Comma

The sanctity of evidence? A journey into past retention and disposal decisions

Comma (2016), 2016, (1-2), 55–62.

Abstract

Taking a historical perspective on retention and disposal guidance, and how decisions about destruction were reached over time, provides valuable contextual information for understanding the provision for accessing information in archives today. As continues to be the case, such decisions about records are taken in the context of contemporaneous understandings of their “continuing value” and “importance.” Thus if the records which provide “value” in today’s society, especially for purposes of personal identity and restorative justice, have not survived, their disappearance may not be primarily the result of a “cover-up” but can reflect contemporaneous social attitudes. The internal records of the State Records Office of Western Australia, used together with the archives of the State’s child welfare agencies, reveal how past disposal guidance has impacted on the availability of records for a particular group of people, those who were in State care as children. While records likely to have contained information of value both to them, and of great value to wider society, have been destroyed, such destruction was carried out in the context of the value system as it existed at that time, however illogical or unreasonable that context now appears.

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Author details

Foley, Gerard