Rights in Records by Design Logo

An Australian Research Council Discovery Project investigating the design of systems to support the recordkeeping rights of people who experience childhood out-of-home Care.

The project brought together archival and recordkeeping, social work and early childhood education researchers at Monash University with colleagues at the Collaborative Research Centre in Australian History (CRCAH) at Federation University Australia to take up the challenge of re-imagining recordkeeping and archival systems in support of responsive and accountable child-centred out-of-home care and as an enabler of historical justice and reconciliation.

Lifelong Living Archives for Childhood Out-of-Home Care

We aim to develop a model for distributed, participatory and adaptive recordkeeping and archiving systems to enable children and young people in care to have a greater say in their records, and Care leavers to have greater control over their ongoing management, access, and use.

Co-design and protoyping

Working with those with Care experiences to model and protoype lifelong recordkeeping and archiving needs

Read more

Rights Charter for Childhood Recordkeeping

Developing a suite of rights in and to records for identity, memory and accountability purposes

Read more

Recordkeeping Principles survey

Capturing views on capacities to implement recordkeeping principles for child safety and wellbeing

Historical Justice

Exploring relationships between justice, memory, agency and the archives through time

The project has a number of investigative streams:

Co-Design Workshops

In designing the Lifelong Living Archives we have built a rich, in-depth picture of the lifelong recordkeeping needs of children and young people in Care through a series of co-design workshops with Care Leaver advocates. We have deep dived together into Care records experiences, digital systems infrastructures and digital design considerations – laughing and learning from each other along the way. The result is MySSy – a research prototype of a personal recordkeeping system for a Care experienced child, young person or adult to have access and control over their distributed Care records network. We’ve conceptualised MySSy as a Care experienced person’s own recordkeeping system to interact with all the other systems in this network, on equitable terms. We want to break the shackles of being forever the client, subject or case of organisational recordkeeping systems, and instead be a partner in recordkeeping and co-producer of records.

Records of Care

In our co-design workshops we have explored a  Care-leavers about the records of their time in out-of-home Care. We were interested in identifying the different types of records; their format, form, and structure; their purpose; and the kinds of systems from which they come. We were not concerned with the specific details of any documents, but instead focused on understanding when and where records were important, relevant, and useful, as well as which are unimportant, unhelpful, and/or inaccurate. We were also interested in thoughts about what is missing, what should be included and what could be changed. Our resultant Trajectory Document is a visual representation of interpersonal relationships and living contexts, together with the possible events and transitions that could take place within a Care experience – from first involvement with child protection services, through placement in out-of-home Care, to leaving Care (and, perhaps, re-entering, as is often the case). For each of these, we identified the creation, capture, organization and pluralization of records and candidate stakeholders in these activities, as we developed the MySSy prototype.

Child Centred Design

This phase of the project concerned gaining an understanding of the design of person-centred innovations that have emerged in the sector over recent years. It involved discussions with professionals involved in the design, development, or implementation teams for person-oriented systems in the provision of out-of-home Care and/or for access to records of past Care experiences. These conversations informed the conceptualisation and design of our MySSy prototype and its situation within a complex, participatory information ecology.

Values, Principles and Rights

There is repeated evidence that whole childhoods spent in care went undocumented, with some never even being issued with a birth certificate. Our historical perspective enabled us to unpack why making and keeping personal records about children of the state has never been core business, in order to discern values and principles, even if the means of their identification is through examples of their violation. The issues with recordkeeping in out-of-home-Care, are, in fact, symptomatic of a constellation of deeper problems that relate to the political and social purpose and function of the welfare. Similarly, an education perspective (and, in particular, innovative thinking in Early Childhood Education) informed the project by upholding the rights of the child in terms of wellbeing and social justice, recognising holistic and alternative approaches to pedagogy and learning, and considering the ethics of recordkeeping for young children.

The Charter of Lifelong Rights in Childhood Recordkeeping for Out of Home Care has been developed by drawing on a range of transdisciplinary perspectives including philosophy of the child, historical justice values and principles, human rights statements; existing charters of children’s rights; legal instruments; policy and practice; Care-leaver, support services, and advocate experiences; and community expectations.to articulate a suite of lifelong recordkeeping rights.

Recordkeeping Principles Survey

This phase of the project aimed to capture views on capacities to implement the Recordkeeping Principles for Child Safety and Wellbeing recommended by the Australian Government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (RCIRCSA) and the Records Access Principles and Guidelines developed in 2015 as part of the DSS’s suite of Find & Connect Services and Projects.

We wanted to build an evidence base of how these principles are being applied, any barriers to their adoption, and the issues that surface when trying to do so. The study involved undertaking an anonymous survey, reflecting on respondents’ roles and that of their organisation in relation to implementing the principles. While we planned to repeat this survey on an annual basis to chart capacities to implement childhood safe recordkeeping principles in the out of home care sector, it was ultimately unsuccessful in reaching the cross section of the record holding community that would be needed for meaningful results.


The publications from this project may be found at https://rightsinrecordsbydesign.github.io/publications/.

Rights in Records by Design is funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Discovery Grant DP170100198. The Chief Investigators on this project are Associate Professor Joanne Evans (Monash University), Associate Professor Jacqueline Wilson (Federation University), Professor Sue McKemmish (Monash University), Associate Professor Philip Mendes (Monash University), Professor Keir Reeves (Federation University), and Dr Jane Bone (Monash University)

Associate Professor Joanne Evans’s involvement is also funded through an ARC Future Fellowship FT140100073 – Connecting the Disconnected: Co-Designing Inclusive Archival and Recordkeeping Systems.