Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information (FOI) gives you a legal right of access to documents in our possession, created on or after 1 January 1989.

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act) has four basic principles:

  • The public has a legal right of access to information
  • Government agencies are required to publish information concerning the documents they hold
  • You may request that inaccurate, incomplete, out-of-date or misleading information in your personal records be amended
  • You may appeal against a decision not to give access to the information or not to amend a personal record.

The protection of the public interest and private and business affairs may cause some documents to be exempted from access.

Amendments to the FOI Act effective 1 September 2017

The Freedom of Information Amendment (Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner) Act 2017 has brought notable changes to Victoria’s Freedom of Information (FOI) regime for Moonee Valley City Council (Council) and applicants. The changes come into effect on 1 September 2017

The main changes are as follows:

  1. Shorter time frames for processing FOI requests and Notification Requirements 
    Council must make decisions on FOI requests within 30 calendar days, instead of the previous 45 calendar day period.
    With the agreement of an applicant, this time frame can be extended by up to 30 days, with the possibility of additional 30 day extensions, so long as the extension is granted before the relevant period expires.
    Decision makers are permitted an extension of up to 15 calendar days for requests that require mandatory consultation with specified third parties under:
    Section 29 Documents containing matter communicated by any other State
    Section 29A Documents affecting national security, defence or international relations
    Section 31 Law enforcement documents
    Section 31A Documents relating to IBAC
    Section 33 Documents affecting personal privacy
    Section 34 Documents relating to trade secrets etc.
    Section 35 Documents containing material obtained in confidence
  2. New Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner
    The new Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) replaces the existing Offices of the Freedom of Information Commissioner and the Commissioner for Data Protection and Privacy.
  3. Power to review decisions of principal officers and Ministers
    The Information Commissioner (VIC) has the power to review decisions made by Ministers and Principal Officers i.e. CEO Moonee Valley City Council, and to exempt Cabinet documents.
  4. Increased powers in relation to searches for documents 
    Upon a review of a decision, OVIC has power to require Council to conduct further searches for the required documents and may ask Council for the method used in undertaking searches. In cases where Council refuses a request on the basis that the work involved in processing the request would substantially and unreasonably divert resources or interfere with the performance of Councils functions, OVIC can require a further search or that ‘a reasonable sample’ of documents be produced.
  5. Reduced time limit for Council to apply for review
    While FOI applicants continue to have 60 days to lodge a Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT) review application for an OVIC decision, the time frame for Council to lodge a VCAT review application is 14 Days.
  6. New coercive and investigation powers
    OVIC has the power to conduct an own-motion investigation into an agency or principal officer’s performance of functions or obligations under the FOI Act. As part of an investigation, the Information Commissioner can compel the production of documents and witnesses to attend before the Commissioner to be examined on oath or affirmation. Non-compliance with a notice to produce or attend to answer questions without a reasonable excuse may constitute an offence. 

Making a Freedom of Information request

In order to access documents in our possession you are not necessarily required to go through the FOI process.  

Information which is already publicly available, required to be made publicly available or which is available for purchase does not require an FOI application. Before lodging a FOI application, you can contact the relevant Council department to find out if you can get the information you need without completing an application.

How to apply

The Act sets out three requirements that need to be satisfied before an FOI application becomes valid. A request will need to:

  • be in writing
  • be accompanied by a $28.40 application fee (this fee may be waived or reduced if payment will cause hardship)
  • clearly describe the documents requesting access to

Depending on the nature of the request, an FOI application may also incur access charges (see 'Once your application is received' section below).

Completing an application

To make an FOI application, you will need to complete a Freedom of Information Application Form (doc, 313KB).

To speed up processing of your request, provide with your application:

  • an accurate description of the documents you are seeking access to. Requests must be for specific documents or groups of documents, not 'all documents' in a broad category. Avoid phrases like 'all documents in relation to' and 'including but not limited to'
  • evidence of your identity (such as a drivers licence) if the documents sought is about your own personal affairs
  • written authorisation if a legal firm submits the request on the applicant's behalf

Due to copyright laws, certain documents (e.g. architectural plans) are not able to be copied without the owner's permission and therefore are only available through inspection.

For more information on making an FOI application, including what documents can or cannot be accessed, please see the our Part II Statement (doc, 940KB).

Once your application is received

Once we receive your application, our FOI Officer will determine if it is a valid request. If we have any questions about your request we will contact you.

When our FOI Officer receives a valid request, we will complete your application within 30 days from the date that it was received.

The FOI Officer will work with our relevant departments to locate documents requested. We will also search our record management system. Once all documents in our possession related to the request are located, the FOI Officer will review the documents to remove any irrelevant documents or irrelevant sections of the document and consider if any exemptions apply.

Other costs

Where an application for access is granted, costs will 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 2004 and relate to:

  • Search charges - $21.30 per hour or part of an hour.
  • Inspection supervision charges - $5.30 per quarter hour.
  • 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, 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 of the request to reduce costs.

Following the processing of documents, a letter is sent to you advising the FOI Officer's final decision on whether to release all, part or none of the documents requested. The letter will also detail any exemptions that have been applied and rights to appeal under the Act.

Part II Statements

It is a requirement under the Act that we publish a Freedom of Information Act Part II Statement (doc, 940KB). Part II Statements are a series of statements outlining our functions and decision making powers, documents maintained and publicly available, subscriptions, mailing lists, libraries, advisory boards and committees, and the procedure for requesting access to documents held by us.

Last updated: Thursday, 31 August 2017, 5:02 AM