28 September 2020
On 28 September, we will join members of the United Nations and Australian states and territories in marking International Access to Information Day.
This global event, also celebrated as Right to Know Day, recognises the community’s right to access information.
The 74th United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 28 September as the International Day for Universal Access to Information (IDUAI) in October 2019.
For #AccessToInfoDay 2020, we are raising awareness of the #RightToKnow as a foundation of an open and accountable democracy. Our Freedom of Information (FOI) laws enshrine our right to access government-held information, which strengthens transparency and accountability in policy making, administrative decision making and government service delivery.
As countries around the world manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Day also highlights the importance of Building trust through transparency by providing access to government-held information in times of crisis and beyond.
Learn more about our FOI system this #AccessToInfoDay through our resources, tips, videos and events.
Our right to access Australian Government information is enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) which acknowledges government-held information as a national resource that should be managed for public purposes.
These national FOI laws contain a presumption that information held by the government should be shared with its citizens, unless there is an overriding reason not to do so. This means information should be considered for proactive release, and FOI requests should be dealt with efficiently.
We have all seen first-hand the importance of proactive information sharing in the current COVID-19 pandemic — to help contain the virus, protect health and support our economic recovery.
At a time when many more Australians need to interact with government agencies, and critical decisions must be made in unprecedented circumstances, the public’s right to access information is even more important.
Our FOI Act enshrines the dual mechanisms of proactive publication and the right to request access, which both serve to help increase public participation in Government processes, support informed decision making, and encourage comment and review of Government’s activities.
Promoting and upholding information access rights is at the core of our work at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. Through assisting Australian Government agencies to understand their obligations to proactively publish information and to release documents under FOI, we seek to increase trust and confidence in access to government held information. We also assist the community to understand their rights and the application process.
This #AccessToInfoDay, we continue to recognise the work of FOI practitioners in upholding the objects of the FOI Act and supporting the effective management of government-held information. During the current crisis and beyond, your role is essential to our democracy and to building trust through transparency.
To echo a current theme, we are all in this together. Together we can ensure we continue to increase trust through transparency.
Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner
Freedom of information (FOI) plays a vital role in encouraging openness and transparency in the operations of government. This toolkit has been designed for FOI decision makers in Australian Government agencies and ministers’ offices and will help you understand the principles of FOI, the benefits of releasing government-held information and how the OAIC can assist you.
This resource will help your agency identify the steps it should take to meet its obligations when processing requests for information to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to find documents within the scope of an FOI request.
This checklist aims to help decision makers to identify the key steps in making a decision on a request for access to documents under the FOI Act.
We recommend agencies consider a range of measures to ensure they can meet their statutory FOI obligations during the pandemic, including greater use of self-service or administrative access schemes.
There are a range of ways you can access different types of information from the Australian Government. Our new step-by-step tool can help direct you to the right agency or process.
Information on what to expect when making an FOI request or applying for an Information Commissioner review of an FOI decision during the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you want to access documents relating to you, check the agency’s website to see whether they have a self-service access portal or have an administrative access policy. If in doubt, call the agency and ask. You may able to get the documents you’re looking for by making a phone call.
If you’re interested in accessing documents that are not about you, check the agency’s website. They may already publish this information on their disclosure log or in their Information Publication Scheme entry. You can also look for the ‘Access to information’ icon.
Check out data.gov.au for some statistics and data sets that agencies have already made available for public use. This includes data published by the OAIC on freedom of information statistics.
It’s important to be specific and to the point. When you’re making an FOI request:
In most cases your FOI request will be decided in 30 days, however sometimes this time is extended to allow the agency time to consult with third parties or if your request is complex or covers many documents.
Raise awareness about the right to access government-held information by supporting International Access to Information Day. More events to come.
10.00AM to 11.00AM AEST
Tuesday, 29 September 2020
To mark International Access to Information Day, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is hosting a virtual information session for members of our Information Contact Officers Network (ICON) featuring a keynote address from Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk.
Our Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Hampton, and senior staff from our FOI team will also provide information and answer questions about the OAIC’s new and updated resources and other topics.
Please note this event is for representatives of Australian Government agencies and ministers. If you are not an ICON member and wish to join the network and attend the event, please email email@example.com
10.00AM to 10.20AM AEST
Monday, 28 September 2020
OVIC will commence their week long celebrations by hosting a live webinar including an opening address from the Victorian Information Commissioner, Sven Bluemmel, and a presentation from Victorian Attorney-General, The Hon. Jill Hennessy. See OVIC’s website to register online.
1.00PM to 2.30PM AEST
Tuesday, 29 September 2020
Hosted by Information Governance ANZ, Victorian Information Commissioner Sven Bluemmel, NSW Information Commissioner Elizabeth Tydd and Senior Research Fellow, University of Cambridge Dr Jat Singh will discuss the right to access information and the use of algorithms in government decision-making.
More information about the webinar, including registration, is available on the Information Governance ANZ website.
9.30AM to 10.30AM AWST
Thursday, 1 October 2020
A live webinar featuring a discussion between Catherine Fletcher, the WA Information Commissioner, Rachael Rangihaeata, the Queensland Information Commissioner and Louisa Lynch, the Queensland Right to Information Commissioner about ‘push’ and ‘pull’ models of FOI and RTI legislation. Find out more.
Multiple times and dates
To launch the 2020 International Day for Universal Access to Information, UNESCO will host a high-level online panel, “Access of Information – Saving lives, Building Trust, Bringing Hope!” on Monday, 28 September.
Multiple other virtual events will also be held to mark the day. Discover more on their website.
See how other Australian jurisdictions are marking International Access to Information Day:
Discover more information about the international day from UNESCO.