Publication date: 11 April 2019

A ‘document’ is defined in s 4(1) to include any or any part of the following:

  • any paper or other material on which there is writing
  • a map, plan, drawing or photograph
  • any paper or other material on which there are marks, figures, symbols or perforations having a meaning for persons qualified to interpret them
  • any article or material from which sounds, images or writing are capable of being reproduced with or without the aid of any other article or device
  • any article on which information has been stored or recorded, either mechanically or electronically
  • any other record of information
  • any copy, including any part of any copy, of a reproduction or duplicate of a thing listed above

See Part 3 of the Guidelines for further details.

Can access be given to draft documents?

Yes. Draft documents fit within the broad definition of ‘documents’ under s 4(1) of the FOI Act. See Part 3 of the Guidelines.

However, an agency may wish to consider whether the draft document falls within the deliberative processes conditional exemption. See s 47C of the FOI Act and Part 6 of the Guidelines.

Can text messages and social media posts be accessed under the FOI Act?

Yes. Text messages and social media such as instant messaging (IM) that support the business of an agency fall within the definition of ‘document’. See Part 3 of the Guidelines.

Is an agency obligated to give an applicant information in the form they request?

Generally, yes. An applicant who requests access to a document in a particular form has a right to be given access in that form. However, access in that form may be refused if it is not reasonable or possible. In such cases, access should be given in another form. See s 20 of the Freedom of Information Act and Part 3 of the Guidelines.