Freedom of information
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The object of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) is to support, as far as possible, the Australian community's right of access to information in the possession of the Australian Government.
The FOI Act also provides review options for people who are not satisfied with an Australian Government department or agency’s response to their request for documents under the Act.
The FOI Act requires decisions on access to be made promptly and at low cost.
The FOI Act allows refusal of requests for documents for specific reasons – broadly concerned with ensuring that particular types of sensitive information is properly protected – and all decisions are subject to internal and external review.
Making an FOI request
The FOI Act applies to the documents held by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office).
You must make your FOI request in writing. You can submit a request to the Office in any of the following ways:
- By post to: GPO Box 442, Canberra ACT 2602
- By completing and submitting an online enquiry form
- By email to: email@example.com
Under the FOI Act, our Office is required to make a decision about an FOI application within 30 days. We may seek an extension where:
- there is a need for third party consultation
- there are charges imposed, or
- for other reasons set out in the FOI Act.
There is no fee for making an FOI application.
In some circumstances, processing charges may apply. Under the FOI Act, agencies cannot charge processing costs for personal information, so if your FOI application is seeking your personal information, we will not charge you.
In the event the Office decides to issue a processing charge, it will be calculated in accordance with the Freedom of Information (Charges) Regulations 2019. Our Office may consider reducing or waiving these charges on hardship or public interest grounds.
The Office may be able to provide certain kinds of documents outside the FOI Act, such as where you are simply trying to get copies of documents previously exchanged between you and our Office. If this is all you are seeking, please clearly say this in your FOI application.
If we make an FOI decision that you disagree with, you can ask:
- for the decision to be reviewed
- for a different officer (usually someone more senior) to conduct the review.
Once you receive a decision, you must apply for a review within 30 days. You should contact our Office if you wish to seek an extension. The Office must make a review decision within 30 days. If it does not do so, the original decision stands.
There is no charge for an internal review.
Going through our internal review process:
- gives us the opportunity to reconsider our initial decision
- may allow your concerns to be met more quickly than seeking a review from the Information Commissioner.
Review by the Information Commissioner
The Information Commissioner is an independent office holder. They can review the decisions of agencies and ministers under the FOI Act.
You may apply to the Information Commissioner for a review of the decision our Office has made about your FOI application.
There is no fee to apply for a review.
You may also complain to the Australian Information Commissioner about actions of an agency related to the processing of a request. The Information Commissioner can investigate issues such as:
- refusal or failure to act.
For further information visit the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner website.