What is a document?

Last updated: 19 July 2019

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) only applies to information an Australian Government agency or minister holds in the form of a document.

The FOI Act defines a document as:

  • any paper or other material on which there is writing or a mark, figure or symbol
  • electronically stored information
  • a map, a plan, a drawing or a photograph
  • any article from which sounds, images or writing are capable of being produced

It also sets out what documents you can access and what documents you can’t access.

You can ask for access to a document in the form you prefer, such as in an electronic form rather than a hard copy.

Documents a minister holds

You can only request access to an official document of a minister. This doesn’t include a:

  • personal document of theirs
  • party political document
  • document that relates to their electorate affairs

A minister’s office is separate from the Australian Government agency the minister is responsible for. Any FOI request sent to the minister is handled by the ministers office (a minister may authorise an employee to handle a FOI request). Even if a minister’s office asks the minister’s agency for help processing a FOI request, they’re still responsible for making sure the request is properly handled.

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