Implementing the Minimum Metadata Set

Digital Edge workshop: Minimum Metadata Set and Beyond provides an introduction to understanding and applying the Archives' minimum metadata set, identifying additional metadata needed for improved business information and other benefits and applications for metadata

Minimum metadata set

A minimum metadata set for systems used by agencies to hold or manage information has been developed by the National Archives of Australia. The minimum metadata set:

  • identifies metadata properties essential for agency management of information as well as those needed for records which will be transferred to the Archives
  • supports the Digital Continuity 2020 principles of interoperable systems and processes
  • is a practical application of the Australian Government Recordkeeping Metadata Standard 2.2 (AGRkMS) to support metadata implementation and information use in agencies.

The minimum metadata set identifies nine properties required for the efficient and effective management of your business information, regardless of what it is and where it is held.

Agencies using an Electronic Document and Records Management System (EDRMS) to manage their information should already meet the minimum metadata standard as EDRMS’ can capture the required metadata.

The set is cumulative, with the Core properties applying to all systems, the Additional properties added for systems which hold high value and long-term information assets, and the Transfer properties added to complete the set for systems holding records of archival value that may be transferred to the Archives.

A visual representation of the minimum metadata set of nine properties. Transfer Properties include: Rights and Integrity. Additional Properties include: Title, Protective marking, Disposal class and Format. Core Properties include: Identifier, Creator, and Date created.


The Core metadata properties apply to all information and records in systems, including, for example, transactional systems. Information should be uniquely identified, and you should know who created it (the agency, work area or the individual) and when it was created. All systems in your agency should automatically capture this metadata as a minimum.


The Additional metadata properties are applied to information and records of higher value that must be managed and preserved for longer periods to meet ongoing business needs or compliance requirements. These additional metadata properties support ongoing management and use of, and access to, high value and long-term information assets. Additional metadata properties provide the needed for interoperability and migration between systems over time.


The Transfer metadata properties support the long-term management of, and access to, information and records of archival value. These metadata properties should be captured in any system which holds records or information of archival value (Retain as National Archives (RNA) which may be transferred to the Archives, or managed long-term by the agency. The Transfer metadata properties support the transfer of records and information, their integrity and reliability, and access by the public. In addition to the minimum metadata set the Archives accepts all other metadata at the time of transfer.

Other metadata created in your agency that authenticates, contextualises and enables the discovery and use of information should also be transferred to the Archives. Examples include:

  • geospatial information
  • history of use
  • document type identified by the system or process (eg application, response etc)
  • relationship with other records.

Contact the Agency Service Centre if you have questions about the metadata required for transfer prior to the Digital Continuity 2020 target dates.

See also: Transferring information and records to the Archives

Benefits of adopting the minimum metadata set

  • Identifies the essential metadata your systems need to allow easy and defensible capture, retrieval and disposal
  • Supports effective migration and transfer of information and records within and between agencies, including transfer to the National Archives
  • Supports interoperability and information sharing across government via standardised metadata
  • Works with the Archives’ Business System Assessment Framework, to assess information management functionality requirements for business systems
  • Is based on AGRkMS and allows agencies to use additional metadata to suit their business needs
  • Is compatible with the Recordkeeping Metadata Property Reference Set (Australian Standard AS 5478), supporting interoperability and information-sharing across all Australian jurisdictions


The Australian Government Recordkeeping Metadata Standard 2.2 provides for up to five entities (Record, Agent, Business, Relationship, Mandate). The minimum metadata set is a single-entity implementation of AGRkMS 2.2 which represents a practical application of the standard to support implementation in agencies and transition to a digital records management environment under the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy.

When implementing the minimum metadata requirements in your systems, you will need to refer to additional information including definitions of each property, associated sub-properties, conditions of use and related schemas. These details are provided in reference tables for each property. The reference tables identify the AGRkMS 2.2 properties which map to each minimum metadata property and provide details to assist with implementation of the minimum metadata sets. AGRkMS 2.2 and the associated Implementation Guidelines will be reviewed and updated for consistency with the minimum metadata set but may continue to be referred for additional guidance in implementation of the minimum metadata set in your agency.

Reference tables

Extendable and compatible with other metadata

In addition to the minimum metadata, your agency should assess what needs to be described for your individual business purposes. The set can and should be extended to include any metadata needed by your agency to meet your business and information management needs. Since the set is based on AGRkMS it supports extension with other properties from AGRkMS, and can accommodate metadata from other schemas.

Additional metadata may for example include metadata to assist with security, access, audit and risk management. Additional disposal metadata such as Disposal Action, Disposal Trigger or End Date will assist with activities such as sentencing. Many agencies also find it useful to include Keyword metadata (such as business classification schemes) to provide structure and assist with classification, disposal and retrieval. It is also good practice to record changes to key metadata including Identifier, Title and Creator either as Change History or as former values for those properties. This is particularly important at the time of transfer to another agency to ensure the provenance and authenticity of the record is retained.

Meeting the Digital Continuity 2020 requirements

Under Principle 3 of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, all information should be managed based on format and metadata standards for information governance and interoperability by 31 December 2020. The interim targets relevant to metadata are as follows:

  • All new business systems procured from 31 December 2016 onwards must meet the minimum metadata standard.
  • By 31 December 2017 all business systems containing high-value and long-term information assets must meet the minimum metadata standard.
  • By 31 December 2020, information will be managed based on format and metadata standards for information governance and interoperability.

A visual representation of a implementation pathway.

Digital Continuity 2020 targets apply to systems which hold information and records, including business systems and records management solutions such as Electronic Document and Records Management Systems (EDRMS). All EDRMS should be capable of capturing the metadata identified in the minimum metadata set. Business systems should be designed or adapted to capture the level of minimum metadata appropriate to the information they hold and manage.

For example, business systems which only manage low-value information and records need only capture the Core minimum metadata. Systems which hold a mix of low value and high value information and records, excluding records of archival value, should capture both Core and Additional properties. Systems which include records of archival value should capture the full minimum metadata set (Core, Additional and Transfers).

To meet Principle 3 of the Digital Continuity 2020 Policy, agencies will need to review their current business and information systems, and consider what they need to do to meet this minimum metadata standard. For new systems, the ability to capture the minimum metadata should be included as a requirement in procurement documentation.

The Business System Assessment Framework will assist with identifying minimum metadata requirements for both new and existing systems. An information review may also be undertaken to identify the value of information in your agency.

Additional supporting documents, including mappings to related standards to assist with meeting the Digital Continuity 2020 policy targets will be available by mid-2016. If you would like to suggest additional tools or documents that your agency would find useful, or have any other comments on the minimum metadata set, please contact the Agency Service Centre.

Copyright National Archives of Australia 2017