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Ten key FOI messages to take away from this Guide

1. Be open

Transparent government is better government. Openness enables the public to participate in democratic government and assist and review policy development, decision making and service delivery.

2. Be active

Publish information. Information has greater value when shared widely. That is why the FOI Act declares that government information is a national resource for public access and use.

3. Be informed

The FOI Act gives every person a legally enforceable right of access to government documents. Access can be denied only on a ground listed in the FOI Act, and agencies and ministers must have regard to the Information Commissioner's FOI Guidelines when making decisions or exercising powers under the FOI Act.

4. Be innovative

The FOI Act sets out essential minimum requirements to promote public access to information held by government. Use other strategies to make information available on request and to publish information that people will be interested to learn.

5. Be helpful

Help the public to access government information and documents - the FOI Act requires this. People may need help to frame access requests that are not too vague, large or costly to handle. Ensure information about how to make an FOI request is available on your agency's website.

6. Be efficient

People want a quick response when they request information. Timely information is more useful. The FOI Act imposes time limits for handling document requests (30 calendar days for most requests) - and it is better to beat that time limit if possible.

7. Be clear

Good decisions are based on good reasons. A decision under the Act, particularly a decision to deny access or impose a charge, should be stated clearly and comprehensively. Use plain English. Giving good reasons that can be easily understood may also avoid a complaint or request for review.

8. Be a model record-keeper

Effective record keeping underpins open government. Electronic information management makes it easier to locate information and make it available upon request, and will improve your agency's efficiency.

9. Be collaborative

Open government requires a team effort - within agencies and across government. Talk to other staff and other agencies about simple and effective ways of publishing information and handling FOI and information requests. Consult the guidance material published by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) at www.oaic.gov.au.

10. Think public interest

Open government is in the public interest. This principle runs through the FOI Act - through the objects clause, publication requirements, exemptions, charging provisions and access procedures. Rely on it as a guiding principle for greater transparency.