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What is appraisal?

Appraisal is the process of evaluating business functions and activities to ascertain:

  • which records need to be created and captured
  • how long the records need to be kept to meet business needs, organisational accountability and community expectations[1].
[1] adapted from Bettington, J. et al. (eds) 2008, Keeping archives, 3rd edn, Australian Society of Archivists, Canberra, pp. 11-28.


PROV appraisal framework

Public Record Office Victoria’s (PROV’s) current work in appraisal is consistent with modern Australian practice—emphasising the contextual value of records through the evaluation of functions and activities, rather than the records themselves.

Appraisal decisions regarding Victorian Government records are specified in:

PROV Appraisal Framework Graphic
PROV Appraisal Framework. To view full-size click on image


Appraisal to determine retention requirements

In general, records can be appraised to have either:

  • Continuing value/permanent value as State Archives, or 
  • Temporary value, i.e. records are required only for a specified period of time.

Below is an outline of the approach to appraisal for specifying and identifying records' retention periods for both business needs and for continuing value as State Archives.

Understanding and applying appraisal criteria is essential to:

Appraisal for organisational, government business and regulatory requirements (Temporary records)

Appraisal refers to the evaluation of functions and business activities to ascertain what records need to be created and captured to document business activities and decisions, support business needs, accountability, regulatory requirements and non-enduring rights and entitlements, i.e. full and accurate records of the agency's business.

An essential aspect of the appraisal process is determining how long records have value to the organisation and its successors, that is how long the records need to be kept to meet organisational, accountability and regulatory requirements.  Often these records have value for a finite period after which time they may be destroyed.

These records, which are not required as  State Archives, are referred to as temporary records. 

Please note:

Records may also meet the criteria for permanent retention due to their continuing value to the State of Victoria in addition to the needs of the creating organisation (see Permanent characteristics below).


Appraisal to determine an organisation’s recordkeeping needs to meet organisational, accountability and regulatory requirements is guided by five criteria, or characteristics outlined below.

Is there a time period set out in legislation, regulations, government policy documents, standards or codes specifying how long the records need to be kept? 

This refers to circumstances where a minimum retention period is specified in formal documents. Determining this will require research and investigation into whether a particular function and the resulting records are subject to these types of regulatory and policy requirements. 

Please note that some legislation specifies that records need to be kept. This does not necessarily mean that they will be appraised as being of continuing or permanent value.

Example of a regulatory requirement:

A health service provider must not delete health information relating to an individual, even if it is later found or claimed to be inaccurate, unless:

  • the deletion is permitted, authorised or required by the regulations or any other law or
  • the deletion is not contrary to the regulations or any other law and occurs:
    • in the case of health information collected while the individual was a child, after the individual attains the age of 25 years or
    • in any case, more than 7 years after the last occasion on which a health service was provided to the individual by the provider—whichever is the later.

What records are required as evidence of your agency’s processes, decisions, transactions and actions? 

What records are required to protect the reputation of your agency, its ministers, its head and management and staff by showing that effective governance and accountability mechanisms have been established and are being properly practiced? 

What records might be required to demonstrate and prove that staff have acted properly and with the correct authority? 

Which of the agency’s records are required by other government agencies to support the administration of their areas of responsibilities? What information do other agencies rely upon? For example, the Office of the Public Prosecutor has an interest in the records of Victoria Police to support prosecutions. 

Records provide evidence of the agency’s actions and decisions and support accountability for Government. In considering the questions asked above, you will need to assess the risks associated with the record and the function. You will need to consider the risk if a particular record is not in existence when required. What is the likelihood of the records being required? Does this likelihood diminish over time? What would the impact, effect and cost be if the records were not in existence when required? Does the impact, effect and cost reduce over time?

Examples of records that may meet this criterion include:

  • Audit records (internal or external)
  • Records authorising decisions and documenting approvals
  • Records setting out delegations – who has the authority to do what
  • Records of reviews or investigations
  • Governance frameworks and records showing how these were implemented and practiced
  • Policies and procedures.

What records are required by others, including organisations, community groups or
individual members of the public, to prove their entitlements or rights or ensure their interests are met?

Examples of records that may meet this criterion include:

  • Licence records
  • Training certification
  • Records of grant application receipt, judgement and selection
  • Requests for tender or quote, contracts, contract variations, contract approvals.

What decisions, actions  and processes should be documented for future reference by the agency and its successor?

For how long is it likely that the records will be required to help the agency or others make informed and defendable decisions?

For how long is it likely that the records will be required to enable the agency to carry out its business, services, responsibilities or functions in the most effective and efficient way?

Records are received and created as a product of business processes. The information they contain will be needed for administrative and decision-making processes for a period. This might be for a very short period or for a very long period. Particular records might be absolutely vital for the management of a program or a project for a short period—then have no further administrative or decision-making value once a particular action or event has occurred.

When assessing against this criteria it is important to consider the information needs of different areas of the agency. 

Examples of records that may meet this criterion include:

  • Purchasing and payment records such as receipts and invoices
  • Application records i.e. for inclusion in a program or for funding
  • Research records created when developing policies or procedures
  • Records documenting program or project establishment and management
  • Records of organising an event.

What records are required to provide a history of the agency, such as interesting events, changes, issues and achievements which it might want to retain for its own cultural development, communications or marketing purposes?

For most agencies it is important to develop a good corporate culture and communicate and market their work. One way to do this is by capturing and retaining records which document its history, particularly its rituals, achievements and successes.

Some of these records may not be appraised as having continuing value for the State of Victoria (and therefore eligible for retention as State Archives) but they may have long term value for the agency. The information (including images) they contain could be used in staff induction sessions, in speeches, in media releases, on the agency’s website or in public brochures.

Examples of records that may meet this criterion include:

  • Images and records of agency events i.e. staff award ceremonies, Christmas parties
  • Images of key agency people i.e. heads of agencies
  • Awards received by the agency and its staff
  • Transcripts or recordings of key speeches or presentations.

Appraisal for State Archives (Permanent records)

Records are retained permanently as State Archives because they have continuing value to the State of Victoria and the community. They provide a concise record of the State and its interactions with its citizens. 

Typically records required as State Archives provide evidence of the authority and functions of the government, its decision making processes, the implementation and outcomes of decisions  and their impact on the lives of individuals, communities  and the environment. 

The selection of records required as State Archives is guided by six criteria, or characteristics outlined below.

Also see Appraisal Statement for Public Records Required as State Archives Policy for further information.

Which records provide concise evidence of the source of authority, establishment and structure of Victorian government including all agencies and local governments?

Records meeting this criterion would be those that define the nature and extent of the government’s jurisdiction, obligations and powers.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Records which  illustrate of the constitutional relationships between the Victorian government, the Governor, the Victorian Parliament, and the Commonwealth of Australia.
  • Formal instruments authorising the establishment or dissolution of an agency, setting out its purpose, functions and operations:
    • Legislation
    • Governor in Council approvals
    • Court judgements which lead to the establishment of agencies
  • Major reforms of the state’s political and administrative structures and institutions:
    • Research and reports into restructure proposals
    • Final, approved versions of machinery of government change
  • Development, passing, commencement and review of legislation:
    • Legislation
    • Subordinate legislation (regulations)
    • Legislative development and review records
  • Legal delegations to perform duties and functions of the state:
    • Ministerial delegations
    • Delegations of a chief executive officer or a statutory office holder
  • Judgements or rulings determining the extent of jurisdictions and powers
  • Agreements with other state governments and the Commonwealth regarding responsibility for functions:
    • Contracts, complementary legislation
    • COAG (Council of Australian Governments) agreements.

Which records capture evidence of the primary functions and programs of government? 

Records meeting this criterion document the background to, basis for and outcomes of decisions and actions, especially those records that provide evidence of a new or changed policy decision, as these enable the government to be held accountable and provide the means for the citizenry to understand the basis for decisions and government expenditure.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Cabinet decisions:
    • Cabinet minutes and papers of Cabinet committee
  • Local government decision-making:
    • Council minutes
  • Decisions of management boards and other project control or ad hoc working groups that have had a significant impact on public policy, events, or the community because of the costs involved and / or risks taken
  • Records that illustrate the government’s role in the management of the Victorian economy:
    • State budget papers
  • Development of, reaction to, and impact of reports on major social and economic issues e.g. family violence
  • Development and implementation of high level policy and strategic management decisions, including those that have a major effect on the community:
    • Policy development and approval, consultation summaries, evaluation reports, implementation plans and timeframes
  • Monitoring, analysis and review of policy affecting primary government functions as based on macro appraisal decisions:
    • Policy evaluations
  • Establishment and findings of major bodies of review:
    • Royal commissions, commissions/boards of inquiry or review, response of the Victorian Government to reports and recommendations of royal commissions or commissions of inquiry or review
  • Setting legal precedents and amendments:
    • Supreme Court decisions
  • Design and construction of public buildings and infrastructure and planning schemes developed by the central agency responsible for statewide planning schemes:
    • Specifications, schemes, plans, maps, heritage registrations
  • Major social, economic, cultural or scientific developments or discoveries with significance to, or a special relationship with Victoria:
    • Planning and management of major infrastructure/development projects/ Victoria’s economic resources
  • Registration of highly regulated professions.

Which records provide concise evidence of the enduring rights and entitlements of individuals and groups, their interaction with the State of Victoria and which are needed on a continuing basis to prove entitlements for descendants beyond the life time of the data subjects?

Records meeting this criterion would be those that provide evidence of the legal status of individuals and groups within the community, as well as their fundamental rights to participate in the affairs of the State, and to lay claim to entitlements and protection provided by the State.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Significant life events:
    • Births, deaths and marriages registration
    • Adoption or donor conception records
    • Official changes of name
  • Records of enduring rights and entitlements:
    • Administration of deceased estates 
    • Aboriginal heritage site registration 
    • Native title determinations of land owner rights 
    • Land titles, parish plans and easements.

Which records provide evidence of the significant impact of Victorian government decisions and actions on individuals and communities, the interaction of people with the government, and the influence of the Victorian community on government decision-making?

Records meeting this criterion would be those that reflect government’s actions which alter or change the lives of individuals or groups of people, particularly the most vulnerable members of Victorian society.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Planning and decision-making in relation to issues significantly affecting the community or the provision of essential services:
    • Collections and analyses of data compiled for planning and decision making
    • High-level planning and execution of major public works
    • Land-use and zoning plans developed by the central agency responsible for state-wide planning schemes
  • Records identifying the persons, groups or areas affected by the implementation of policy decisions:
    • Representations, appeals, petitions opposing government actions/policy/legislation
  • Impact of legal decisions on the lives of individuals and communities and the setting or precedents for community behaviour:
    • Criminal court decisions
  • Individual case management where government functions and programs had far reaching or influence on the lives of individuals within the community:
    • Records of when the State has acted as guardian
    • Details of the State’s care of children removed from their family
    • Institutionalised care of individuals.

Which records provide evidence of the Victorian government’s actions in relation to environmental management and change, response to the impact of climate change, and the occupation, management and use of the state’s natural resources?

Records meeting this criterion would be those that contain a history of land use which has, or may impact on the health and wellbeing of the community, the economy and the natural environment, records that may contribute to an understanding of climatic change, weather patterns and natural disasters and the government’s view and response to climate change.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Evidence of land use and occupation:
    • Parish plans and planning authority records
    • Management and rehabilitation of landfill sites
  • Collections and analyses of data compiled for planning and decision making in relation to issues significantly affecting the environment or resource management:
    • Environmental observational research and/or surveillance
    • Hydrographic charts and flood maps
  • Collections and analyses of data detailing environmental changes which have occurred over time:
    • Rainfall, temperature, tide levels and soil feature statistics
  • Government functions and programs which have far reaching impact or influence on the environment or the development of the state and its resources:
    • Spread and control of diseases or biological agents
    • Major changes to land use such as the establishment of national or state park
  • Enforcement of environmentally relevant activities:
    • Monitoring and rehabilitation of land fill sites
  • Management of situations where there is potential for contaminants to be released into the environment:
    • Development approvals for coal seam gas extraction and mining
    • Identification and monitoring of toxic sites
  • Central control and management for catastrophic natural disasters:
    • Planning records, incident reports and response.

Which records  have a substantial capacity to enrich the memory, knowledge and understanding of aspects of Victoria’s history, society, culture and people?

Records meeting this criterion include public records relating to events, persons, places and phenomena of social, economic, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, scientific, research or technical significance to the broader community and public records that provide a representation of the Victorian way of life including work, education, leisure and culture.

Examples of the activities and associated records that may meet this characteristic:

  • Sites of conservation, cultural, social, spiritual or heritage significance:
    • Identification, development and site management records
    • Heritage registrations
  • Victoria’s population and its circumstances:
    • Statistical data 
    • Council rate records
  • Major social, economic, cultural or scientific discoveries or developments with significance to, or having a special relationship with, specific regional or local communities
  • Major advances, changes or achievements in a particular field or area of endeavour, and the key people or organisations contributing to it:
    • Technical, botanical, scientific, social science, genealogical, medical or other specialist research
  • Records which significantly add to an understanding of how and where people lived, their concerns and issues:
    • Council rate records
    • School building records
  • Major events, developments or trends in political, social, legal or economic history
  • Strategic/high level planning and management of significant cultural events and celebration.



Material in the Public Record Office Victoria archival collection contains words and descriptions that reflect attitudes and government policies at different times which may be insensitive and upsetting

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be aware the collection and website may contain images, voices and names of deceased persons.

PROV provides advice to researchers wishing to access, publish or re-use records about Aboriginal Peoples