The Commonwealth Record Series (CRS) Manual

5.4. Agency - Descriptive elements

On this page (1 of 2) :

5.4.1.  Agency number
5.4.2.  Agency title
5.4.3.  Agency alternative title
5.4.4.  Institution title

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5.4.1.  Agency number

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAAR(CPF) | Last updated  Definition

A unique number with a ‘CA’ (Commonwealth Agency) prefix that is sequentially allocated to all agency registrations.  Purpose

To uniquely identify a registered agency.  Relative importance

Category 1 - must be present for all registrations.  Sources of information

The Agency Number is automatically assigned as part of the process of adding a new Agency Registration.  Standards for content

Each number consists of CA followed by a number, for example, CA 1, CA 500, CA 5000.  Amendments

Agency Number is protected against update.  Relationship to ISAAR(CPF): 1.1, 1.2 (2nd ed. :  5.1.1, 5.1.6, 5.4.1)  Last updated:  24 September 2004

5.4.2.  Agency title

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAAR(CPF) | Last updated  Definition

The most recent official title or name of an agency.  Purpose

To identify the agency by its most recent official title.  More information should be added to describe, locate and distinguish the agency being registered from other registered agencies, particularly those that belong to the same institution or corporate entity.  Relative importance

This field is mandatory (category 1).  Sources of information

Prime sources of information include the records produced by the agency itself, official letterheads or other stationery, legislation or letters patent establishing the body, executive council minutes (for a Department of State) or government directories and other official publications.  Standards for content

This is a text field. See application notes below.  Amendments

Alterations may be necessary to reflect changes in the official name of the agency, either to correct errors or to add a new title, where some of the wording has changed, but the agency still continues.  Application notes

The title of an agency is, in principle, its official or legal name. As a general rule, the title of the agency should be given in full and as it was normally written.

There is some scope for adjusting titles to provide a degree of consistency within a group of related agencies. Such enhancements may include references to corporate structure and locations. Adjusted titles must always give a reasonable representation of the agency's official title.

Agency titles will often include a reference to the broader corporate group to which the agency belongs. Where the official title does not stand alone, that is, there is certain information that a reader must deduce, a reference to the agency's parent body should be included. However, such reference should not extend to the inclusion of 'Commonwealth of Australia' for agencies controlled by CO 1 (see below).

If the agency was commonly known by a shortened form of its official or formal title, the full title should be given and the shortened title should be included in the Alternative Title. So, for CA 3225, House of Representatives Select Committee on the Grievances of the Yirrkala Aborigines Arnhem Land Reserve, which was also known as the Yirrkala Committee, the following would be an appropriate title:

Agency title:
House of Representatives Select Committee on the Grievances of the Yirrkala Aborigines Arnhem Land Reserve

Agency alternative title:
Yirrkala Committee    Reference to organisation (CO or superior bodies) in agency titles    Agencies known by two names simultaneously    Agencies known by two or more titles in succession      Current practice      Incorporating name changes in the agency title    Territorial or location information in agency titles    Departments of State    Agency titles previously used by other agencies      Names of ships/squadrons/units    Agencies known by the title of their senior officer    Title for an agency moving through successive departments    Abbreviations and acronyms in agency titles      List of permitted abbreviations and acronyms in agency titles (as at July 1999)      Expansion of abbreviations or acronyms in the same title entry      Structure of RAAF agency titles  Use of brackets and other punctuation  Reference to organisation (CO or superior bodies) in agency titles

Do not include Commonwealth of Australia in titles of agencies controlled by CO 1 - the Organisation Controlling reference provides this context.

Organisation titles, other than CO 1, are included with agency titles in displays and reports. A reference in an agency title to the title of its parent organisation other than CO 1 is, however, permitted where the agency title cannot meaningfully stand alone, eg

CA 2273, Board of Management of the Australian Institute of Urban Studies

(where, within the Institute, the agency was known as the Board of Management)

Where a superior agency changed its name, that does not need to be reflected in the titles of the subordinate agencies. For example, the status of a division which straddles the 1949 change from CSIR to CSIRO does not change. The only change is in the superior agency for divisions with headquarters, that is, there will be one agency (CSIR) to May 1949 and another (CSIRO) after May 1949.  Agencies known by two names simultaneously

When an agency has been known by two or more names simultaneously, the more authoritative name, or the name given to the agency at its creation, should be used as the agency title. Where an agency has experienced one or more name changes and has, or would have, a cumbersome or confusing title, the current agency title only should appear in the Agency Title field. Any alternative or former titles should continue to be indicated in the registration in the Agency Alternative Title field or Agency Previous Title Note, so that they can be searched and displayed in reports.  Agencies known by two or more titles in succession

Agencies are sometimes known by two or more titles in succession. If staff are registering such an agency they should determine whether the agency was indeed only one agency, whether it was officially designated by more than one title and whether it used the titles itself.

Minor variations to the title occasionally used, or informal titles, should not be included as agency titles. Minor variations and, if significant, informal titles can be mentioned in the agency note.  Current practice

For continuing agencies, only the most recent official title should be included in the agency title. Previous official titles, if any, should be included in the previous title note. This is to avoid confusion when dealing with current agency clients.

In cases where an agency that has had successive titles is defunct at the time of registration, show all titles in the Agency Title field if possible - see guidelines under 'Previous general practice' below.  Incorporating name changes in the agency title

In some instances, especially where the wording change is minor, it may be possible to note both the previous title and the new title in the Agency Title field. Where this is appropriate the format is as follows.

The earliest title would be given first, followed by a slash (/), then the year of the title change preceded by from or by given in round parenthesis, then the later title. In the following example, only the words Office and Directorate were affected by the change, eg

Commonwealth Supply Office / (from 1927) Commonwealth Supply Directorate, Darwin

Until 1993, this practice was commonplace, but extensive name changes over time rendered the practice cumbersome. If the title changed more than once in the same year, the month of the change would also be supplied. The second title was given immediately after the date. Month references were abbreviated to their first three letters. Now, it is recommended that the previous title be copied to the Previous Title Note.  Territorial or location information in agency titles

Territorial designations or location details that are part of the official agency title should be included. This rule applies to agencies that are normally identified within their department or corporation with a geographic identifier, for example, overseas posts, embassies, lighthouses, railway stations.

Where location information is part of the agency's title, but is abbreviated, or not clear, further location information may be added in square brackets to help identify and place the agency. In such cases include a reference to a State or Territory for Australian locations, eg

Collector of Customs, Melbourne [Victoria]

Lighthouse, Swan Island [Tasmania]

Include a reference to the country after names of overseas locations. It is also desirable to include a reference to overseas cities if the country name is already given in the agency title, eg

Australian Government Trade Commissioner, Karachi [Pakistan]

Australian Legation, Japan [Tokyo]

Do not include location references as supplements to agency titles in other cases. Use the Agency Address field for location details instead.

Territorial or location details should be taken from a source such as the agency's records or government directories.

Beware where the name of a defence force base is not actually its location and make sure the two are not confused. In the example below the name of the base is at the start of the title, the location at the end. It is an exception to the rule as in most instances only the location is given.

RAAF Williams Training Command, Laverton [Victoria]  Departments of State

Formal abolitions and changes of name are officially notified in the special issues of the Commonwealth Government Gazette and are reflected in the Administrative Arrangements Orders.

For administrative purposes a Department of State as a whole and the central office of that department are currently assigned the same CA number. Any reference to the portfolio or department as a whole should include the CA number for the central office. The central office registration, in these cases, represents the Department of State as a whole.

Because of the title problems that this has caused in the past, it is proposed to introduce a new field, DOS/Institution Title, to be used in reports, such as inventories of agencies and disposal authorities, where the Department of State title or the title of an institution (non-Executive) is required instead of the title of the central office of the department or institution.

Any change to the title of a Department of State is regarded in CRS System practice as the abolition of the old department and the creation of a new department, even if the administrative and functional arrangements remain exactly the same.  Agency titles previously used by other agencies

Many agencies, especially Departments of State, adopt a title which has previously been used by another agency. In some cases these agencies bearing the same name are separated by many years. In other cases the second agency to bear the name has commenced immediately after the formal abolition of the first.

Once it has been determined that both agencies shared a common name but were administratively separate, a number should be given after the title of the agency to indicate whether it was the first, second, third, etc agency using that name. The number should be expressed in upper case roman numerals and enclosed in square brackets, eg

Department of Defence [III], Central Office

Australian Canned Fruits Board [II]

When registering State or branch offices, the numeral should be given immediately after the title of the core title and before the details of the State or branch office, eg

Commonwealth Police Force [II], Regional Office, South Australia

(not Commonwealth Police Force, Regional Office, South Australia [II])

Bracketed roman numerals should be used once in each title - multiple use is redundant and misleading. For example

Department of Defence [III], Regional Office, New South Wales [III]

would incorrectly indicate that the Department of Defence[III] had three successive and independent regional offices in NSW.  Names of ships/squadrons/units

Where the same title is allocated to two or more ships/units, use roman numerals (as indicated above) to differentiate them. A brief reference to the other ships or units with their approximate date range and sphere of operations should be included in the Agency Note.  Agencies known by the title of their senior officer

Some agencies are commonly described by the title of their most senior officer, a position which is usually established by statute, eg

Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, Central Office

Collector of Customs, Queensland

Public Service Inspector, South Australia

Some statutory positions or offices have remained stable while the Department of State to which they belonged changed several times. In these cases it is useful to emphasise the continuity of the agency (and avoid the unnecessary registration of numerous successive agencies) by using the senior officer's title as the title of the one agency, eg

Collector of Customs, Tasmania


Department of Trade and Customs, Regional Administration, Tasmania, 1901-1956

Department of Customs and Excise, Regional Administration, Tasmania, 1956-1975

Department of Police and Customs, Regional Administration, Tasmania, 1975  Title for an agency moving through successive departments

Some divisions, branches or sections of departments are substantially independent in that they have a separate head and administrative structure and their own recordkeeping system. As a result they have often been regarded as agencies in their own right and their titles reflect this independence.

Although the parent department may be abolished, the agency may continue to exist within another department, performing the same function and using the same records. This administrative continuity should be reflected in the agency's title, which should consist of the name of the division, branch or section and, if that title does not stand meaningfully alone, that is, give an idea of the agency's function, a listing of the parent departments arranged in order of control. The date range of control should be given within round brackets, eg

Special Service Branch does not, of itself, convey an adequate idea of function. The departments that comprise the Branch also need to be included. eg

CA 1908 Special Service Branch
(a) Department of Customs and Excise (to Mar 1975)
(b) Department of Police and Customs (to Dec 1975)
(c) Department of Business and Consumer Affairs

Other registrations do not require that the departments be listed. eg

CA 828 War Service Homes Division
CA 8550 National Archives of Australia

This convention should only be followed when the division, branch or section is regarded as being one agency, with the same title throughout its existence. If its title changed with the abolition of the parent department, a new agency should usually be registered. In general, a departmental reference will be available in the Minister Responsible attribute.  Abbreviations and acronyms in agency titles

Where an agency was widely or officially known by an abbreviation or acronym, the abbreviation or acronym should be included in the agency title or alternative title. Note that where an agency has a special trading name, this should be given in the title. It should not usually be necessary to include references to departmental abbreviations or acronyms, for example, PM&C, DFAT (these abbreviations are generally subject to administrative changes).

In general, give the full, expanded title as the Agency Title and give the abbreviation or acronym as an agency alternative title.

However, where the abbreviation or acronym is well known and widely used, it may be entered in the Agency Title field in place of the full title.  List of permitted abbreviations and acronyms in agency titles (as at July 1999)

DAS [only to be used where DAS forms part of a special trading name]
OECD [the full title is to appear in the Alternative Title field]
UNESCO [the full title is to appear in the Alternative Title field]
UNRRA [the full title is to appear in the Alternative Title field]  Expansion of abbreviations or acronyms in the same title entry

Usually there should be no need to give the abbreviation or acronym and the expanded title in the same entry. However in some cases, it is used for the peak agency in a corporation.

Use both full title and acronym in the peak body only CA 641, Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO], Head Office
Use only the abbreviation in other CSIRO related agencies CSIRO, Division of Materials Science and Technology
All Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) agencies should start with the acronym RAAF Williams Training Command, Laverton [Victoria]
RAAF No 306 Air Wing Base, Pearce [Western Australia]

Where an abbreviation or acronym is used in an Agency Title entry, check that the placement and punctuation is consistent with those for other registered agencies within the corporation. It is not desirable to establish a fixed rule on placement of abbreviations or acronyms in a title as the placement could be different for different agency groups. Where there is doubt, replicate the punctuation format used for registration of the principal agency in a corporation to foster consistency, or contact the officer responsible for registration and description for advice.  Structure of RAAF agency titles

A RAAF title can be divided into six basic components, as the table below explains.

Term 1 Term 2 Term 3 Term 4 Term 5 Term 6
RAAF Headquarters
(essential if applicable)
(if applicable)
Represent as No 82, not No. 82. Add 'No' for consistency
Agency function
(if applicable) eg ‘Bomber’ ‘Fighter’ & ‘Maintenance’
Agency type
'Squadron’, ‘Wing’, ‘Depot’ &‘Group'
Agency location
Amberley [Queensland] or Hobart

Examples using the above structure include:

CA 7632 RAAF Headquarters Airfield Defence Wing, Townsville [Queensland]

CA 2715 RAAF No 306 Air Base Wing, Pearce [Western Australia]

CA 2708 RAAF No 1 Recruit Training Unit, Edinburgh [South Australia]  Use of brackets and other punctuation

Square brackets should be used to show that staff have added information to the agency title, for example, geographic information that is not part of the title, or roman numerals to distinguish between agencies with the same title, eg [II].

CA 7745, Australian Securities Commission, Business Centre, Gold Coast [Queensland]

Round brackets are used for date information within titles, for example (to 1975.)

Care should be taken with punctuation as the placement of a comma, dash or full stop affects the alphabetical sorting of entries in some indexes and listings. For example, if a comma is omitted after the word Unit in the following example, the entries sort as follows:

RAAF Provost Unit Detachment G

RAAF Provost Unit, Detachment A

RAAF Provost Unit, Detachment B

Commas are to be preferred over dashes. Dashes should only be used where it is clear that the agency always used dashes in its title and where related branches/regions of the body all used dashes.  Relationship to ISAAR(CPF): 1.3, 2.1.2 (2nd ed. : 5.1.1, 5.1.2, 5.1.4)  Last updated:  24 September 2004

5.4.3.  Agency alternative title

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAAR(CPF) | Last updated  Definition

An additional name or title by which an agency is known, distinct from its official or formal name or title.

For example, the most recently used abbreviation, acronym, trading name, or a legal number (such as a company registration number) assigned by a public authority.  Purpose

(i) To document the most recent unofficial or informal title(s) by which an agency is known at the same time as the agency’s formal title.

(ii) To provide another access point for the retrieval of information about the agency.  Relative importance

This field should be completed where applicable (if a valid alternative or previous title exists) (category 3).  Sources of information

Information can be obtained from the agency's records and secondary sources, for example, media reports.  Standards for content

This is a text field. 

for CA 4367 

Agency title:

CSIRO Division of Food Science and Technology, New South Wales

Alternative title:

CSIRO Division of Food Processing

For the Royal Commission on the Activities of the Ship Painters and Dockers Union, the alternative title would be shown as:

Costigan Royal Commission  Amendments

Amendments can be made to record a change of official title for a continuing agency, or the recognition of a significant alternative title.  Application notes

It is possible for an agency to have had several titles simultaneously and to have been more commonly referred to by an alternative title rather than its official title.

Where there have been several alternative titles over the date range of the agency, show each, preceded by a date range in the format as illustrated above in the example for CA 4367.

Agencies, particularly defence agencies, may be commonly referred to by an abbreviation or acronym. In these cases, the abbreviation should be included as the alternative title. It should not be included in both the Title and Alternative Title fields:

for CA2803 

Agency title:

Headquarters, 2/4 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment [Australian Army]

Alternative title:

2/4 RAR

Alternative titles should be included in full:

for CA 802 

Agency title:

Australian Customs Service, State Administration, South Australia

Alternative title:

Collector of Customs, Adelaide [South Australia]

not just Collector of Customs  Legal number

If the agency is a registered company, provide its Australian Company Number (ACN) under a subheading ,Legal Number, in the Alternative Title area, eg

Alternative title:

Legal number:
ACN 100100100

(Do not show spaces in the number as this will hinder retrieval using the Archives' online database.)  Relationship to ISAAR(CPF): 1.3, 1.5, 2.1.1, 2.1.2 (2nd ed. : 5.1.2, 5.1.4, 5.1.5, 5.1.6)  Last updated:  24 September 2004

5.4.4.  Institution title

Definition | Purpose | Relative importance | Sources of information | Standards for content | Amendments | Application notes | Relationship to ISAAR(CPF) | Last updated  Definition

The official title of a Department of State or non executive entity that refers to the entire institution or corporate entity and not an agency of that entity.  Purpose

To enable the name of a whole corporate entity to be displayed in place of the corresponding agency registration title so that there can be no doubt of the intention in using an agency registration title for the special purpose of referring to an entire corporate or institution entity.  Such a distinction can only be made for agency registrations that have Department of State or non executive agency status.  Relative importance

This field is mandatory if the status code is for Department of State (DOS) or non-Executive for agencies with the status code of NONEX (category 1).  Sources of information

The institution title is extracted from the information from which the agency title was derived.  Standards for content

The title is derived from the agency title of the appropriate authority but without the final classifier of the hierarchical place of the agency. References to Central Office, Headquarters, National Office, Principal Registry are not included in the institution title. Subject to this final exception, the institution title should mirror exactly the content of the agency title.  Application notes

This attribute appears in registration forms only if the code value is for a Department of State or a non-Executive institution. The title displays only in specified reports.  Relationship to ISAAR(CPF): 1.5, 2.1.2 (2nd ed. : 5.1.4)  Last updated: 24 September 2004


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