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Frequently asked questions – Agencies

Document is a general term used to describe information held by Ministers and agencies. A document can be:

  • a document in writing
  • a photograph
  • a book
  • a map or plan
  • a graph
  • a drawing
  • an audio recording or video recording
  • a labelling and index systems
  • a computer document, file or spreadsheet
  • any words, figures, letters or symbols which contain meaning

Although many documents held by Ministers and agencies are stored digitally and are therefore easily accessible, some documents are held in hard copy (i.e. on paper, video, audio reel etc.). These documents are often housed in secondary storage facilities away from the Ministerial or agency offices.

An applicant is entitled to access a document unless the document is exempt. However, if it is possible to release a document with exempt material deleted, an agency is obliged to do so if the applicant so wishes.

While documents should be released with exempt material deleted wherever practicable this should not be done if the document as released would then be meaningless, misleading or unintelligible. More than one exemption may apply to a single document.

More information about the exemptions can be found here.

Publication of notice of decision

Publishing ‘de-identified’ notices of decisions made by the Information Commissioner is in line with the Information Commissioner’s aim to promote understanding and acceptance by agencies and the public of the FOI Act and its object.

The publication of notices of decisions also aims to promote transparency of OVIC’s regulatory role and ensure consistency in decisions.

Yes. Many other states already publish FOI review decisions online, including the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner.

Decisions will be published on the OVIC website and the Australasian Legal Information Institute (AustLII) website. AustLII is a free online database of Australian legal information.

Yes, all notices of decision for review applications received by OVIC on or after 1 January 2019 will be published in de-identified form.

From 1 July 2019.

Yes. From 1 January 2019, OVIC has told agencies and applicants in our correspondence that decisions will be published.

Information on the pending publication of notices of decision has also been publicly available on the OVIC website since the start of 2019.

Personal information, such as names, dates of birth and addresses, will be removed in the de-identified decision. Agency and OVIC reference numbers will also be removed.

Your Agency’s names will be published.

Your Agency’s FOI reference number will be removed from the decision prior to publication.

No. The details of any Agency’s FOI decision maker or other FOI officers will not be published. OVIC does not name agency decision makers or FOI officers in its decisions.

  • If the applicant is an organisation, the name of that organisation will generally be published (e.g. a media organisation or community action group);
  • The name of the Agency;
  • The decision outcomes; and
  • The reasoning behind the decision.

Documents associated with decisions will not be published by OVIC.

Descriptions of documents and/or general references to them will be included to improve transparency within the decision-making process and to provide clear reasons for the decision.

Yes. Both the agency and the applicant will receive the notice of decision directly from OVIC when a formal review application is finalised. This will occur prior to publication and all parties will be told that the decision will shortly be published, in de-identified form. More detailed information on the review process can be found here.

Decisions will not be published earlier than five (5) business days after the date that the decision was sent out to the agency and the applicant.

Agencies are encouraged to raise any questions about the decision with OVIC as soon as possible after receiving the decision.

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