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FOI review process

If you are unhappy with the decision of an agency or minister under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), you can:

  • apply for internal review by asking the agency or minister to reconsider their decision, so long as the agency head or minister did not personally make the decision
  • request that the Australian Information Commissioner (Information Commissioner) review the decision. This is called an Information Commissioner review (IC review).

If you have requested an internal review and are unhappy with the result you may also apply for IC review

You must apply for IC review in writing. We prefer you to use our online review form. If you do not have Adobe Reader, you can download a copy of the form in Microsoft Word114 KB.

There is no fee for requesting a review.

In most cases you must apply for IC review within 60 days of being notified of the minister’s or agency’s decision. You must apply within 30 days if you are requesting review of a decision to grant access to documents to another person. You can also ask the Information Commissioner to grant you more time to apply for IC review.

For more information about requesting a review see FOI Fact Sheet 12 — Freedom of Information: your review rights.

What happens to your IC review

The review process is designed to be as informal as possible and is conducted by staff of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC).

Applying for review

Your review application is registered and an early assessment made to ensure it includes all key information to be a valid review. This includes:

  • your contact details
  • the FOI decision letter for review
  • your reasons why you think the decision is wrong.

A letter acknowledging the receipt of your matter will be sent to you. The Minister or agency whose decision you want reviewed is notified of your application.

A case officer is assigned to your application. They will advise you and the Minister or agency (the parties to the review) that they are handling the application and provide you with their contact details.

The case officer may make preliminary inquiries of the parties to help in determining whether to undertake a review. This includes determining if the review decision falls within the Information Commissioner’s jurisdiction or if the Information Commissioner will exercise the discretion not to undertake a review under s 54W of the FOI Act. The main reason why the Information Commissioner decides not to undertake an IC review, or not to continue to undertake an IC review, under s 54W is that the application is lacking in substance, or it may be finalised to allow review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT). For this reason it is important your submissions clearly set out why you believe the decision is wrong.

To help resolve applications promptly, the OAIC may use alternative dispute resolution methods or any other appropriate technique. Alternative dispute resolution methods can clarify at an early stage the issues to be resolved or the information to be provided by either party in support of their claims or submissions.

The Information Commissioner, the FOI Commissioner or the Privacy Commissioner will review the information provided by the parties during the previous stages and may make further inquiries prior to making a decision.

Once a decision is made by a Commissioner the parties to the review are notified and the decision is published on the internet. Previous decisions can be viewed on the IC reviews page.

Further information on the review process undertaken by the Information Commissioner is available in the Guidelines issued under section 93A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982, specifically Part 10 — Review by the Information Commissioner.

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AAT appeal rights

If you disagree with the Information Commissioner’s decision in your IC review, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).

You have 28 days after receiving the IC review decision to apply for AAT review. The AAT will reconsider the agency or minister’s decision, and can make a new decision. The Information Commissioner will not be a party to the proceedings.

In normal circumstances, you cannot appeal directly to the AAT for review of a decision made under the FOI Act without first applying for Information Commissioner review. The exception is if the Information Commissioner decides that it would be in the interests of the administration of the FOI Act for the AAT to consider the matter. You also cannot apply for AAT review if the Information Commissioner has decided not to undertake or continue a review.

A fee is required to apply to the AAT, although it can be waived in some circumstances. More information about the AAT review process and applicable fees is available on the AAT website.

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