Draft Professional Standards
Part IB of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Vic) (FOI Act) provides the Information Commissioner with the power to develop professional standards relating to the conduct of agencies in performing functions under the FOI Act, and how agencies administer and operate the FOI Act.
The professional standards prescribe how agencies must discharge certain obligations under the FOI Act. They will be supported by a suite of guidance materials to assist and support agencies in meeting their obligations under the new professional standards.
What’s been happening
Draft professional standards have been developed in accordance with Part IB of the FOI Act and they were available for public consultation for six weeks. Thank you to those who provided submissions. OVIC will publish a number of submissions that were received on this page in the coming weeks.
The Information Commissioner must consider all reasonable submissions provided during public consultation. Following this, the Information Commissioner will publish the professional standards on OVIC’s website, as well as the Government Gazette.
The professional standards will state when they come into effect – which OVIC anticipates will be later in 2019.
Frequently asked questions
What is the consultation period on the draft standards?
OVIC is required to invite submissions on the draft professional standards.
Consultation on the draft standards is open until 3 May 2019. A copy of the draft standards and the feedback form are available above and on the Engage Victoria website.
Where can I send my submission?
Please send all submissions to OVIC directly.
You can do this by sending us an email at email@example.com sending us a letter at:
Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
PO Box 24274
Melbourne VIC 3001
Do I need to provide my personal information to make a submission?
No – you do not need to provide any personal information to OVIC when you make a submission. This means you may remain anonymous if you would like to.
OVIC does not need to know your name or any other information that may identify you in order to consider a submission. However, you can choose to provide this information if you like.
If you would like to remain anonymous, you may consider sending OVIC your submission by Australia Post in case your email address contains your name or other information that may identify you.
Will feedback be provided?
At the conclusion of the consultation period OVIC will publish a summary document with consolidated feedback on the key themes raised by submissions.
What are the professional standards?
Part IB of the FOI Act outlines that the Information Commissioner may develop professional standards relating to the conduct of agencies in performing functions under the FOI Act, and the administration and operation of the FOI Act by agencies.
The standards are a legislative instrument that outline obligations that agencies subject to the FOI Act must comply with.
What will the professional standards do?
The purpose of the standards is to ensure agencies administer the FOI Act in a way that is consistent with the object of the FOI Act and Parliament’s intention that the maximum amount of information held by government be made available to the public promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost.
The standards are intended to clarify, build on and modernise how agencies administer the FOI Act.
The primary goals of the standards are to:
- ensure that agencies administer the FOI Act consistent with its object in section 3 and Parliament’s intent that agencies make the maximum amount of government information available to the public promptly and inexpensively;
- set the minimum standard for how agencies administer the FOI Act; and
- provide clarity on how to administer parts of the FOI Act.
Why are the professional standards necessary?
The standards aim to promote greater public access to government held information, ensuring that agencies administer the FOI Act in a manner consistent with Parliament’s intent and the object of the FOI Act.
Further, the FOI Act predates the use of many common modern technologies such as email and online payments. The standards aim to make the FOI process more accessible and compatible with modern technology and community expectations.
This will improve experiences for FOI applicants when they make an FOI request. The standards will also assist agencies in administering the FOI Act by providing clarity on parts of the legislation and providing tools to assist them in processing requests.
Who must comply with the professional standards?
The standards will apply to all Victorian government agencies and bodies subject to the FOI Act. This includes government departments, statutory authorities, public hospitals, councils, public schools, TAFEs and universities.
Section 6W(1) of the FOI Act states the principal officer of an agency, and any officer or employee of the agency concerned in the operation of the FOI Act, must comply with the standards.
How are the professional standards structured?
OVIC has developed 11 groups of standards arranged by theme – there are 35 standards in total.
The standards are broadly structured according to the steps taken by an agency to process an FOI request.
Each group of standards contains:
- a heading describing the theme of the group of standards;
- a statement outlining the general principles and sections of the FOI Act that the standards are based on; and
- the standards which set out agency obligations.
The heading and statement do not form part of the standards themselves but provide context to the standards that follow. They also link the relevant standards to the FOI Act.
What are the professional standards based on?
To inform the development of the standards, OVIC:
- researched FOI regimes in Australia and internationally;
- considered the themes of OVIC’s review and complaint data;
- conducted initial consultation with agencies that process the largest number of FOI requests every year and invited submissions to inform the development of the standards; and
- conducted consultation on an early draft of the standards with the Public Access Agency Reference Group.
What resources will support the professional standards?
OVIC will publish a suite of guidance materials and templates to assist agencies in administering the FOI Act and to support compliance with the standards. This will include a refresh of current OVIC guidance materials. These resources will be published throughout 2019.
When will these professional standards take effect?
OVIC will determine when the standards will take effect following public consultation. It is OVIC’s intention that the standards will come into effect on a date later than the date on which the final standards are published.
Where can I go if I have further questions?
If you have further questions about the draft standards, please contact OVIC at firstname.lastname@example.org.