Freedom of Information
What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (‘the Act') gives members of the public a general right of access to documents held by Council. The term ‘document' is broad and includes written documents, whether printed or in electronic form; photographs; letters; reports; maps; audio and video recordings. A Freedom of Information Application Form is available for download below.
You can apply for access to:
- Documents about your personal affairs, regardless of the age of the documents
- Documents held by Council not older than 1 January 1989.
Do I need to use FOI to access documents?
Many documents are available outside the requirements of the FOI Act. In these instances the request will not be processed under FOI.
Information which you may obtain without an FOI application includes information which is publicly available such as on a public register, and documents which are available for purchase.
If you require documents for a court hearing or litigation, it is recommended that you speak to your legal advisor about other methods available to gain access to documents in those circumstances.
What information may not be available?
The Act allows Council to refuse access to certain documents. These documents are often called ‘exempt' documents. You may be refused access to an entire document or a document with exempt information deleted.
Examples of exempt documents include:
- internal working documents
- law enforcement documents
- documents covered by legal professional privilege, such as legal advice
- documents containing personal information about other people
- documents containing business, commercial or financial information
- confidential documents or documents which are covered by secrecy provisions in other legislation
Submitting an FOI application
When submitting an FOI application:
- your application must be in writing and must be accompanied by a non-refundable fee of $27.90 (fee applicable from 1 July 2015)
- clearly describe the documents that you are seeking access to
- it is recommended you identify a time period and the type of documents you are seeking to access, for example ‘Correspondence between A and B from 1 January 2016 to 1 February 2016'.
- try to avoid phrases like ‘all documents in relation to' and ‘including but not limited to' (If your request is quite broad, you run the risk of being charged for documents you do not require access to).
Forward your application to:
Freedom of Information Officer
Hobsons Bay City Council
P O Box 21
ALTONA VIC 3018
How long will it take to process an FOI application?
Council has 45 days from the receipt of a valid application to make a decision on that application. However, the potential release of documents may take longer than 45 days. This will depend on whether or not the request clearly identifies the specific documents sought, whether access charges apply, whether the necessary consultation and notification provisions of the Act are required to be undertaken and if there are any appeals to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).
Fees and Charges
In addition to the $27.90 application fee, charges may apply for searching, retrieving, copying of documents and supervising and inspection of documents.
Costs that may apply include:
- Search charges - $20.40 per hour or part of an hour, rounded to the nearest 10 cents
- Supervision charges - $20.91 per hour calculated per quarter hour or part of a quarter hour, rounded to the nearest 10 cents
- Photocopying - 20 cents per A4 page (black and white). Other charges will apply for documents larger than A4 or which are produced in colour.
- Providing access in a form other than photocopying – reasonable costs incurred by Council in providing access
Please note, all fees and charges are exempt from GST.
Processing your FOI application
Once Council receives your request; the Freedom of Information Officer will:
- determine if it is a valid request
- write to you and acknowledge receipt of your request
- Conduct a search of Council's Electronic Document Management System and any other electronic or hard copy records held by Council
- Remove irrelevant documents or sections of documents in accordance with the Act
- Consider whether any exemptions under the Act could prevent the disclosure of documents or parts of documents
- Consult with external organisations where required
- Notify any individuals about the potential release of their personal information where required
- Collate the documents and make any redactions that may be required
- Prepare a decision letter which explains the documents to be released in full or in part, documents that could not be located and any exemptions that have been applied.
FOI Request response time
Under the Act, Council has 45 days to process a valid request. This commences from the day Council receives a valid request and application fee.
If it becomes apparent that the access charges associated with the request are likely to exceed $50.00, Council will write to you and seek a deposit. You will be asked if you wish to continue with the application.
Appeals and Review
If you are not satisfied with the decision made by the FOI Officer, you have the right to request a review. This must be in writing and within 28 days of receiving the decision and should be addressed to:
Freedom of Information Commissioner
Office of the Freedom of Information Commissioner
PO BOX 24274
Melbourne, VIC, 3001
Further information regarding the appeal process, and functions of the FOI Commissioner can be found on the Freedom of Information Commissioner website.
If you are not satisfied with the Freedom of Information (FOI) Commissioner's review decision, you have the right to appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) within 60 days of receiving the Commissioner's decision.
Please contact Council's Freedom of Information Officer on (03) 9932 1000 if you have any further questions concerning FOI at Hobsons Bay City Council.
For further information regarding the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (‘the Act') you can visit the Department of Justice's Freedom of Information website.