As has been covered in the media over the last few days, hundreds of paper-based classified Australian government documents have fallen into the wrong hands due to a recordkeeping and information management oversight. This situation highlights the need for more awareness of recordkeeping considerations and information management best practice in the workplace. It also raises the question of whether recordkeeping and information management is adequately funded in organisations, including government agencies. When a mistake like this occurs, it is rarely appropriate to place blame on one person or one team. Many stakeholders are involved in the creation, capture, management, access to and disposal (destruction or permanent archiving) of records and information in the workplace. Effective recordkeeping and information management must be a team effort, involving staff in all roles and at all levels. Records and Information Managers provide governance, processes and strategy to an organisation, but all staff at all levels must support this, regardless of their role or specialisation.
In the age of big data, digital disruption and information overload, records and information are increasingly being created and managed digitally. However, whether documents and data are in hardcopy (as is the case in this incident) or digital format, the principles underpinning their management remain the same:
- Recordkeeping and information management is everbody’s responsibility
- Appropriate security and access controls should be in place for records and information
- An organisation should know what data and records it has, where it is located, and who has access
- Records (including copies) that are no longer in ‘active use’ should be assessed (appraised) and appropriate action taken (determine if is appropriate for the records to be destroyed, moved to temporary secure storage, or deposited in a permanent archive).
Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia (RIMPA) is the peak organisation for the records and information management profession in Australasia and the largest in the southern hemisphere. RIMPA’s membership includes recordkeepers, information managers, archivists, and other allied professionals, working in the public and the private sector. Our members work on a daily basis in partnership with IT, governance, privacy, security and risk specialists, and other stakeholders, to ensure that records and information are managed in a way that is effective, compliant and ethical.
RIMPA advocates for best practice in recordkeeping and information management. RIMPA recognises that our ever changing and challenging world needs a ‘single source of truth’ for information, and effective recordkeeping can help achieve that. Records and information management professionals are key to ensuring that the world’s data, records, information and knowledge are created, captured and managed appropriately.
Quotes attributable to Lisa Read White, Company Director, RIMPA
“Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia sees the unauthorised release of cabinet documents in Australia as an opportunity to acknowledge the important role that Records and Information Managers can play in safeguarding and managing important records and information.”
“This high-profile event highlights the importance of organisations and government agencies having good policies and process in place for effective records and information management. It is important to foster a workplace culture that values and respects effective recordkeeping and information management.”
“This situation is a timely reminder that recordkeeping and information management is everybody’s responsibility in an organisation.”
Lisa Read White can be contacted on: 0417902687