Publication date: 1 December 2013

This series of sample FOI notices has been developed to help agencies and ministers comply with their obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

An agency or minister must send an applicant or a third party a written notice at various points in the processing of an FOI request. Common FOI notices include: acknowledgement that a request has been received, notice that the applicant is liable to pay a charge, notice that timeframes for processing a request have changed and notice of the decision on a request. The FOI Act often specifies the type of information that the notice should contain.

How to use the sample FOI notices

The sample FOI notices can be adapted by agencies and ministers for their own purposes. It is not necessary to adopt the exact wording of the sample notice — the samples simply provide one option and agencies may choose to apply their own styles.

Some of the sample notices also indicate when a decision maker should insert their own reasoning to support their decision. For example, the sample notice of a request consultation process allows space to explain why a practical refusal reason exists and this explanatory material must be provided on a case by case basis. Directions, tips and hints on what a decision maker should include appear in the samples in italics.

In summary:

  • refresh content every time
  • adapt styles and structure
  • refer to the FOI Act.

Refresh content every time

Some material (such as information about how an applicant can pay a deposit) may be reused in notices to save time. However, any substantive explanatory material must be developed on a case by case basis. Do not cut and paste generic information where you are required to provide reasoning for a decision.

Adapt styles and structure

The sample notices should be adapted to the styles and layout specific to your agency. There is no single right way to write an FOI notice. However, clear direct language is more effective than technical language quoting long sections of legislation.

Refer to the FOI Act

Using the sample notices does not guarantee compliance with the FOI Act. You must refer to the Act and the guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner.

Best practice when communicating with applicants

The FOI Act formalises interactions between agencies and applicants through a series of notice requirements. Formal notices play an important role in making sure applicants are well-informed about the FOI process and decisions are based on transparent reasoning and material findings of fact.

This formal process should not curtail your capacity to engage directly and informally with the applicant. Speaking to an applicant can expedite the FOI request process and save you time when making decisions and developing notices. For example, you may find you can resolve issues about the vagueness or unreasonable scope of a request by telephone without having to resort to a formal request consultation process and the necessary notices. Agencies can also help applicants by including copies of, or links to, FOI Fact Sheets (available on the OAIC website) or an excerpt of the relevant statutory provisions if they consider it appropriate.

By using a range of communication methods alongside the formal notice requirements of the FOI Act, you will increase the likelihood that requests are resolved in a way that is timely and satisfies all parties.

Common FOI notices are listed below with links to existing samples:

Notices to applicants

Request received

Calculation of charges

Notice of access decision

Notice of amend/annotate decision

Agreement to settle IC review proceedings

Agreement to settle Information Commissioner review proceedings (s 55F)

Notices to third parties

Request received

IC review requested

Notice (to affected third party) that applicant has requested IC review of decision