Making a complaint
When can a complaint be made?
Complaints can be made about Ministers and agencies. Below lists when a complaint can be made. You can also view our guide on the complaints process.
You can complain about an action taken, or failed to be taken, by an agency when performing its functions or meeting its obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act). This may include:
- a delay in handling your request;
- a decision that a requested document does not exist or cannot be located; or
- an action taken or failed to be taken by a principal officer in the performance or purported performance of their functions and obligations under Part IB (Professional Standards – not yet published or in force) or Part II (Publication of certain documents and information).
You can also complain about certain actions taken or failed to be taken by a Minister in relation to a request. This may include:
- a delay in handling your request;
- a decision that a requested document does not exist or cannot be found;
- a decision to defer giving access to documents; or
- a decision to release personal or business affairs information.
A complaint must be made within 60 days of the conduct you are complaining about, unless the delay was due to an action of the agency or Minister.
How to make a complaint?
You can submit your complaint by email or post. We prefer email where possible. A complaint must:
- be in writing;
- clearly set out the nature of the complaint; and
- identify the agency or Minister the subject of the complaint.
We encourage you to use our complaint form to ensure you provide us with all the information we require. When submitting your complaint to us, please include:
- a copy of any request you made to the agency;
- if the agency made a decision, a copy of the agency’s decision letter; and
- any other relevant background information.
If someone is making a complaint on your behalf (e.g. a solicitor), you must give them written authorisation to do. This must be provided with your complaint along with a certified copy of your photo identification.
You can send your complaint form and supporting documents to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can send your complaint to:
Victorian Information Commissioner
Freedom of Information Complaints
PO Box 24274
Frequently asked questions
Is every complaint accepted?
We may decide not to accept a complaint, or may dismiss a complaint at any time. We may decide to do so if:
- your complaint is not appropriate in the circumstances;
- your complaint is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance or not made in good faith;
- the actions you are complaining about were not actions taken under, or do not involve the FOI Act;
- you have the right to complain to another person or body and you have not done so (note that we can also refer your complaint to another more appropriate person or complaint body);
- you fail to cooperate with us in dealing with your complaint; or
- we are unable to contact you after reasonable attempts.
A complaint must also be dismissed if the issues raised in the complaint should be dealt with as a review of the decision under the FOI Act instead.
If your complaint is dismissed, we will send you a letter explaining why. A copy of this letter will also be provided to the agency or Minster that you made a complaint about.
How we can try to resolve your complaint
Our approach to resolving complaints is with as little formality and technicality as possible.
This means that the use of a legal representative is not required when making a complaint.
We will contact you in writing to advise you if your complaint has been accepted, or if we need any further documents or information.
We ask that you respond to our requests for information as promptly as possible. We are committed to assisting you in resolving your complaint.
We also ask that you treat our complaints officers with courtesy and respect at all times.
Once your complaint has been accepted, we:
- must notify the relevant agency or Minister and provide them a copy of your complaint;
- may notify any third party if we think their rights or interests may be affected by your complaint;
- may make preliminary inquiries or consult with you and the agency or Minister to determine the facts and issues of your complaint or to ascertain whether the complaint can be resolved informally; and
- must investigate your complaint in private, which means that information relating to the complaint will be kept confidential, unless disclosure is necessary for the purposes of the investigation.
How long will it take to resolve my complaint?
While there is no time limit for the resolution of a complaint, we will try to deal with and, if possible, resolve your complaint as efficiently as possible.
Informal resolution of complaints
If we determine that a complaint can be resolved informally, we must take reasonable steps to resolve the complaint. An example of an informal resolution may involve an agency providing you with an apology or acknowledgement of its action or inaction, or a more detailed explanation for an action taken or not taken.
If you are satisfied with the agency’s response to your complaint, we will request your written consent to withdraw the complaint, or your agreement that it has been resolved.
If you are not satisfied with the agency’s response we may ask you to provide a further explanation as to what you are seeking, or if we believe it to be relevant, to provide additional information or documentation to assist us to resolve your complaint.
If we consider an agency’s response to your complaint to be reasonable in the circumstances, and we do not consider it appropriate to take your complaint any further, we may, at any time, dismiss your complaint.
Conciliation process for complaints
If your complaint cannot be resolved informally, and it is not dismissed, we must try to conciliate the complaint between you and the agency or Minister, with the aim of reaching an agreement to resolve the complaint.
If your complaint is successfully resolved, the conciliation outcome will be recorded in a written agreement and a copy provided to you and the agency or Minister.
If conciliation is not successful
If your complaint is not resolved through conciliation, you and the agency or Minister will be given a reasonable opportunity to make a written submission about the complaint.
After considering all relevant documents and information, the Information Commissioner or their delegate will decide the outcome of your complaint and send you written notice of our decision to do one or more of the following:
- dismiss your complaint;
- determine that it is not possible to deal with the complaint informally and, if further information is required, the Information Commissioner may require the agency or Minister to produce documents or attend before the Commissioner to answer questions;
- make recommendations to the agency or Minister in relation to the complaint, including recommendations for improvements to policies, procedures and systems for compliance with the FOI Act; or
- refer your complaint to another person or body if we consider the complaint would be more appropriately dealt with by that person or body (you may also have the right to complain to another person or complaint body if you have not done so).