Freedom of Information

Your rights

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives any person the right to

  • access copies of documents (except exempt documents) we hold;
  • ask for information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading; and
  • seek a review of our decision not to allow you access to a document or not to amend your personal record.

You can ask to access any document we hold. We can refuse access to some documents, or parts of documents that are exempt. Exempt documents may include those relating to national security, documents containing material obtained in confidence and Cabinet documents, or other matters set out in the FOI Act.

Documents available outside the FOI Act

You can get certain information, including personal information we hold about you, without following a formal process under the FOI Act. You should check the information we have published under the Information Publication Scheme and our FOI disclosure log to see if what you are seeking is already publicly available.

How to make a request

Your request must:

  • be in writing
  • state that the request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act
  • provide sufficient information concerning the document(s) to assist us to identify the document(s) and process your request
  • specify how notices under the FOI Act may be sent to you.

No application fee is required.

Where to send your FOI request

You can send your FOI request:

  • By post to:

The Freedom of Information (FOI) Coordinator
Department of Social Services (DSS)
Public Law Branch, TOP CW2
PO Box 7576
Canberra Business Centre ACT 2610

Delivered in person to a DSS office.

Contact details – National Office

If you require assistance with your request, please contact the FOI Coordinator on (02) 6146 3181 or by email at foi@dss.gov.au.

Fees and charges

There is no application fee for an FOI request.

There are no processing charges for requests for access to documents containing only personal information about you. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. These charges are available on Comlaw's website

If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. Where the estimated charge is between $20 and $100, we may ask you to pay a deposit of $20, or where the estimated charge exceeds $100, we may ask you to pay a 25% deposit before we process your request.

You can ask for the charge to be waived or reduced for any reason, including financial hardship or on the grounds of public interest. If you do so, you should explain your reasons and you may need to provide some evidence.

What you can expect from us

We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will also give you an estimate of the charges that apply to your request. We will give you our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended. If a document contains information about a third party, we will need to consult them and may need to extend the time to give you our decision by another 30 days. We may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 days if your request is complex.

If you disagree with our decision

When we have made a decision about your FOI request, we will send you a letter explaining our decision and your review and appeal rights.

You can ask for the following decisions to be reviewed:

  • if we refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
  • if we impose a charge
  • if we refuse to change or annotate information about you that you claim is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading.

A third party who disagrees with our decision to give you documents that contain information about them can also ask for our decision to be reviewed.

Internal review

You can request in writing that we reconsider our decision through an internal review. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.

Information Commissioner review

You can ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or our decision on internal review within 60 days of the date of decision (or 30 days after you are notified if you are an affected third party). The Information Commissioner can affirm or vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. More information is available at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website at www.oaic.gov.au.

Complaints

If you are unhappy with the way we have handled your request, you can complain to the Australian Information Commissioner who may investigate our actions. More information is available on the OAIC's website  The Commonwealth Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about our actions. However, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Information Commissioner will consult to avoid the same matter being investigated twice.

FOI Disclosure log

Full details: FOI Disclosure log.

More information

If you require more information, please contact the FOI Contact Officer on (02) 6146 3181 or by email at foi@dss.gov.au or by Fax on (02) 6204 9445.

Certain documents that we have released under the FOI Act can be obtained at our FOI Disclosure log page. Information is available here about DSS's Information Publication Scheme.

Further information about the FOI Act is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner's website.

 

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