Since 1982, the Freedom of Information Act has given people the right to obtain information held by State Ministers, State Government departments, statutory authorities, etc. The legislation applied to local councils from 1994.
The Act gives people the right to request documents relating to their personal affairs and information about any activities of a government agency, council, etc.
A person may request documents created by an agency or documents supplied to it by another agency.
Making an application
An application must be made in writing accompanied by a $29.60 fee, which is not refundable.
It is in the applicant's best interests to ensure that the request is clear in the following manner:
- The nature of the request (for example, that the request is being made under the Freedom of Information Act)
- The nature of the information or document requested - the more precise the request in respect of the information or document sought, the more able the Council will be to assess the request. This will avoid any possible misunderstanding and save time for both the applicant and the Council.
Freedom of Information - Request for Access to Documents (pdf, 567KB)
Assessing an application
An authorised Council Officer will assess the initial request. A written response will be sent to the applicant as soon as possible, but not later than 30 days from the date on which the Council received the request.
In some instances, it may be necessary for the Council to seek clarification, in writing, from the applicant regarding the request.
Cost - information or document
Where an application for access is granted, costs will be incurred by the applicant (in addition to the application fee). These costs will relate to, amongst other things:
- Search fees
- Supervision charges
- Photocopying charges
- Providing access in a form other than a photocopy
- The costs for these charges are governed by the Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 1993.
- Where it is anticipated that costs will exceed $50, the applicant will be advised and requested to submit a deposit. The applicant will also be asked if they wish to continue with the request.
- At this point, the applicant also has the right (of which they will be informed) to request a review of the charges.
Refusal of a request
Not all information is automatically made available in response to a request for it. The Act sets out a number of reasons for an agency to refuse access to a document.
Some of the main reasons for refusing access to a document are:
- It affects the personal affairs of another person;
- It is commercially confidential;
- It would undermine law enforcement;
- The information was obtained in confidence;
- It contains trade or commercial secrets or other matters of a business commercial or financial nature;
- Disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.
Review of a decision
If the applicant is dissatisfied with the decision made by Council, the applicant may apply for a review by the Information Commissioner. An application for review must be made in writing within 28 days of Council's decision and sent to:
post: Information Commissioner PO Box 24274, Melbourne VIC 3001
fax: (03) 8684 7588
More information about reviews by the Information Commissioner is available at www.foicommissioner.vic.gov.au