Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives you the right to:
- apply for access to Commonwealth government documents held by Australian Government departments and some statutory authorities,
- ask for an amendment to your personal information if it is out of date, incomplete, incorrect, or misleading, and
- seek review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) of a decision not to allow you access to a document you may have requested or your request to amend your personal record has not been granted.
What documents may you see?
The Act gives you a right to see:
- Documents, no matter how old, containing personal information about yourself
- Documents, no older than 1 December 1977, relating to anything else (they can be older if you need them to understand another document you already have)
- Documents including files, reports, computer printouts, tapes or disks, maps, plans, photographs, microfiche, tape recordings, films, or videotapes.
You can ask to access any document that we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include those relating to national security, documents containing material obtained in confidence, Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.
You can get certain information, including personal information we hold about you, without following a formal process under the FOI Act. Contact the FOI Contact Officer for more information.
When you apply for access to documents, you may not necessarily get to see the whole document. You may also be refused access to a document in its entirety, as certain exemptions can apply under the FOI Act.
Can you see all official documents?
No. The Act identifies certain types of documents which you may not be able to see (called exempt documents). These types of documents are those which the Parliament believes should normally be kept confidential to protect essential public interests or the private or business affairs of others.
If the ARC decides not to give access to the document you asked for, it must identify the documents withheld, give you written reasons for the decision, and advise you of your rights of appeal.
In most cases, an FOI request will be refused where it would lead to an unreasonable disclosure of someone else's personal information.
Where you want to see documents containing your own personal information, the ARC may ask to see some proof of your identity.
You can have documents containing personal information about you corrected?
Providing you have had lawful access to the documents, and they have been, or are being, used by the ARC for an administrative purpose, you may request for a document to be corrected.
You have a legal right to ask that it be corrected if, after seeing your documents, you believe the information they contain to be incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
You can ask for corrections to be made by amending the record or adding an appropriate annotation, or both.
Companies, incorporated associations, and the like are not entitled to have records about their affairs corrected under the Act
To ask for correction of personal records you may:
- Simply write and ask. No application fee applies.
- Identify what information is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
- Explain with as much detail as possible what the facts are and what evidence there is to support them
- Post, deliver or email firstname.lastname@example.org your request to the ARC.
What will the ARC do when it gets your request for amendment of personal records?
The ARC must deal with your request as soon as practicable and tell you within 30 days what has been decided.
If the ARC decides not to make the changes you asked for (or decides to make different ones) it must tell you why and advise you of your rights of appeal.
How to make a request for documents
Your request must:
- be in writing
- identify the document you want
- state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
- give an address in Australia at which notices under the FOI Act may be sent to you
- give as much information as you can about the document you want (for example, give a file number, a reference to a newspaper report about it or describe the subject matter in which you are interested).
Alternatively, you can send your request:
FOI Contact Officer
Australian Research Council
GPO Box 2702
CANBERRA ACT 2601
If you ask a third party to make an FOI request on your behalf, you need to provide a specific, written authority to send copies of documents to you, care of that person, or to allow that person to inspect copies of documents containing information about you.
Fees and charges
There is no application fee for an FOI request.
There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. The most common charges are:
Search and retrieval: time we spend searching for or retrieving a document
$15.00 per hour
Decision making: time we spend in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, and making deletions
First five hours: Nil
Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium
$4.40 per page of transcript
$0.10 per page
Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of your inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording at our premises
$6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)
Delivery: posting or delivering a copy of a document at your request
Cost of postage or delivery
If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20, or where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25% deposit before we process your request.
You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.
What you can expect from us
The ARC must:
- notify you within 14 days that your request has been received
- deal with your request as soon as possible
- talk to you about any difficulties that may arise
- as soon as possible, give you an estimate of the charges, if any are applicable, and
- within 30 days write to you and tell you of the decision on giving you access. (Where a document contains information about other people or organisations, the ARC must consult with these third parties. The ARC may extend the time in which it is required to tell you about its decision by another 30 days to give third parties an opportunity to raise any objections or give consent to releasing their details).
How will the documents be given to you?
The ARC can let you see the documents or give you a copy.
Special procedures may apply if you want to see information which concerns your physical or mental health:
- the ARC may decide to give it to an appropriate health care worker, social worker or marriage guidance counsellor (here called a 'qualified person') of your choice, rather than to you directly
- this can be done where the ARC thinks that giving it to you directly might prejudice your physical or mental health or well-being,
- you can appeal against the decision to give it to a qualified person rather than to you directly, but what that person tells you or shows you is a matter for his or her judgement.
If you disagree with our decision
When the ARC writes to you and informs you of its decision to allow/disallow or allow partial access to a document we will also send you information about your rights to appeal or review a decision.
You can appeal against decisions:
- not letting you see what you want, when you want it, or in the form you want it
- relating to remission of an application fee
- imposing a charge to see what you want
- in respect of the amount of the charge imposed upon you
- refusing to change or annotate documents about you which you think are incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading
- letting others see documents which you say would unreasonably disclose:
- your personal information
- your lawful business or professional affairs
- lawful business, commercial or financial affairs of your firm.
- to give you access to documents about your physical or mental health through a qualified person and not directly to you.
A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.
What kinds of appeal do you have?
- require the ARC to reconsider its decision ('internal review')
- seek an independent review of the decision by the Australian Information Commissioner
- complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about the ARC's decision or action
- seek an independent review of the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.
Australian Information Commissioner review
You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision (or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party). The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website at www.oaic.gov.au.
If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the OAIC’s website at www.oaic.gov.au.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.
If you require assistance with your request, contact the FOI Contact Officer on (02) 6287 6622 or by email at email@example.com.
Certain documents that we have released under the FOI Act can be obtained at our Freedom of Information Disclosure Log page. You can also find more information about the Scheme at our Information Publication Scheme page.