FOI Fact Sheet 12
Freedom of information – Your review rights
If you disagree with the decision of an Australian Government agency or minister under the
Freedom of Information Act 1982
(the FOI Act), you can ask for the decision to be reviewed.
You may want to seek review if you sought certain documents and were not given full access, if
someone is to be granted access to information that is about you, if the agency has informed you
that it will impose a charge for processing your request or if your application to have your personal
information amended was not accepted. There are two ways you can ask for review of a decision:
internal review by the agency, and external review by the Australian Information Commissioner.
Is a review the same as a complaint?
If an agency makes an FOI decision that you
No. The Information Commissioner also
disagree with, you can ask the agency to review
investigates complaints about agency actions
its decision. The review will be carried out by
under the FOI Act. However, if you are
a different agency officer, usually someone at a
complaining that an agency decision is wrong,
more senior level. There is no charge for internal
it will be treated as an application for a review.
Your matter will be treated as a complaint when
a review would not be practical or would not
You must apply within 30 days of being notified
address your concerns (for example, if you
of the decision, unless the agency extended the
were not consulted about a document that
application time. You should contact the agency
contains your personal information before
if you wish to seek an extension. The agency
it was released). For more information see
must make a review decision within 30 days. If it
FOI Fact Sheet 13 Freedom of information
does not do so, its original decision is considered
– How to make a complaint
to be affirmed.
Do I have to go through the agency’s internal
Internal review is not available if a minister or
review process first?
the chief officer of the agency made the decision
No. You may apply directly to the Information
Commissioner. However, going through the
Review by the Information Commissioner
agency’s internal review process gives the
agency the opportunity to reconsider its initial
decision, and your needs may be met more
independent office holder who can review the
quickly without undergoing an external review
decisions of agencies and ministers under the
Do I have to pay?
No. The Information Commissioner’s review is
FOI Fact Sheet 12 – Your review rights
How do I apply?
Commissioner, the FOI Commissioner or the
Privacy Commissioner can make a decision at
You must apply in writing and you can lodge
the end of the review.
your application in one of the following ways:
Does the Information Commissioner have to
review my matter?
Post: GPO Box 2999, Canberra ACT 2601
Fax: +61 2 9284 9666
No. The Information Commissioner may decide
Email: [email address]
not to review an application that is frivolous,
In person: Level 3, 25 National Circuit
misconceived or lacking in substance, or if you
Forrest, ACT, or at
fail to cooperate with the process or cannot
Level 8, Piccadilly Tower,
be contacted after reasonable attempts. You
133 Castlereagh Street, Sydney,
cannot appeal against that decision.
Alternatively the Information Commissioner
An application form is available on the website
may decide that the Administrative Appeals
at www.oaic.gov.au. Your application should
Tribunal (AAT) would be better placed to review
include a copy of the notice of the decision that
the matter, and if so, will advise you of the
you are objecting to (if one was provided), and
procedure for applying to the AAT. This will not
your contact details. You should also set out why
you are objecting to the decision.
Can I withdraw my application?
Can I get help in completing the application?
Yes. An application can be withdrawn at any
Yes. The Information Commissioner’s staff are
time before the Information Commissioner
available to help you with your application if
makes a decision.
anything is unclear.
What happens in the review process?
When do I have to apply?
The review process is designed to be as informal
If you are objecting to a decision to refuse
as possible. The Information Commissioner
access to documents, impose a charge or refuse
may contact you or any of the other parties to
to amend a document, you must apply to the
clarify matters and seek more information. The
Information Commissioner within 60 days of
Information Commissioner may also ask the
being given notice of the decision. If you are
agency or minister to provide reasons for their
objecting to a decision to grant access to another
decision if the reasons given were inadequate.
person, you must apply within 30 days of being
notified of that decision.
Most reviews will be made on the basis of the
submissions and papers provided by the parties.
You can ask the Information Commissioner for
Sometimes the Information Commissioner may
an extension of time to apply, and this may
decide to hold a hearing if one of the parties
be granted if the Information Commissioner
applies. Parties may participate in a hearing by
considers it is reasonable in the circumstances.
telephone. If confidential matters are raised, the
hearing may be held partly or wholly in private.
Who will conduct the review?
Will there be other parties to the review?
Staff of the Information Commissioner will
conduct the review. Only the Information
There may be. The Information Commissioner
can join other parties who are affected by the
FOI Fact Sheet 12 – Your review rights
application. For example, if you are objecting
Will the decision be made public?
to someone else being granted access to
information that concerns you, that person may
Yes. The Information Commissioner will publish
be joined in the review.
decisions on the website. Exempt material
(that is, material that is not released) will not
Can someone else represent me?
be included. Nor will the name of the review
applicant, unless that person requests otherwise
Yes, including a lawyer. However, the Information
or there is a special reason to publish it.
Commissioner prefers the process to be as
informal and cost-effective as possible and does
What can I do if I disagree with the
not encourage legal representation.
Information Commissioner’s review
Will the Information Commissioner look at all
documents, including ones that are claimed
You can appeal to the AAT. The Information
to be exempt?
Commissioner will not be a party to those
proceedings. The fee for lodging an AAT
Yes. The Information Commissioner’s review
application is $777 (at November 2010),
is a fresh decision, so all the relevant material
although there are exemptions for health care
must be examined, including documents that
and pension concession card holders and the
the agency or minister has declined to release.
AAT can waive the fee on financial hardship
Developments that have occurred since the
original decision may also be considered.
FOI applications made before
What powers does the Information
1 November 2010
The Information Commissioner can only review
While the review process is designed to be
an agency’s or minister’s FOI decision if you
informal, the Information Commissioner has
made your FOI request on or after 1 November
formal powers to require anyone to produce
2010. If you made your FOI request before
information or documents, to compel anyone to
1 November, even if the decision was made
attend to answer questions and to take an oath
after that date, the review process is different.
or affirmation that their answers will be true.
You must first ask the agency for internal review
An agency or minister can also be ordered to
of the decision. You may then appeal to the AAT
undertake further searches for documents.
if you are not satisfied with the decision.
What decisions can the Information
The information provided in this fact sheet is of a general
nature. It is not a substitute for legal advice.
After reviewing a decision, the Information
Commissioner must do one of three things:
• set the decision aside and make a fresh
For further information
1300 363 992
• affirm the decision, or
: [email address]
• vary the decision.
GPO Box 2999, Canberra ACT 2601
or visit our website at
The Information Commissioner will give reasons
for the decision.
FOI Fact Sheet 12 – Your review rights