Freedom of information
We make a range of information available for public access. You can also formally request access under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) to documents we hold.
The FOI Act gives any person the right to:
- access copies of documents (except exempt documents) we hold
- ask for information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading
- seek a review of our decision not to allow you access to a document or not to amend your personal record.
You can ask to see any document that we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents, that are exempt.
Exempt documents may include those relating to national security, documents containing material obtained in confidence and Cabinet documents, or documents subject to other exemptions set out in the FOI Act.
Documents in our possession that relate to the Australian Government Solicitor’s activities are exempt from release under the FOI Act pursuant to section 7(2) and Schedule 2, Part II, Division 1 of that Act.
An FOI exemption also applies to private session records of the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission, pursuant to section 7(2E) of the Act.
For more information about exemptions, see the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner FOI Guidelines.
How to make an FOI request
Your request must:
- be in writing (email is sufficient)
- state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
- describe the documents you seek in enough detail to allow the decision-maker to identify and find them
- provide an address for reply.
Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org or send your request to:
Freedom of Information and Privacy Section
Strategy and Governance Branch
3–5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600
Evidence of identity for requests to access personal information
If you are seeking access to documents that contain your personal information, we will require evidence of your identity with your application. If you are seeking documents containing personal information on behalf of another person, both of you must provide evidence of your identities. Evidence of identity must clearly show that you are the person whose personal information is being requested. This will include a physical address, as documents containing personal information may be sent to you by registered post rather than by email.
Acceptable identity documents include:
- a passport
- an Australian driver's licence
- any other official identification in the English language which contains your photo, signature and address.
A copy of these documents may be sent to us or scanned as an email attachment. Please have identification documents certified as a true copy of the original by a person having the power to witness a Commonwealth statutory declaration.
For more information visit the statutory declarations page.
Letter of authorisation for requests made on behalf of another person
If another person is requesting documents on your behalf we will require a signed letter of authorisation from you as well as proof of your identity and the identity of that other person. The letter must specifically authorise the department to either send copies of documents to that person or to allow that person to inspect copies of documents containing your personal information.
If you need help with your request, email email@example.com.
Fees and charges
There is no application fee for an FOI request, application for amendment or annotation of a personal record or an internal review request.
There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about you. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. Whether a charge is imposed is at the department's discretion.
The most common charges are:
|Search and retrieval: time we spend searching for or retrieving a document||$15 per hour|
|Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions||First five hours: Nil
Subsequent hours: $20 per hour
|Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium||$4.40 per page of transcript|
|Photocopy||$0.10 per page|
|Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises||$6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)|
|Delivery: sending or delivering a copy of a document at your request||Cost of postage or delivery|
If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20. Where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25 per cent deposit before we process your request.
You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. You may need to explain your reasons and provide evidence.
If we decide to impose a charge, you will be required to pay the full charge (less any deposit) before you are given access to the documents.
What you can expect from us
We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will also give you an estimate of the charges that apply to your request. We will give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about third parties, we will need to consult those parties and may need to extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to thirty days if your request is complex.
If you disagree with our decision
When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.
You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed if:
- we refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
- we impose a charge
- we refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.
You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within thirty days of receiving your request.
Information Commissioner review
You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision (or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party). The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision, or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. More information is available from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.
If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request, you can contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. The Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to determine who should investigate the matter and to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.
02 6141 6666
Outside Australia: +61 2 6141 6666