Royal Commission To Do List

Ruth ECM, Newsletter


On the 12th February 2013 Rebecca Grant, Executive Director of iCourts, Solicitor and Legal Records Management Expert, presented on the Royal Commission into Child Abuse.  Rebecca has worked on many Royal Commissions both within Australia and overseas.  She has guided many agencies through the discovery and production of requests.  Rebecca presented at the request of the Keeper of Public Records Victoria, Justine Hazelwood, who has recently sent out letters to all agencies instructing them that while records may have reached expiry date according to the General Disposal Authority for Local Government no agency may destroy those records. To do so will breach the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) which imposes heavy penalties including jail, note the cases of McCabe and the British Tobacco Company.  Their examples are now enshrined in law.

Rebecca urged agencies to be discovery prepared.  It is important to:-

1.    Assess and mitigate risk

2.    Prepare to respond

3.    Produce material as requested, when requested

Terms of Reference

Within the Letters Paton is The Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission and some detail on the Scope of Enquiry. The timeframes are listed also for the Royal Commission.  Their initial enquiry must be completed by or before 30 June 2014, while recommended actions must be in by 31 December 2015.

Day one of the Hearing will have applications by parties being heard.  Once this commences Rebecca warned that requests for records can come often and early.  Councils may hold much of the material within their children’s records, youth and early adult client records, aged and disable client records.  These could relate to programs, financial records, client records but are not limited to these.  They are however a starting point for agencies to get their house in order. The Commission will be looking at our record keeping history and how we keep records now and for the future.  Do we have our houses in order?

Requests from the Royal Commission may come in the form of summons.  These are generally tagged with short time frames as the parties need opportunity to review and analyse records received.  Hard copy records may be required to be digitised.  It is unlikely that they will want ‘truckloads’ of paper.

Agencies cannot delete documents reasonably likely to be used in inquiry.  These must be preserved in accordance with the Crimes Act 1958 s254.

Note that documents are not just hard copy but can be systems, software, hard drives, network drives, film, photos, audio and video tape, CDs, any portable devices, etc.  This spells a big job ahead of us to ensure we meet the requirements of the Royal Commission, the communication from the Keeper of Public Records and the Crimes Act 1958 dictates.

As Rebecca stated, If we FAIL TO PLAN We PLAN TO FAIL.

Preparation Actions Required for the Royal Commission

Things to consider in preparation is:-

  1. Know your organisational structure over the time frames.  This is a key map for finding targeted information when the Commission issues a request.
  2. Do you have an Evidence Protection Register?  If so get this on it!  If not, all agencies have Risk Registers.  Get this on it!


Next action your To Do List using the PROS 10/10 Records and Risk Management page 42 – 49 to conduct your records risk management assessment.:

  1. Review the Royal Commission Terms of Reference – be familiar with its message and how it relates to your organisation
  2. Convey the DO NOT DESTROY MESSAGE to all staff, contractors and external partners who may hold records
  3. Setup a Taskforce (Records, IT, Risk Management, Communications, Children and Family Services, Youth, Aged & Disability Services, Finance). These are your action owners and advisors
  4. Involve legal advisors where needed
  5. Convey the DO NOT DESTROY MESSAGE to all staff, contractors and external partners who may hold records
  6. Identify specific areas where you may have holdings – use PRO 10/10
  7. Convey the DO NOT DESTROY MESSAGE to all staff, contractors and external partners who may hold records
  8. Check Archival Material – Is it indexed? How detailed is it indexed? Use PRO 10/10
  9. Know the location of critical records Use PRO 10/10
  10. Will they need to be digitised or are they already digitised?  Use PRO 10/10
  11. Preserve the records and ensure accessibility  Use PRO 10/10
  12. Convey the DO NOT DESTROY MESSAGE to all staff, contractors and external partners who may hold records


Be aware that access to these records does not finish with the Commission findings or recommendations.  Those affected are seeking records that link them to their families, or support their claims as far back as the 1940s.  These records might be rate records, records of services delivered, program records, financial records, client records, immunisation records, youth records, aged and disability records.  We will get a comprehensive list published as we have a clearer indication from the Commission.  In the meantime, there is action to be done.