The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) ('FOI Act') gives you the legal right to:

  • See documents held by ARC
  • Ask for personal information concerning you to be changed if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading
  • Appeal against a decision not to grant access to a document or amend or annotate a personal record.

What other 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 include files, reports, computer printouts, tapes or disks, maps, plans, photographs, microfiche, tape recordings, films or videotapes.

How do you make an FOI request?

  • Identify the document you want.
  • Write the request.
  • 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).
  • Post, deliver or email your request to the ARC.

What must the ARC do when it gets your request?

  • Tell you within 14 days that it has received the request.
  • Deal with it as soon as possible.
  • Talk to you about any difficulties in dealing with it.
  • Within 30 days, tell you the decision on giving you access. (Where the ARC has to consult a third party, the ARC may extend the time in which it is required to tell you its decision by another 30 days. Consultation is usually necessary where the document contains information about the third party.)

How much will it cost?

  • There is no application fee or processing charges for FOI requests or internal review of a decision.

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.

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.
  • If, after seeing your documents, you believe the information they contain to be incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading, you have a legal right to ask that it be corrected, if one of these grounds is established.
  • 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 possiblewhat the facts are and what evidence there is to support them
  • Post, deliver or email 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 it has decided.
  • If it 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.

What FOI decisions can you appeal against?

  • Decisions not letting you see what you want, when you want it, or in the form you want it.
  • Decisions refusing to change or annotate documents about you which you think are incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.
  • Decisions 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.
  • Decisions to give you access to documents about your physical or mental health through a qualified person and not directly to you.