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About the OAIC — brochure

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About us

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is an independent Australian Government agency established to:

  • promote access to government information, including your right to access documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act)
  • ensure your personal information is handled in accordance with the Privacy Act 1988 and other laws
  • advise the Australian Government on information policy.

The OAIC functions include conducting investigations, reviewing decisions made under the FOI Act, handling complaints, monitoring agency administration and providing advice to the public, government agencies and businesses.

It is headed by the Australian Information Commissioner, who is supported by the Freedom of Information Commissioner, the Privacy Commissioner and staff.

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Freedom of information

The FOI Act gives you a legally enforceable right to request documents held by Australian Government and Norfolk Island agencies and ministers. You can use this right of access to check that your personal information is complete and up to date, to learn more about a government decision, or to participate in a discussion about government policy or regulation.

The FOI Act also requires government agencies to publish information. Under the Information Publication Scheme, agencies must publish information on their websites that explains how they are organised and make decisions that affect you. Under the disclosure log agencies and ministers must publish details of information released in response to requests under the FOI Act.

How the OAIC can help you

Reviews: If you disagree with a decision made by a government agency under the FOI Act, you can ask the agency to review their decision. You can also request that the OAIC review the decision if you are not satisfied with an agency or minister’s response.

Complaints: You may also complain to the OAIC if you have concerns about how an agency has handled your request or any other action taken under the FOI Act.

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Privacy

The Privacy Act protects ‘personal information’. This is information that identifies you or could identify you, including your name, address, medical records, bank account details, photos and even information about what you like, your opinions and where you work.

The Privacy Act regulates the collection and handling of personal information, including its use and disclosure, its accuracy, how securely it is kept and your right to access that information.

The Privacy Act applies to Australian, ACT and Norfolk Island government agencies and certain private sector organisations. Some exemptions apply, including for small businesses. The Act does not cover state government agencies. Special rules apply to the management of tax file numbers.

How the OAIC can help you

Complaints: If you think your personal information has been mishandled, you can complain to the OAIC. We will investigate your complaint and may try to resolve it through conciliation. Outcomes could include an apology, a change to an organisation’s practices or procedures and compensation for financial or non-financial loss.

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Government information policy

The Information Commissioner has a broad responsibility to advise government on information policy and management practice. The OAIC works with other Australian Government agencies to ensure that Australian information policy practice conforms to international best practice.

The OAIC has released a set of Principles on open public sector information to guide government information management in Australia. Central to these principles is the notion that information held by Australian Government agencies is a national resource and should be open to public access.

The OAIC works with agencies and the community to help build a government culture of proactive information disclosure and community engagement.

Commencing in 2011, the OAIC holds a national information policy conference every two years. The work of the OAIC is supported by an Information Advisory Committee and a Privacy Advisory Committee that include government, business and community representatives appointed by the Minister.

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Contact us

Telephone: 1300 363 992, email: enquiries@oaic.gov.au , write: GPO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001, or visit our website at www.oaic.gov.au.

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