Requesting information or documents
Making a Freedom of Information (FOI) request is a more formal process than administrative access, and may be suggested to you if the nature of the documents you seek are not appropriate for administrative access.
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) gives any person the right to:
- access copies of documents (except exempt documents) we hold
- ask for information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading
- seek a review of our decision not to allow you access to a document or not to amend your personal record
You can ask to access any document we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include those relating to national security, documents containing material obtained in confidence and Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.
If you are seeking access to documents that do not involve your personal information, you may wish to access the OAIC’s FOI disclosure log.
How to make an FOI request to the OAIC
Your request must:
- be in writing
- state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
- provide information about the document(s) you wish to access so that we can process your request
- provide an address for reply
You can send your request:
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Attention, FOI Coordinator
GPO Box 5218
Sydney NSW 2001
If you need help to make an FOI request to the OAIC, please contact us.
Fees and charges
There is no application fee for an FOI request.
There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about you. For example, we generally will not charge you for giving you access to information about a complaint you have made to our office. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. The most common charges are:
Search and retrieval: time we spend searching for or retrieving a document
$15.00 per hour
Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions
First five hours: Nil
Subsequent hours: $20 per hour
Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium
$4.40 per page of transcript
$0.10 per page
Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises
$6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)
Delivery: posting or delivering a copy of a document at your request
Cost of postage or delivery
If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20, or where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25% deposit before we process your request.
You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.
Documents received from another agency
If we received the documents that you request from another agency, the FOI Act provides that we may transfer the request to that other agency. This may be done if the documents that you request were received from another agency in connection with a complaint investigation or IC review being undertaken by the OAIC. Alternatively, the Australian Information Commissioner (Information Commissioner) may make a decision on your FOI request at the same time as making a decision on your FOI complaint or application for IC review of the agency FOI decision.
What you can expect from us
We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about a third party, we will need to consult them and may need to extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 days if your request is complex.
If you disagree with our decision
When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.
You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed:
- if we refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
- if we impose a charge
- if we refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed
If you disagree with our decision on your FOI request to the OAIC, you have the right to apply for an internal review of the decision. An internal review will be conducted by another member of our staff who did not make the original decision.
If you wish to apply for an internal review, you must do so in writing within 30 days of receiving notice of our decision. There is no application fee for internal review.
Information Commissioner review of OAIC decisions
If you disagree with our decision on your FOI request to the OAIC, you may request a review of the decision by the Australian Information Commissioner (Information Commissioner), even if you have not applied for internal review.
The Information Commissioner considers that it will usually not be in the interests of the administration of the FOI Act to conduct an IC review of a decision made by their own agency. For this reason, if you apply for IC review of an OAIC decision, the Information Commissioner may decide not to undertake an IC review on the basis that it is desirable that the decision be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Once the Information Commissioner has made that decision, you will be able to apply to the AAT. Please be aware that you cannot go directly to the AAT after receiving notice of an OAIC decision on your FOI request: you must first make an application for IC review.
Complaints about OAIC FOI decisions
If you are not satisfied with the way that we have handled your FOI request, you can make a complaint to the Information Commissioner or the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
If you choose to lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner, your matter will be dealt with by a member of our staff other than the case officer or decision maker for your FOI request.
You can complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman by calling them on 1300 363 072.
How to make an application or a complaint
To make an application for internal review or IC review or to make a complaint please contact us.
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