Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation applies to all Australian government agencies, including the Commonwealth and State governments, local government authorities and universities.
The Western Australian Freedom of Information Act 1992 (FOI Act) allows individuals to make an application for access to documents created or held by UWA, or to amend personal information that is contained in University of Western Australia (UWA) documents.
The object of the FOI Act is to:
- enable the public to participate more effectively in governing the State
- make the persons and bodies that are responsible for State and local government more accountable to the public
UWA administers the Act by:
- assisting the public to obtain access to UWA documents
- allowing access to UWA documents to be obtained promptly and at the lowest reasonable cost
- assisting the public to ensure that personal information contained in UWA documents is accurate, complete, up to date and not misleading
This right of access is subject to certain restrictions where there are matters of public or private concern which need to be protected.
You should also pay attention to:
The Information Commissioner
The WA Office of the Information Commissioner (OIC) is established by the FOI Act. The Information Commissioner reports directly to WA Parliament and has responsibility for conducting independent reviews of decisions made by agencies under the FOI Act. Other functions of the OIC include:
- ensuring that agencies are aware of their responsibilities under the FOI Act
- ensuring that members of the public are aware of the FOI Act, and of their rights
- providing assistance to members of the public and agencies on matters relevant to the FOI Act
- recommending legislative or administrative changes to Parliament that would help achieve the objects of the FOI Act
Further FOI information is available from the OIC website.
What can be applied for under the FOI Act
Individuals can make an application under the FOI Act to:
- apply for access to a document held by UWA, and/or
- amend personal information about themselves contained in a document of UWA
A document will be a 'document of UWA' if:
- it is in the possession or under the control of UWA (including documents that UWA is entitled to access), and/or
- it is in the possession or under the control of a UWA staff member in their official capacity
This includes documents that are held by UWA but were created by, or received from, another person or body – for instance, another university or government agency. In some circumstances, UWA may transfer an FOI application to another agency for processing.
Many different types of records are considered to be 'documents' under the FOI Act, including:
- audio tapes
- computer disks
- compact and digital video/versatile discs (CDs and DVDs)
- electronic records
- tape recordings
When an FOI application is necessary
UWA embraces the principle of openness and seeks to provide maximum access to its records. Therefore, a formal application under the FOI Act is only required if you encounter difficulties in obtaining access to the document(s) you seek.
In general, UWA will meet reasonable requests for access to information, or for amendment of information, without the need for an FOI application. Reference to the University's policy on Records Management and Privacy may assist in determining if a document is readily available or not.
Access procedures under the FOI Act (Section 6) do not apply to documents that are:
- already available for purchase and/or freely distributed to the public
- available for inspection (whether for a fee or charge or not)
- State archives to which a person has a right to be given access under Part 6 of the State Records Act 2000
- publicly available library material held by agencies for reference purposes
- made or acquired by an art gallery, museum or library and preserved for public reference or exhibition purposes
The FOI Act is not intended to prevent or discourage agencies from giving access to documents or amending personal information outside the FOI process, where it is appropriate to do so.