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  • ask for information we hold about you to be changed or annotated if it is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading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

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.

You can check to see if what you are seeking is already publicly available under our Information Publication Scheme and on our FOI Disclosure Log.

You can get certain information, including personal information we hold about you, without following a formal process under the FOI Act.

Personal Records – Disability Employment Services (DES)

If you are a Disability Employment Services (DES) participant looking for a copy of your personal record, you should contact your DES provider in the first instance. DES providers are required to comply with the DES Grant Agreement (Clause 45) which states the provider must allow participants access to records that contain their personal information and provide them with copies of these records if requested by the participant.

If you have any trouble accessing your file directly from the provider, you can contact:

DESFeedback@dss.gov.au

Please note that by requesting documents directly from the DES team, you are requesting your document under an administrative access arrangement. As this is outside the FOI process, you will not be entitled to review rights under the FOI Act. However, should you be unsatisfied with the documents that are released, you can submit an FOI request.

How to make a FOI 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 them
  • specify how notices under the FOI Act may be sent to you

Where to send your FOI request

You can send your FOI request:

  • by email to: foi@dss.gov.au
  • by post to:
    Freedom of Information Team
    Government and Executive Services Branch
    Department of Social Services (DSS)
    GPO Box 9820
    Canberra ACT 2601
  • in person to a DSS office

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 your personal information. However, processing charges may apply to other requests. The decision to impose charges is governed by particular regulations.

If we decide to impose a charge, we will give you a written estimate and the basis of our calculation. If the charge is above $20, you may be asked to pay a deposit before we process your request. The balance of the charges must be paid before documents are released.

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 any charges that may apply to processing your request. We will provide our decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended.

If a document contains information about a third party, we will need to extend our decision-making time by 30 days to consult that third party. If your request is complex, we may also seek your agreement to extend the time by up to 30 days.

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.

If you disagree with our decision

You can ask for a review if we make the decision to:

  • refuse to give you access to all or part of a document or if we defer giving you access
  • impose a charge
  • 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 a review of our decision.

There are two forms of review: internal review and external review.

Internal review

You can request an internal review of our original decision. An internal review will be conducted by another officer in our agency who did not make the original decision on your FOI request. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your review request. There are no charges for an internal review.

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, vary the decision or substitute a new decision. The Information Commissioner may decide not to conduct a review in certain circumstances. There are no charges for an Australian Information Commissioner review.

More information is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website.

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 Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website.

FOI Disclosure Log

Certain documents that we have released under the FOI Act are available on our FOI Disclosure Log.

Contact details

If you require more information, please contact the FOI team by email at foi@dss.gov.au.

Further information about the FOI Act is available on the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) website.

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