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Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

(Information on this webpage has been sourced from www.foi.vic.gov.au)

The Victorian Freedom of Information Act gives you the right to request documents held by council.

The Act gives you:

  • The right to access documents about your personal affairs and the activities of government agencies; and
  • The right to request that incorrect or misleading information held by an agency about you be amended or removed.

The Act does not apply to privately owned businesses.

Who makes FOI decisions
What can you access
What you cannot access
How to apply
Request processing
Costs     
Where do I send my request or seek further information
Complaints

Who makes FOI decisions

Council has a Freedom of Information Officer who is authorised to make decisions about access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The officer has a maximum of 45 days from the date they receive a valid request to tell you their decision.

What you can access

 You have a right to apply for access to documents that are held by an agency which is covered by the Freedom of Information Act. This includes:

  • documents created by the agency
  • documents supplied to the agency by an external organisation or individual

You can apply for access to:

  • documents about your personal affairs, regardless of the age of the documents
  • documents of a non-personal nature, not older than 5 July 1978
  • documents held by a Council, not older than 1 January 1989

It is not only documents in paper form that are accessible. The word 'documents' covers a broad range of media including maps, films, microfiche, photographs, computer printouts, emails, computer discs, tape recordings and videotapes.

You may ask for a copy of the document, or you may request access to the document, for example, to see a film or to get a transcript of a tape recording. Costs may apply.

What you cannot access

Not all documents are automatically available.

The Freedom of Information Act allows an agency to refuse access to certain documents or information. These documents or information are often called ‘exempt’ documents.

In some cases you may be refused access to an entire document. Alternatively, you may be given access to a document with exempt information deleted.

Here is a list of some documents that you may not be able to access:

  • cabinet documents.
  • some internal working documents.
  • law enforcement documents.
  • documents covered by legal professional privilege, such as legal advice.
  • documents containing personal information about other people.
  • documents containing information provided to Council in confidence.
  • documents containing information provided to Council by a business.
  • documents which are covered by secrecy provisions in other legislation.

This should not deter you from asking for access as each document is assessed on its merits before a decision is made.

How to apply

 Do I need to use FOI for all government documents?

There are other options to using FOI.

Documents that you might be able to obtain without an FOI application include those containing:

  • your own personal information, such as personnel records.
  • information which is available publicly, such as on a public register.
  • information which is available for purchase (eg criminal record check).

If you need documents for a court case or some type of litigation, speak to your legal advisor about other processes for accessing those documents.

Request Processing

Once Council receives your request, the FOI Officer will review it to make sure that all the necessary information has been included and the documents you are requesting have been clearly identified.

Council will write to you if any further information is required.

When your request has been processed, you will be sent a letter with Council’s decision. Council will decide to either:

  • release all the documents you requested
  • release part of the documents you requested
  • release none of the documents you requested

The Freedom of Information Act requires Council to complete your request within 45 days from the date that it was received. This time limit only applies if your request is sufficiently clear for the officer to process it and the application fee has been paid or waived.

Council may not identify any relevant documents. If this happens, Council must notify you within 45 days of the date they received your request.

If you are unhappy with the decision or the way your request is being handled, see Complaints below.

Costs

There are two costs associated with making a FOI request:

  • the application fee
  • the access charges

The application fee is a fixed cost which is non-refundable. The only exception is for people suffering hardship who can ask the agency to waive the application fee.

Access charges relate to the costs incurred in granting access to the documents that you have requested.

These costs may or may not apply depending on the nature of your request. The following table outlines these costs. All fees and charges are exempt from GST.

Application fee

$27.90 from 1 July 2016 (non- refundable unless fee is waived)

Access charges

Access charges are set by government regulations. You can download a copy of these regulations from Freedom of Information Regulations. Further information about FOI fees and charges can be found at the Freedom of Information Commissioner's website.

Where do I send my request or seek further information?

For all enquiries or further information on the Freedom of Information Act and procedures, please contact the Freedom of Information Officer on 03 54941200

Please send your written request to:

The Freedom of Information Officer

Loddon Shire Council

PO Box 21

Wedderburn Vic 3518

Complaints

Many problems can be resolved quickly by contacting Council to discuss your concerns. You can also resolve particular problems more formally.

1. You are not satisfied with the initial decision

If you do not understand the decision, you can contact the agency to discuss your concerns. If you believe that the decision is wrong, then in most cases, you will have a right of review by the Freedom of Information Commissioner. Information on reviews by the Commissioner are available on the Freedom of Information Commissioner website.

If the decision maker was the principal officer, you would need to apply to VCAT for a review of the decision.

Your decision letter should tell you how to apply for a review by the Freedom of Information Commissioner or to appeal to VCAT.

2. The initial decision is taking too long

Council has 45 days from when they receive your request to tell you the decision. However delays can occur. If you do not receive a response within 45 days you can:

3. You are unhappy with the way in which your request was handled

Even if you are not dissatisfied with the decision or the time it took, you may be unhappy about other aspects of how your request was handled. These sorts of complaints can be made either to the agency or to the Freedom of Information Commissioner.

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