Specific processes must be followed by both the applicant/s seeking information under the Freedom of Information Act 1992 (FOI Act) and those people who are responsible for providing that information.
How an application is made
First, check if it is possible to access the document outside the FOI process.
The table below sets out the requirements that must be met in order to make a valid application for access to documents under the FOI Act.
|The application must be in writing.||This can be done by letter, email or printing and completing the FOI Application for Access to Documents Form.|
|The application must give enough information to allow the requested documents to be identified.||This can be done by asking for specific documents, or by describing the documents sought; for instance, by identifying matters such as the date of the documents and the topic/event/person to which the documents relate. Where insufficient information is provided, applicants will be offered reasonable assistance to clarify the documents to which they wish to request access.|
|The application must give an address in Australia for correspondence, to which notices under the FOI Act can be sent.||Additionally, a telephone number and/or email address should be provided in addition to a postal address, so that contact can be made efficiently.|
|In the case of applications for non-personal information, the application must be accompanied by a $30 application fee to be valid.||A fee is not required if the application is for personal information which includes employment records, student records and other information that directly relates to the applicant.|
|The application must be lodged at UWA.|| |
Applications should be addressed to:
The application fee can be paid by credit card (via phone), cheque or money order (via post) made payable to The University of Western Australia. Applicants will be provided relevant information to process their application fee.
Where an application is made for personal information, the applicant may be asked to provide proof of their identity (such as a passport, driver's licence, or a UWA student or staff card) before being given access to the documents.
If you require assistance to make an FOI application, you can contact [email protected]. Include 'FOI Application' in the subject line.
An application for non-personal information will not be valid until all five of the requirements above are satisfied.
Types of access provided
The FOI Act allows access to be given to an applicant in a number of ways, including inspection of a document, providing a copy of a document, and reproducing electronically stored information in a written format.
If an applicant asks for a particular type of access, then UWA must give access in that way unless doing so would:
- interfere unreasonably with UWA's other operations
- damage or harm the document, or be inappropriate because of the physical nature of the document
- infringe copyright (other than copyright belonging to the State)
UWA may decide that certain information in a document is exempt from disclosure based on certain clauses in the FOI Act. In these circumstances, access may be provided to a document with the 'exempt matter' removed, where it is practical to do so. This is known as edited access. The most common exemption applied under the FOI Act is Clause 3, which relates to personal information about third parties (other than the applicant).
UWA can defer giving access to a document for a reasonable period where:
- the document is required by law to be published but has not yet been published
- the document has been prepared for presentation to Parliament, or for submission to a particular person or body, but has not yet been presented or submitted
In addition, UWA must defer giving access to a document where the document contains information about a third party, and that third party has objected to the document being released. In these circumstances, access cannot be given until the third party has had an opportunity to request a review of the decision to release the information.
Once an application is made
Under the FOI Act, an agency must make a decision within 45 calendar days of receiving a valid application. The length of time it takes to deal with an application will depend on a number of factors, including the number of documents involved, the complexity of the information, and whether consultations with third parties is required.
The Information Commissioner can reduce or extend the amount of time that UWA has to deal with an application. However, time frames are usually negotiated between UWA and the applicant. Applicants who have a genuine need to have an application processed quickly should discuss this with a member of the Information Governance team.
On receipt of an application, UWA will confirm in writing to the applicant that the application was received, the ambit of application and of the due date for UWA to decide the outcome of the application. UWA will then conduct a search for the documents requested. On occasion, it is possible that no documents can be located by UWA and therefore, UWA cannot provide access. If this occurs, a full explanation will be provided in the decision.
If UWA does not have the requested documents but knows or reasonably believes that another agency does, then UWA will transfer the application to that agency.
Once the documents are located, a decision will be made whether to release the documents and/or in what format (such as edited access). Consultations may be required in regard to personal, commercial or business information about third parties (other than the applicant).
On completion of this process, UWA will prepare a Notice of Decision which will outline the following:
- the person who made the decision and the date on which the decision was made
- whether UWA has decided to give access to the documents, and an explanation of that decision
- what rights the applicant has to request a review of the decision
If a Notice of Decision is not provided to the applicant within the permitted 45-day period, it is taken that UWA has refused the application. The applicant then has the option of applying to have the refusal of the application reviewed. This process is explained in Rights of the individual to seek a review of a UWA decision.
Applications that are not well-defined and are likely to relate to a large number of documents can require significant time and resources to deal with. Further, applications for non-personal information may result in substantial charges being made payable by the applicant. Charges are detailed online.
Where an application is broad in scope, a member of the Information Governance team will assist applicants to clarify the information they are seeking, which may reduce the time and resources required to process the application. Applicants will receive assistance where possible to reduce the application to a manageable size.
UWA can ultimately refuse to deal with an application if it would divert a substantial and unreasonable portion of its resources.
This table lists the charges that can be imposed under the FOI Act, in addition to the application fee of $30. These charges are outlined in the Freedom of Information Regulations, 1993.
|Personal Information about the Applicant||Charges|
|Application fee (for non-personal information)||$30|
|Charge for time dealing with the application (per hour or pro rata)||$30|
|Access time supervised by staff (per hour or pro rata)||$30|
|Photocopying staff time (per hour or pro rata)||$30|
|Per photocopy (per page)||20 cents|
|Transcribing from tape, film or computer (per hour or pro rata)||$30|
|Duplicating a tape, film or computer information||Actual cost|
|Delivery, packaging and postage||Actual cost|
|Advance deposit may be required in respect of the estimated charges||25 per cent|
|Further advance deposit may be required to meet charges for |
dealing with the application
|75 per cent|
|For impecunious applicants or those issued with prescribed pensioner concession cards, the charge payable is reduced||25 per cent|
The application fee and charges do not apply for access to personal information about the applicant.
Informing applicants what charges will apply
An applicant will receive an 'Estimate of Charges' when charges are likely to exceed $25. UWA may also request that the applicant pay a percentage of the estimated charges as an advance deposit prior to proceeding.
Applicants can contact a member of the Information Governance team to discuss ways in which charges can be reduced.
If an applicant does not notify UWA of their intentions within 30 days after receiving an 'Estimate of Charges' or does not pay the requested deposit within this timeframe, the application will be considered as withdrawn.
When charges can be reduced or waived
Applicants will be offered all reasonable assistance to minimise potential charges as discussed in Large applications. In instances where the applicant agrees to the division of an application into parts so that it can be dealt with in stages, or extending the time UWA has to deal with an application, consideration will be given to reduce or waive the charges payable.
Charges will be reduced by 25 per cent where an applicant holds a valid pensioner concession card. UWA also has discretion to further reduce or waive charges for financially disadvantaged applicants.
No charges apply to applications for personal information.
If an applicant is aggrieved with the charges imposed or the requirement to pay an advance deposit, they should discuss this with the Manager – Information Governance. Options are available to reduce the ambit of application and thereby reduce the charges/deposit payable.
If this matter remains unresolved, a review of the decision can be requested.
Transfer of application
In some circumstances, UWA can transfer an FOI application, or part thereof, to another agency.
If UWA does not have the requested documents but knows or reasonably believes that another agency does, then UWA will transfer the application to that agency.
If UWA receives an application for documents that are in its possession but were created by another agency, the application may be transferred to the agency of origin as they would relate more closely to the functions of that agency. UWA will notify an applicant if an application is transferred to another agency.
If UWA cannot locate any documents and has no reason to believe that another agency is in possession of these documents, UWA can refuse the access application on the grounds that the documents cannot be found or do not exist. The applicant will be given an explanation of the steps taken by UWA to locate the document with the option of requesting a review of that decision.
The prescribed 45-day period to process a FOI application will still apply from the date a valid application is received despite it being transferred to another agency to finalise.
Some WA agencies are exempt from the FOI Act, including the Office of the Auditor General, State Parliament, the Corruption and Crime Commission, and the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations (Ombudsman). UWA cannot transfer an application to an exempt agency. Refer to Schedule 2 of the FOI Act for a comprehensive list of exempt agencies.
Third party rights
Where a document contains personal information, including commercial or business information relating to a third party (a person that is not the applicant), UWA will consult with the third party for their views if release is being considered.
If the third party objects to the information being disclosed, UWA will take the objection into account in deciding whether to give access to the information. However, UWA will not refuse access due to an objection by a third party unless there are valid grounds under the FOI Act in doing so. (Refer to Types of access.)
Where UWA decides to give access to a document despite a third party objection, both the applicant and the third party must be notified of the UWA decision. The third party will receive a Notice of Decision that outlines:
- the name and title of the person who made the decision and the date on which the decision was made
- an explanation of why UWA has decided to give access despite the objection made by the third party
- what rights the third party has to request a review of the decision.
Access to the document will not be provided until the third party has exercised their rights to request a review of the decision to release the information.
Documents containing medical or psychiatric information
Where applicants request access to documents that contain information of a medical or psychiatric nature, the documents may be provided to a medical practitioner nominated by the applicants, rather than to the applicants themselves, for interpretation. This avenue is beneficial in instances where UWA is of the opinion that disclosing the information to the applicants may have a substantial adverse effect on their physical or mental wellbeing.
If a document contains medical or psychiatric information about a third party, it is considered personal information and will not be released unless the individual concerned consents to its release.
An application can be made on behalf of a child by their guardian, or by the person who has custody or care and control of the child.
If UWA is considering giving access to a document that contains personal information about a child under 16, UWA may conduct third-party consultation with the guardian of the child or the person who has custody, care or control of the child, rather than the child themselves. This is undertaken where UWA believes that the child does not have the capacity to make a mature judgment as to the nature and significance of the document and what may be in their best interests.
Individuals with an intellectual disability
An application can be made on behalf of a person with an intellectual disability by the person's closest relative or guardian.
If UWA is considering giving access to a document that contains personal information about a person with an intellectual disability, UWA can conduct third-party consultation with the closest relative or guardian of the person, rather than the individual concerned.
UWA can also refuse to give an applicant access to documents where:
- the documents contain personal information and either the access applicant, or the person to whom the information relates, is a person with an intellectual disability
- UWA is satisfied that access would not be in the best interests of that person
When UWA can refuse an application
UWA can refuse an application for access to documents if:
- the documents are not documents of UWA
- the documents form part of a private collection that is held by a UWA art gallery, museum or library, and granting access would contravene a limit imposed by the person who lodged the collection
- access would not be in the best interests of a child or person with an intellectual disability
- the documents are exempt
When a document will be exempt from disclosure
UWA is not required to consult or grant access to a document containing information that is exempt from disclosure. Exemptions are set out in Schedule 1 of the FOI Act. Documents that may be exempt from disclosure include documents that contain:
- personal, commercial or business information about a third party (not the applicant)
- information relating to the deliberative processes of UWA
- information that is subject to legal professional privilege
- information of a confidential nature that was communicated in confidence
- commercial or business information about UWA
- information that, if disclosed, would impair the effectiveness of UWA testing methods or prevent the object of a test from being obtained
- information that, if disclosed, would have a substantial adverse effect on UWAs management or assessment of personnel or conduct of industrial relations
Many exemptions under the FOI Act are subject to a public interest test. This means that information that would be normally be exempt from disclosure will be released if it is in the public interest.
Determining whether a document is in the public interest to disclose requires identifying the public interest factors for and against disclosure, and weighing them against each other. For example, where a document contains personal information about a third party, this would involve weighing the public interest in an applicant being able to exercise their FOI rights against the public interest in maintaining the personal privacy of that third party.
Where UWA refuses access on the ground that the information is exempt, the reasons for the decision and the nature of the relevant exemption will be explained in the Notice of Decision provided to the applicant.
When it is practical to do so, UWA will remove the exempt information from a document and provide the applicant with edited access.
Rights of the individual to seek a review of a UWA decision
The FOI Act sets out two stages of review – internal review and external review.
An internal review is a review of the decision that is conducted within UWA.
What decisions can be reviewed
An applicant can request an internal review of a decision to:
- give access to an edited copy of a document
- refuse to deal with an access application
- refuse access to a document, including a refusal on the basis that the document cannot be found or does not exist
- defer giving access to a document
- give access to a medical practitioner rather than to the applicant, or withhold access until a medical practitioner is nominated
- impose a charge or request a deposit that the applicant considers unreasonable
A third party can request an internal review of a decision to release documents that contain personal, commercial or business information about them.
An internal review cannot be requested if the original decision was made by the principal officer of UWA (the Vice-Chancellor). However, an external review may be requested from the Office of the Information Commissioner.
How to make an application for internal review
An internal review request must be made within 30 calendar days of receiving the Notice of Decision. There is no charge for requesting an internal review.
The table below sets out the requirements that must be met in order to make a valid internal review request under the FOI Act.
|Internal review application||This can be done by letter, email or printing and completing an Application for Internal Review of Decision Form.|
|What is required in the request|| |
The particulars of the decision that the person wishes to have reviewed. For instance, by stating the name of the decision-maker, the date of the decision, and the matter to which the decision relates.
The request must also provide an address in Australia for correspondence, to which notices under the FOI Act can be sent. A telephone number and/or email address should be given in addition to a postal address, so that UWA can contact an applicant quickly.
|Where it is lodged|| |
Manager – Information Governance
It can otherwise be emailed to [email protected].
An internal review cannot be conducted either by the person who made the original decision, or by someone subordinate to that person. The internal reviewer can confirm, vary, or reverse the original decision.
Once a request for internal review has been made, the agency will review the disputed decision within 15 calendar days. If the applicant is then aggrieved with the internal review decision, they may apply for an external review with the Office of the Information Commissioner.
If UWA fails to provide an applicant with a decision on the review within 15 days, it is to be taken that the original decision is confirmed. The applicant may then request an external review with the Office of the Information Commissioner.
Under the FOI Act, applicants may submit a complaint about a decision made by an agency to the Information Commissioner and is referred to as an external review.
It is usually not possible to request an external review until an internal review has been conducted, unless the original decision was made by the Vice-Chancellor.The Information Commissioner may allow an applicant to request an external review if they are able to demonstrate why an internal review should not be applied for, or, if it has been, why it should not be completed.
An applicant can request an external review within 60 calendar days of receiving a Notice of Decision for their initial application. A third party can request an external review within 30 days of receiving a Notice of Decision.
An application for external review must:
- be in writing
- give particulars of the decision to which the complaint relates
- give an address in Australia to which notices under the FOI Act can be sent
- include a copy of the decision the person is seeking to have reviewed
- be lodged at the Office of the Information Commissioner
Further information on external reviews is available from the Office of the Information Commissioner.
- (+61 8) 6551 7888
- Country callers
- Western Australia only: 1800 621 244
- [email protected]
- (+61 8) 6551 7889
- Office and postal address
- Office of the Information Commissioner
Albert Facey House
469 Wellington Street
Perth WA 6000 (Entry off Forrest Place)