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How to apply under FOI

Information about how to make an application under Commonwealth and state freedom of information (FOI) laws.

Making an FOI request under Victorian law

A person can apply to a Victorian Government department, local council or prescribed authority. A prescribed authority is one that is established for a public purpose that is not exempt.

The Freedom of information site has a list of agencies that must comply.

See ss. 5, 13—Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Freedom of Information Commissioner—Finding an Agency(opens in a new window).

Contact the agency first to see whether the information needed is already freely available.

Application form

The Freedom of Information (Victoria) website has information about how to apply. This includes an FOI request form that can be used to lodge an application. The agency has 30 days to respond, although extensions of time may be granted.

See s. 21—Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window) and Freedom of Information (Victoria)—Making a Freedom of information request(opens in a new window).

Costs

The cost of making an application is listed on the Freedom of Information website. There are 2 parts to the cost of applying. The first is the application fee, which may be waived if a person is suffering financial hardship. The second cost of retrieving the information, supervising the retrieval and photocopying documents.

See Freedom of Information (Victoria)—Costs(opens in a new window) and s. 22—Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Making an FOI request under Commonwealth law

Before making an application to a Commonwealth government agency for information under FOI it is important to contact the agency to make sure that the information is not already available, or will be provided free. There is no prescribed application form.

A document could include information that is stored electronically, maps, drawings, photographs, any paper or other material that contains writing, marks, figures or symbols. An agency does not have to create a new document to provide the information sought.

People commonly seek access to their taxation records and information relating to Centrelink benefits.

If a person is not sure about exactly which agency may have the documents they should get in touch with the agency first to make sure they are applying to the right place. Ask to speak with the FOI officer at the agency.

An FOI request has to be in writing (including by email). It must:

  • state that it is a request for information under the FOI Act
  • describe the documents sought
  • include a return address (which could be an email address.

The request has to be sent to the minister or agency by email, post or personal delivery.

See OAIC—FOI Act(opens in a new window) and 'What charges may apply' in OAIC—How to make an FOI request(opens in a new window).

Cost

There is no cost for applying but the agency or minister may charge a processing fee. They will send a preliminary assessment setting out the charges and the basis for charging.

See 'What charges may apply' in OAIC—How to make an FOI request(opens in a new window) and s. 29—Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

More information

Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)

  • s. 5—defines a 'prescribed authority'
  • s. 13—right of access
  • s. 14—certain documents do not apply
  • s. 21—time limits for agency responses
  • s. 22—charges for access to documents

See Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic)(opens in a new window).

Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)

  • s. 11—right of access to documents unless exempt
  • s. 11A—access to documents on request
  • s. 29—charges

See Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth)(opens in a new window).

Reference

Freedom of Information Commissioner

This site lists the agencies where people can apply for information under FOI. They also provide the name and address of the person that requests have to be addressed to.

See Freedom of Information Commissioner—Finding an Agency(opens in a new window).

Freedom of Information (Victoria)

See:

Office of the Australian Information Commissioner

The commissioner site has information about how to apply for information under FOI.

See OAIC—FOI Act(opens in a new window).

See also OAIC—How to make an FOI request(opens in a new window).

Updated