Commonwealth departments and authorities must release official documents under Freedom of Information (FOI), within time limits, subject to exceptions. Inspection is free but copies are provided for a fee. Reviews and appeals are available.
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (“Freedom of Information Act”) gives the right of access to official documents of Commonwealth departments and authorities.
The Procedures Advice Manual and all Policy Control Instructions used by Home Affairs are available at Home Affairs’ offices. They may be examined free of charge, or copies of the required pages may be purchased. Documents held by Home Affairs on a particular file, or general files or any other identifiable document, may be requested.
To request documents, write to Home Affairs’ Freedom of Information Unit, stating that the request is made under the Freedom of Information Act (for further details, see “Contacts”). Home Affairs is required to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a decision is made upon the request as soon as possible, and no later than 30 days after it was received. If it is felt that information so obtained is inaccurate or otherwise may mislead Home Affairs in its actions, a request may be made to change the record. A form is available from Home Affairs for this purpose. Currently, Home Affairs charges no fee for personal files.
If you are dissatisfied with Home Affairs’ decision on your freedom of information request, you may seek an internal review, which means that the request is looked at again by a more senior officer of Home Affairs who was not involved in the original decision. The officer may reverse, alter or confirm the original decision. An internal review form is available from Home Affairs. If you wish to have a decision reviewed in this manner, you need to ask for an internal review within 28 days of receiving a reply to your original request and in turn you must be given a new decision within 14 days.
If you are dissatisfied with the internal review, you may seek an independent review by AAT (for more information, see Appealing government and administrative decisions). The Commonwealth Ombudsman may also investigate complaints about Home Affairs’ actions in handling freedom of information requests (see Taking a problem to an ombudsman).