The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) provides members of the public with a legal right of access to documents held by Council. Members of the public are entitled to seek access to:
• Documents about their personal affairs, regardless of the age of the documents.
• Documents held by a Council, not older than 1 January 1989.
The FOI Act does not apply to documents which are available for a fee as part of a public register or are documents which are available for purchase.
The term 'document' is broad and includes information in many formats, whether printed or in electronic form, photographs, letters, maps, film, reports, audio and video recordings.
The protection of the public interest and private and business affairs may cause some documents to be exempted from access.
Freedom of Information Act 1982 - Part II Statements
Wyndham City Council (Council) is one of over 900 local and State government bodies in Victoria that are subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982(the Act). Members of the public may, subject to certain exceptions and exemptions, obtain access to documents in the possession of Council by lodging a written application with a description of the documents sought.
Freedom of Information (FOI) is one of several ways to gain access to Council held documents. The FOI Act sets out a number of exemptions in which Council may refuse a person access to the documents that have been requested. The main exceptions are documents which; affect the personal affairs of another person, are commercially confidential; would undermine law enforcement or the administration of the law; or which contain information supplied in confidence or affect legal proceedings.
There are other ways to access Council documents these are detailed below.
Part II of the FOI Act requires agencies to publish relevant information on an annual basis so as to assist members of the public to direct their FOI requests to the most appropriate agency and also to define the types of documents being sought. These include:
- the organisational structure, functions and responsibilities;
- how documents are stored and categorised;
- key decision makers and the different pieces of legislation that determined the responsibilities of Council;
- information that is publicly available ; and
- how to obtain access to documents when an FOI request is required.
Making a valid request
Under section 17 of the FOI Act, a request must meet the following requirements to be valid:
• your request must be in writing by completing the Freedom of Information application form and accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of $31.80.
• provide sufficient information to enable the documents to be identified.
Where possible this should include the approximate date range of the documents sought, if known.
If paying the application fee would cause you hardship, you may ask us to waive or reduce it. You can do so by providing a proof of hardship such as, a copy of your current Health Care Card or Pension Card.
All hardcopy applications for access to information under the FOI Act are to be addressed to:
The Freedom of Information Officer,
Wyndham City Council,
P O Box 197, WERRIBEE VIC 3030
On receipt of a valid request (including payment), the FOI Officer has 30 days to respond to the applicant with a decision. Under the Act, the period may be extended by 15 days if consultation is required under certain sections of the FOI Act. Further extensions of the period can be sought with agreement by the applicant for not more than 30 days at a time. Where a decision is made to deny or defer access, the applicant will be notified in writing of the reasons for the denial and the procedures available to appeal the decision.
Under the FOI Act, Council may deny access to ‘exempt’ documents. Examples of ‘exempt’ documents include:
• confidential matters considered by Council
• law enforcement documents
• some internal working documents
• documents covered by legal professional privilege, such as legal advice
• documents obtained in confidence or containing personal information about other people
• documents containing "Commercial in-Confidence" information or trade secrets
Where an application for access is granted, costs may be incurred by the applicant (in addition to the application fee) to access the documents. These charges are levied under with the Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 2014 and relate to:
• Search charges - $23.85 per hour or part of an hour
• Inspection supervision charges - $5.96 per quarter hour; 15 to 30 minutes = $11.93; 45 minutes to 1 hour = $23.85
• Photocopying charges - 20 cents per black and white A4 page. Colour copies and paper sizes other than A4 are set at a reasonable cost incurred by Council in providing the copy.
Where it is anticipated that the costs will exceed $50.00, the applicant will be advised and requested to pay a deposit. The applicant will also be asked if they wish to continue with the request or narrow the terms/scope of their request to reduce costs.
For further information please contact Council’s FOI Officer.