictions imposed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Case studies

Spy: espionage in Australia

The development and delivery of the national touring exhibition Spy: espionage in Australia is due to successful collaborations and partnerships.

The exhibition development and touring components are funded by grants from the National Collecting Institutions Touring and Outreach program and Visions Australia program, which are both managed by the Office for the Arts. The exhibition includes significant objects and documents, including loans from international and Australian agency collections. Strong working relationships have contributed to a rich, contextual history of intelligence services in Australia from Federation to now.

The exhibition toured to three venues in NSW, resulting in a total visitation of 32,695. It was on display at the National Archives’ National Office, Canberra, from November 2019 to March 2020, closing early due to COVID-19 restrictions. During that period, 20,228 visitors viewed the exhibition. The national tour of the exhibition is due to recommence following the easing of restrictions on interstate travel to Western Australia and Queensland.

Community education

Reference officers across the country deliver orientation sessions to groups of researchers to help them understand how to explore and access the national archival collection. On 12 August 2019, a group of 30 Australian National University undergraduate history students visited the National Archives Preservation Facility in Canberra to learn how to use the National Archives’ records for their research projects.

National Archives staff guided the students through strategies for identifying records and the reference services available to help researchers access the collection. Following that, the students viewed original records on topics including the 1954 Royal tour, climate change policy and the surveillance role of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. This led to conversations and questions that can arise only from interacting with these unique original records.

National Reference Service – response to COVID 19

From April to June 2020, the National Reference Service responded to more than 500 rights and entitlement enquiries from Australians seeking information to progress their applications for assistance due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Many of the enquirers had not previously used these services. The National Reference Service prioritised the enquiries and suspended charges for certification to support Australians through this challenging situation.

In addition, the National Archives experienced a 65 per cent increase in access to the online collection database, RecordSearch, and digitised records during the April–June 2020 period.

Prime ministers’ records

In the 2018–19 Mid-year Economic and Fiscal Outlook statement, the National Archives received additional funding to support the digitisation of records of former prime ministers, to enhance their accessibility and visibility.

To undertake this work, the personal collections of former prime ministers, agency correspondence records, and the minutes and decisions of Cabinet from 1901 to 1996 were assessed and prioritised. More than 9,000 records of every Australian prime minister from Sir Edmund Barton to Paul Keating are now described, digitised and available on RecordSearch.

Collaboration with Western Sydney University

During the 2020 autumn semester, Western Sydney University, in collaboration with the National Archives New South Wales Office, offered high-achieving students in the School of Humanities and Communication Arts a history research unit focusing on records related to World War I from the National Archives’ collection. Three students enrolled in the program. On 5 March 2020, staff ran a workshop to give the students an overview of National Archives operations and using RecordSearch, and guidance on identifying World War I records.

Using RecordSearch and the Discovering Anzacs website, the students chose a World War I soldier or group of soldiers and worked through a research and assessment program over the course of the semester. The research program was a success, and there are plans for this collaboration to continue. Western Sydney University advises that two of the students are already planning to undertake Master of Research degrees using World War I repatriation records in 2021.

Perth: an accidental history

Perth: an accidental history is currently showing at the National Archives Western Australia Office. The exhibition draws on the Postmaster-General’s photographic series K1131, in which there are thousands of digitised images. The images show how, through documenting advances in telecommunications, the Postmaster-General’s photographers also created a valuable record of Perth and its history.

The exhibition comprises 25 framed photographs as well as two panoramas. Two screens feature film footage of Perth and images from the collections of the City of Perth and the State Library of Western Australia.

Perth: an accidental history has increased awareness of the National Archives’ collection and presence in Perth. It also links the new Northbridge office with the local area, particularly the Perth Cultural Centre, and has provided an excellent opportunity to pursue partnerships with organisations such as the State Records Office of Western Australia, State Library of Western Australia and City of Perth.

ACCESS EXAMINATION

The Archives Act 1983 provides a general right of access to records after 20 years unless they fall under one or more of the 16 exemption categories defined in section 33 of the Act. Before records are released, they are examined by National Archives staff for any information that should be exempt, including, where necessary, consultation with policy agencies to inform the assessment. Records are released in response to applications for access from the public or as part of the National Archives’ program of proactive release.

At 30 June 2019, there were 23,197 current applications for access to records. During 2019–20, the National Archives received 45,297 new applications for access to records and released 40,577 records that were subject to applications from the public. There is often more than one applicant for a record, and more than one record may be requested in a single application. This means that the examination of a single record can result in the completion of a number of applications.

The National Archives also released 670,551 records as part of the agency’s program of proactive release. The National Archives regularly releases series of records that are no longer sensitive and are of general interest to the public. Proactive releases, which do not require examination, included World War II service records; records relating to the Commonwealth Transport Committee; claims against Australian debtors; Papua New Guinea maps and plans; records relating to Australian territories; and key 1998–99 Cabinet records.

At 30 June 2020, there were 3,134 records relating to 6,349 current applications on referral to agencies for advice on continuing sensitivity. There were 16,700 applications still to be processed, a significant proportion of which were for records that will require referral to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) for advice on continuing sensitivity. DFAT is currently at storage capacity and has limited space to receive more records for review from the National Archives. The agency is working with DFAT to improve processes for referring records for advice on continuing sensitivities and to consequently reduce the time taken to complete applications for DFAT records.

A small number of researchers account for the majority of applications. The agency manages the flow of examination to ensure that high-volume requests do not disadvantage access to records for the majority of researchers. The application cap, which came into effect with legislative amendments in April 2019, has reduced the impact of those researchers, as the consideration period for notifying decisions on access is extended for any applications submitted after 25 April 2019 where the applicant applies for more than 25 items. Figure 4 provides a breakdown of the number of applications requested by the high-volume applicant group.

At 30 June 2020, there were 22,976 current applications from the public for access to records pending examination. The National Archives continues to manage the queue of applications in addition to responding to new requests.

Table 2 I Number of records access examined, 2019–20

Records examined for the public

40,577

Records examined for proactive release

670,551

Total

711,128

Table 3 I Decisions on access, 2019–20

Wholly released records

708,472

Partially released records

2,554

Wholly exempt records

102

Total

711,128

Table 4 I Time taken for non-complex access examinations, 2019–20

Records within statutory consideration period

36,489

Records over statutory consideration period

1,958

Total

38,447

Table 5 I Time taken for complex access examinations, 2019–20

Records within statutory consideration period

1,293

Records over statutory consideration period

837

Total

2,130

Note: Records requiring complex access examination generally contain sensitivities relating to national security, defence or international relations. Such records may require referral to other entities for expert advice.

Table 6 I Application progress, by financial year, 2009–10 to 2019–20

Applications where records are released without exemptions

Applications where records are released with some exemptions

Applications where records are wholly exempt

Applications where records are withheld pending advice from agencies

Applications withdrawn by applicant

Applications still to be processed*

Total Applications received

2009-10

46,058

5,423

174

122

1,407

0

53,184

2010–11

38,032

5,033

246

163

1,453

0

44,927

2011–12

47,269

5,766

275

868

1,858

1,878

57,914

2012–13

40,727

4,677

259

804

1,458

303

48,228

2013–14

48,483

6,063

528

864

2,290

2,379

60,607

2014–15

42,776

9,155

534

1,078

1,360

1,209

56,112

2015–16

44,788

4,874

688

696

1,412

1,019

53,477

2016–17

33,605

5,275

277

448

4,962

2,046

46,613

2017–18

35,231

3,486

461

586

489

3,072

43,325

2018–19

40,237

3,296

500

446

473

1,346

46,298

2019–20

38,269

2,772

72

274

462

3,448

45,297

* Records subject to these applications will most likely require referral to agencies for advice on continuing sensitivities. Approximately 14,500 of these applications have not been progressed as they contain information requiring referral to DFAT, which has limited capacity to receive more records.

Table 7 I Records currently on referral to agencies, as at 30 June 2020

Agency

No. of records

Attorney-General's Department

35

Australian Federal Police

22

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation

267

Department of Defence

480

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

2,003

Department of Home Affairs

54

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet

178

Office of National Intelligence

83

Other

12

TOTAL

3,134

Figure 4 I Number of applications by high-volume applicant group, as at 30 June 2020  4 applicants with 500 or more applications (13,967 total applications); 12 applicants with between 100 and 499 applications (2,089 total applications); 64 applicants with between 25 and 99 applications 3,098 total applications); 1,365 applicants with between 1 and 24 applications (3,822 total applications)

Release of Papua New Guinea maps and plans

During 2019–20, the National Archives released more than 30 shelf-metres of maps and plans created by the Department of External Territories in the 1950s during the department’s administration of Papua New Guinea (PNG).

PNG was an external territory of Australia from the end of World War II to independence in 1975. Territory administration was the responsibility of an Australian Government Administrator who reported to the Department of External Territories.

The maps and plans released include layouts of towns in PNG, including Port Moresby, Lae, Kavieng, Goroka, Wewak, Madang and Rabaul. The plans show zoning, transportation, residential subdivisions and town layouts. Plans for electrical reticulation for streetlights and substations, water-supply layouts and pipelines, and public buildings and infrastructure such as hospitals, high schools, bridges, wharfs and roads, were also released.

The maps and plans were beautifully executed and included artist drawings, site plans, layouts, crosscuts and elevations. Many were hand drawn and coloured in pencil.