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Section 7 - Publication of certain documents and information

Guidelines

Purpose of section 7

1.1

Section 7 requires an agency (including a local council)1 to publish information summarising its organisation, functions, the categories of documents it holds, other public bodies it supports (for example, committees of management, cemetery trusts, and boards), and how FOI requests can be made.

1.2

This helps the public understand what each agency does, how it operates, and the types of documents it generates and holds. In turn, this enables the public to exercise their rights and understand any obligations when dealing with an agency more effectively.

Approved form

1.3

Despite section 7(1)(a) requiring several statements to be published ‘in a form approved by the Minister administering the Act’, there is no approved form for section 7. Nevertheless, an agency must implement the requirements of section 7. This should be done to help members of the public to effectively exercise their rights under the Act.3

Taking a practical approach

1.4

Agencies should take a practical approach to interpreting and implementing the requirements of section 7. Section 7 has not undergone any significant reform since it was first enacted, and its requirements are not compatible with the way modern government operates.

1.5

A literal interpretation of the requirements set out in section 7 is not practical, or beneficial for most members of the public.

1.6

An agency should aim to comply with the requirements, purpose, and intent of section 7, in the context of its purpose in Part II. At a minimum, this should involve offering members of the public sufficient information to understand an agency’s functions and operations, and the documents it holds and creates. This is essential to the proper operation of the Act and the public’s right to seek access to government held information.

1.7

There is no specific obligation to publish information in one location or under specified headings – for example, the traditional ‘Statement 1’. This allows for flexibility in implementing and publishing the required information.

1.8

A ‘statement’ may in fact be information contained on a webpage that details the information required under a particular part of section 7. The use of an agency website offers ease of navigation, the ability to crosslink information, and the ability to allow the public to search for, view and download documents and information on demand.

1.9

For instance, the information required under section 7 might be made available across several existing and logical webpages on an agency’s website, such as ‘About us’, ‘Our functions’, ‘What we do’, or ‘Our Policies’. This can equally be applied to an agency’s annual report.

Publication in annual reports and on agency websites

1.10

The information required to be published under section 7 must be set out in the annual report of an agency.5 In addition, Professional Standard 1.3 requires this information to be available on an agency’s website, to promote the accessibility of information, in line with community expectations.

Exempt information or documents

1.11

There is no obligation to publish information under section 7 if that information would be exempt under Part IV.7

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(i)

1.12

Section 7(1)(a)(i) requires an agency to publish information that details the particulars of:

  • the agency and its functions, indicating as far as practicable, the decision-making powers and other powers affecting members of the public that are involved in those functions; and
  • any arrangement that exists for consultation with, or representation by, bodies or persons outside the government administration in relation to the formulation of policy in, or administration of, the agency.
1.13

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • Information detailing the particulars of the agency:
    • How or under what legislation is the agency established?
    • Who leads the agency?
    • How can the agency be contacted?
    • Who is the responsible Minister or Ministers?
    • What is the organisational structure of the agency?
    • What are the functions and purposes of the agency?
    • What Acts or subordinate legislation empower the agency’s functions and operations?
  • Information detailing the decision-making powers and other powers affecting members of the public:
    • What Acts or subordinate legislation does the agency rely on to make decisions that affect the public?
    • What do these Acts or subordinate legislation allow the agency to do?
  • Information detailing the particulars of any arrangements which exist for consultation with outside bodies in relation to policy formulation or administration:
    • Does the agency seek, or rely on the advice of, information from bodies or persons outside of the agency in relation to its polices or administration? For example, formal committees, reference groups, advisory boards.
    • If so, who are they and what do they do or advise the agency on?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(ii)

1.14

Section 7(1)(a)(ii) requires an agency to publish information on the categories of documents in the possession of the agency. At a minimum this should include a general description of the various categories of documents in the possession of the agency.

1.15

Possession may be physical possession or constructive possession. Constructive possession is where an agency has the right to call for the document and to control the document, such as a document in the physical possession of a contractor.9

1.16

A member of the public must be able to answer the following question about an agency:

  • What are the general categories or types of documents the agency holds and generates?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(iii)

1.17

Taking a contemporary approach to implementing Part II, section 7(1)(a)(iii) requires an agency to ensure the information and documents prepared, published, or made available under sections 7, 8 and 11, can be found by members of the public.

1.18

Individuals or members of the public should not be expected to have knowledge, or an understanding, of what Part II is or requires. It may even be unhelpful and not accessible to an ordinary member of the public for an agency to refer to ‘Part II’ by name, as this creates an expectation that the individual should know and understand what Part II entails.

1.19

If the required information is published, listed, or otherwise made available in easy to find and logical locations, this is sufficient.

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(iv)

1.20

Section 7(1)(a)(iv) requires an agency to publish information detailing subscription services or mailing lists that individuals can register or sign up to.

1.21

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • Does the agency send newsletters or offer information by way of subscription?
  • If so, how does an individual access these products or services?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(v)

1.22

Section 7(1)(a)(v) requires an agency to publish information detailing how an individual can make an FOI request under section 17 or a request for amendment of personal records under section 39.

1.23

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • What is the process for making a request for documents?
  • What is the process for requesting an amendment to a document?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(vi)

1.24

Section 7(1)(a)(vi) requires an agency to publish information detailing who is responsible for processing requests under either section 17 or section 39.

1.25

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • Who is responsible for processing requests? For example, an individual’s title or the name of the specific business unit.
  • How can the individual responsible for processing requests be contacted?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(vii)

1.26

Section 7(1)(a)(vii) requires an agency to publish a list of all boards, councils, committees, and other bodies established to advise the agency whose meetings are open to the public or meeting minutes are available.

1.27

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • What bodies have been established by the agency to provide it advice and whose meetings are conducted publicly, or minutes published?
  • Where can an individual view a meeting of these bodies, if they are public, or download the minutes of their meeting?

Information that must be published under section 7(1)(a)(viii)

1.28

Section 7(1)(a)(viii) requires an agency to publish information detailing the address and hours of operation of any library maintained.

1.29

A member of the public must be able to answer the following questions about an agency:

  • If a public library is maintained by the agency:
    • What is the address of the library?
    • When can the library be visited?

Requirement to keep information up to date

1.30

An agency is required to review and update any information published under section 7(1)(a) at least once every twelve months.11 An agency should take the most practical and efficient approach to keeping this information up to date.

1.31

The most efficient approach may be to update or add new information on a regular basis. For example, where a function or the organisational structure changes, this could be reflected on an agency website immediately or soon after.

  1. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), sections 7(1A) and 7(4AA).
  2. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), sections 7(1A) and 7(4AA).
  3. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(2).
  4. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(2).
  5. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(4), however note the requirement for councils is set out in section 7(4AA) and provides an additional option.
  6. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(4), however note the requirement for councils is set out in section 7(4AA) and provides an additional option.
  7. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(3).
  8. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(3).
  9. Office of the Premier v Herald and Weekly Times [2013] VSCA 79; Colonial Range Pty Ltd v Victorian Building Authority (Review and Regulation) [2017] VCAT 1198.
  10. Office of the Premier v Herald and Weekly Times [2013] VSCA 79; Colonial Range Pty Ltd v Victorian Building Authority (Review and Regulation) [2017] VCAT 1198.
  11. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(1)(b).
  12. Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic), section 7(1)(b).

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Last updated 8 May 2023

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