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Freedom of Information (FOI)

What is FOI?

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act):

  • gives everyone the right to access copies of documents (except exempt documents) held by the Australian Government and its agencies
  • requires Government agencies to make FOI decisions and provide access to any documents released online in a FOI disclosure log
  • requires Government agencies to publish a broad range of information under the Information Publication Scheme (IPS).

How to make an FOI request

Your FOI request must:

  • be in writing
  • state that the request is made under the FOI Act
  • provide enough information about the document(s) you wish to access so that we can process your request
  • provide a method by which we can reply, for example an email or postal address.

To request access to documents from Health either:

If you require assistance with your request, please contact us.

Requests for personal medical information

Personal health records are generally held by your health professional, or by a hospital.

Public hospital records can be requested directly from them — please refer to the state or territory where you were treated. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) has information on how to request your records from the private health sector.

Fees

Submitting an FOI request or a request to access documents that only contain your personal information is free.

We may charge a processing fee for other requests. In these cases, we will give you an estimate of the fee and outline your options.

The most common charges are:

FOI fees

Activity item Charge

Search and retrieval: time spent searching for or retrieving a document

$15.00 per hour

Decision making: time spent in deciding to grant or refuse a request, including examining documents, consulting with other parties, making deletions or notifying any interim or final decision on the request

First 5 hours: Nil

Subsequent hours: $20 per hour

Electronic production: retrieving and collating information stored on a computer or on like equipment

An amount not exceeding the actual cost incurred in producing the copy

Transcript: preparing a transcript from a sound recording, shorthand or similar medium

$4.40 per page of transcript

Photocopy: a photocopy of a written document

$0.10 per page

Other copies: a copy of a written document other than a photocopy

$4.40 per page

Replay: replaying a sound or film tape

An amount not exceeding the actual cost incurred in replaying

Inspection: supervision by an agency officer of an applicant’s inspection of documents or hearing or viewing an audio or visual recording

$6.25 per half hour (or part thereof)

Delivery: posting or delivering a copy of a document at the applicant’s request

Cost of postage or delivery

Source: OAIC charges framework

How we process FOI requests

We will tell you within 14 days that we have received your request. We will give you our decision and the reasons for that decision within 30 days unless that time has been extended.

You may be asked to provide evidence of your identity with your application. If you are seeking documents on behalf of an individual, you will need to provide a letter of authority from them.

Sometimes, for complex requests, we will try to negotiate a longer time with you or the Australian Information Commissioner. If we have to consult with someone else – for example, if you ask for a document that contains information about them – we have a further 30 days to tell you our decision.

Reviews and complaints

If you disagree with our decision about your FOI request, you can:

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 Department. We will advise you of our new decision within 30 days of receiving your request.

You can also ask the Australian Information Commissioner to review our original decision or the decision as a result of the internal review within 60 days of the date of decision. More information is available from the OAIC.

FOI disclosure log

Our disclosure log lists the documents provided in response to FOI requests for the current financial year. These are published within 10 days of their release.

You can view our older FOI disclosures in the Australian Government Web Archive.

Under the FOI Act, we do not need to publish the following information in the disclosure log, if publishing that information would be unreasonable:

Contact

foi [at] health.gov.au
Postal address: 
Freedom of Information Coordinator, FOI Unit, Department of Health
GPO Box 9848
Canberra ACT 2601
Last updated: 
19 November 2018