Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 2016 (FOI Act) commenced on 1 January 2018.
The objects of the FOI Act are to:
- provide a right of access to government information unless access to the information would, on balance, be contrary to the public interest
- recognise the importance of public access to government information for the proper working of representative democracy
- enable the public to participate more effectively in government processes and to promote improved decision-making within government
- make the people and bodies that are responsible for governing the ACT more accountable to the public
- ensure that, to the fullest extent possible, government information is freely and publicly available to everyone
- facilitate and promote, promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost, the disclosure of the maximum amount of government information, and
- ensure that personal information held by the ACT is accurate, complete, up-to-date and not misleading.
For further information, see our factsheet: Accessing information under the Freedom of Information Act 2016.
Under the FOI Act, the ACT Ombudsman monitors the FOI scheme and promotes the objects of the Act through a range of statutory functions. Information on each of these functions is provided below:
If you are not satisfied with the decision of an agency or a Minister, you can apply to the Ombudsman for review of the decision. Applications for an Ombudsman review must be in writing - please complete this form: Applying for an Ombudsman Review.
There is no fee for requesting an Ombudsman review.
In most cases, you must apply for an Ombudsman review within 20 working days after the day that notice of the decision was published on the disclosure log.
The Ombudsman has the discretion to allow an application for review made after the 20 working day period.
For more information, please see our factsheet and application form: Applying for an Ombudsman Review.
If you have a complaint about an agency or Minister’s action, or failure to take action, in relation to any of their functions under the FOI Act, you may make a complaint to the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman will consider your concerns and may conduct an investigation into your complaint.
More information about making a complaint to the ACT Ombudsman is available on our website here.
Please note that making a complaint is different to seeking an Ombudsman review of a decision under the FOI Act.
If you are unsure or need assistance, please email email@example.com or phone us on 1300 362 072.
Under the FOI Act, an agency or Minister has 20 working days to process an access application, unless an extension applies.
More information about timeframes can be found in our factsheet: Processing times for decision-makers.
An agency or Minister can ask the applicant for additional time to process the application. Additional time can be sought more than once, unless the timeframe for making the decision has expired.
If an applicant refuses the request for additional time, the agency or Minister can apply to the Ombudsman for an extension of time of up to 15 working days. The agency or Minister must explain how it is not reasonably possible to deal with the application within the available timeframe because it involves a large volume of information or complex and potentially conflicting public interest factors.
For further information and how to apply please see: Factsheet and form: Applying for extensions of time.
Agencies and Ministers must publish open access information.
'Open access information' is defined in the Act and includes information such as:
- functional information
- policy documents, and
- disclosure logs.
The FOI Act gives the Ombudsman the power to issue a declaration that particular government information is open access information and must therefore be made publicly available.
Open access information is usually available on the website of the agency or Minister. We recommend that you refer to the relevant website for the information you are seeking. You can find open access information published by the Ombudsman here.
The Ombudsman has not made any open access information declarations at this time.
The FOI Act gives the Ombudsman the power to make guidelines for the FOI Act.
The Ombudsman has not made any guidelines at this time, but will continue to monitor the operation of the Act. In doing so, the Ombudsman may identify a need to make guidelines on particular issues. When preparing guidelines, the Ombudsman will consult with information officers and other stakeholders.
The Ombudsman will monitor whether:
- agencies and Ministers are making open access information publically available, and
- agencies are acting in a way that is consistent with the expectations set out in the Chief Minister’s annual statement about the Act.
The Ombudsman is required to report on the operation of the FOI Act at the end of each financial year. This report will be given to the Speaker for presentation to the ACT Legislative Assembly.
- ‘AA’ and Transport Canberra and City Services Directorate  ACTOFOI 1 (20 July 2018)
Date published: 25 July 2018
- ‘AB’ and Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate  ACTOFOI 2 (23 August 2018)
Date published : 28 August 2018
- Alistair Coe and Chief Minister, Treasury and Economic Development Directorate  ACTOFOI 3 (28 August 2018)
Date published : 5 September 2018
- Alistair Coe and ACT Health Directorate  ACTOFOI 4 (5 September 2018)
Date published: 7 September 2018
On September 28 it is International Right to Know Day, and we are celebrating the right of every person to obtain access to government held information under the Freedom of Information Act 2016.
The ACT Ombudsman oversees the operations of the Act, working with government agencies and Ministers to ensure the advancement of the objects of the FOI Act. The ACT Ombudsman does this through encouraging good information access practices by agencies, by performing independent reviews of applications for information and by promoting the underlying premise of the FOI Act — to make government information more accessible than ever before.
Join us in viewing the live-stream of The Solomon Lecture on September 24 (11am – 12.30pm AEST) from the comfort of your own home.
Each year, the Queensland Office of the Information Commissioner has a distinguished guest speak to the relevance of freedom of information to our lives in a practical sense. In 2018, Professor Ken Smith, Chief Executive and Dean of the Australian and New Zealand School of Government, will deliver his lecture on the subject of ‘Trust and Transparency’.
For government agencies and ACT organisations, join us in expressing your commitment to the objectives of the FOI Act and the public’s right to access government information!