Freedom of information requests

Background

The object of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) is to extend, as far as possible, the Australian community's right of access to information in the possession of the Australian government.

The Act applies to the documents held by the majority of Australian Government agencies. It also applies to documents held by Ministers that relate to the affairs of those agencies. An agency must make a decision about an FOI application within 30 days, but this period may be extended if consultations are required.

There is no application fee. Processing charges may apply under certain circumstances, but may be reduced or waived on grounds including hardship or the public interest.

Making an FOI request

General inquiries relating to Freedom of Information may be made in person, by telephone or in writing at any Commonwealth Ombudsman office. Each office is open between 9am and 5pm on weekdays. For the cost of a local call, people can contact their nearest Commonwealth Ombudsman's office by calling the National Complaints Line on 1300 362 072. FOI requests must be provided in writing, either by letter to any Commonwealth Ombudsman office or by e-mail to ombudsman@ombudsman.gov.au.

The Ombudsman has authorised the Deputy Ombudsman, all Senior Assistant Ombudsman, and some executive-level officers to grant or refuse requests for access.

Under an arrangement made outside the Act, the Ombudsman has agreed to officers at and above Executive Level 1 providing limited complaint information if requested by, or on behalf of, a complainant.

Ombudsman staff are able to provide certain kinds of documents without an FOI request, including:

  • documents previously and lawfully provided by or to the complainant by the Ombudsman's office or someone else
  • records of telephone conversations involving the complainant
  • most database entries relating to the person who made the complaint.

If you wish to make an FOI request, you should write to the FOI Officer at any of our offices, including the address at which you wish to receive correspondence. There is no application fee. Processing charges may apply under certain circumstances. These can be reduced or waived on certain grounds including hardship or public interest. It would be helpful if you can specify the documents you seek in as much detail as possible.

See also