Applying for a review of a decision
When to apply for a review
You can apply for a review when a Minister or agency makes a decision under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act) to:
- refuse access in full or in part to a document;
- refuse to amend a personal record;
- defer access to a document; or
- not waive or reduce an application fee.
An application for a review must be made to us within 28 days of you receiving the decision of the Minister or agency.
For further information on the freedom of information review process as an applicant, go to Guidance and resources.
How to apply for a review
You can submit your application for review by email or post. We prefer email where possible. An application for review must:
- be in writing;
- identify the agency or Minister concerned; and
- identify the decision you would like reviewed.
We encourage you to use our review application form to ensure you provide us with all the information we require. When submitting you application to us, please include:
- a copy of the request you made to the agency;
- a copy of the agency’s decision letter to you; and
- any other relevant background information.
If someone is applying for a review on your behalf (e.g. a solicitor), you must give them written authorisation to do. This must be provided with your review application along with a certified copy of your photo identification.
You can send your review application form and supporting documents to firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can send your application to:
Victorian Information Commissioner
Freedom of Information Reviews
PO Box 24274
Frequently asked questions
What happens after an application is submitted?
Once we receive your application for review and assess that it is within our jurisdiction, we will notify the agency. We will ask the agency for a copy of any documents that are subject to review, a copy of your original FOI request, and any other information we need.
After the agency provides us with copies of the documents, a summary of the background to your case will be prepared. We may need to contact the agency to clarify the exemptions applied, the range of documents involved, and other issues.
It may take a few weeks for our Office to receive the information we need before your review progresses to the next stage.
Where possible, our Office will seek to resolve your review informally. If it cannot be resolved, your matter will be assigned to a Case Manager, who may contact you if they need further information from you.
The Information Commissioner can decide not to accept an application, or dismiss a review at any stage, if the application is frivolous, vexatious, misconceived, lacking in substance or not made in good faith.
Time to conduct the review
We will make every effort to progress your review as efficiently as possible. If after 30 days from the date of your application, your review has not been resolved informally and the Information Commissioner has not yet notified you of a formal decision on your review, you may apply directly to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for a review, instead of awaiting the Information Commissioner’s decision. If you choose not exercise this right, we will continue to progress your review until it is finalised.
When we receive your application for review, we will conduct an initial assessment and provide you with an approximate date by which you can expect us to complete your matter. We may ask you to agree to give our Office longer than 30 days to finalise your review. If you agree to a longer period, you will only be able to seek a review by VCAT once that period has expired.
Delays may be due to –
- the complexity of your case or the large number of documents involved;
- the time we need to communicate with or obtain information from you or the agency; or
- the high volume of review requests to our Office.
Written submissions and information you should tell us
You may make a written submission in support of your application for review. If you make a submission, it will be considered by your Case Manager and may assist in the informal resolution of your review. If the review cannot be resolved informally, the Information Commissioner will consider your submission in making a formal decision on your review, and may refer to your submissions in the final Notice of Decision.
Your written submission is your opportunity to provide more information about your request and why you disagree with the agency’s decision. Please let us know if any parts of your submission are confidential. We suggest you tell us in your written submission:
- whether you are only dissatisfied with the agency’s decision to refuse access to a particular document, or a certain type of information in a document;
- why you are seeking access to the documents;
- why you believe the documents are not exempt and should be released to you – e.g. Do you disagree with the agency’s description of the documents? Do you disagree with what the agency says is the likely impact of releasing certain information
- whether you need information relating to the personal affairs of other individuals that may be in the documents, such as their names, phone numbers, email addresses, or other information from which they may be identified; or alternatively, whether you can provide us with those individuals’ written consent to the release of their information to you;
- whether you would be willing to receive an edited copy of the documents, if the Information Commissioner determines that some of the information in the documents should be deleted because it is exempt or irrelevant to your request; and
- anything else you would like the Information Commissioner to consider as part of the review.
If your review relates to a request to amend information in a document relating to your personal affairs, we suggest you tell us, in your written submission:
- what evidence you can provide that the information you wish to have amended is:
- inaccurate: Why is the information untrue or incorrect?
- incomplete: What specific information is missing?
- out of date: How have the circumstances changed since that time?
- would give a misleading impression: Who would be misled and why?
Review and informal resoultion
Your Case Manager will thoroughly review the documents subject to review, including any material that the agency has not granted you access to, or refused to amend. They will also consider any written submissions that you or the agency have provided to us.
Depending on the number and nature of the documents, and the exemptions applied, this stage of the process can take a significant amount of time. More time may also be required if the Case Manager needs to seek clarification on any issues, from you or the agency.
Where possible, our Office will seek to resolve reviews informally. If the Case Manager considers that it may be possible to reach an agreement between you and the agency, they will try to facilitate that. If an agreement is reached, it may be put in writing so that you and the agency are clear on the outcome.
Alternatively, the agency may decide to reconsider its original decision and may make a new decision. If that happens, the agency will let you know of its intention to do so. An agency has 28 days in which to notify you of its fresh decision. You will still have review rights if you are dissatisfied with the agency’s new decision.
After the Case Manager has reviewed all the material thoroughly, and if your review has not been resolved informally, the Information Commissioner will make a formal, fresh decision on your FOI request. You will be given a Notice of Decision, which sets out the Commissioner’s decision. This new decision replaces the agency’s original decision.
The Commissioner may agree with the agency’s original decision, or may decide that you are to be granted access to further documents, or parts of documents. You will receive a written Notice of Decision that sets out the reasons for the Commissioner’s decision.
If you or the agency are not satisfied with the Commissioner’s decision, you or the agency are entitled to apply to VCAT for review of that decision. You have up to 60 days from the date you receive the Notice of Decision to apply to VCAT for a review.
Where the Commissioner decides to grant you access to information relating to a third party, that third party is also entitled to appeal the decision to VCAT within 60 days.
The Commissioner’s decision on your review does not take effect until after all the relevant review periods noted above expire.