Freedom of Information

Freedom of Information

The broad objective of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 ('the FOI Act') is to provide the public with a legal right to seek access to documents in the Government's possession.

Access to documents is limited only by exemptions that protect essential public interests and the private and business affairs of people about whom departments and statutory authorities hold information.

Members of the public seeking access to documents that may be held by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade ('the Department') should lodge a formal Freedom of Information ('FOI') application.

How to make an FOI application

The application must:

  • Be made in writing
  • State that it is an application made under the FOI Act 1982
  • Provide sufficient information to allow the Department to identify the documents sought
  • Provide details of how notices may be sent to the applicant (for instance, via a postal or email address)

By post:
The Director, Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
Corporate Legal Branch
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R.G. Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221

By email: foi@dfat.gov.au

Processing your request

We will acknowledge your request within 14 days of receipt and will endeavour to process your request within 30 days. Where the FOI Act requires us to consult with a third party because, for example, the documents you seek access to contain personal information about a third party, or where we need to consult a foreign government, the time for processing your request will be extended by an additional 30 days. If we envisage that we will not complete your request within the statutory timeframe due to its complexity or the large volume of documents, we may seek your agreement to an extension of time for the processing of your request, or alternatively, may seek an extension from the Information Commissioner.

Evidence of identity for requests to access personal information

If you are seeking access to documents that contain personal information either in relation to you or on behalf of another person, we require that you provide evidence of your identity with your application. If you are seeking documents containing personal information on behalf of another person, both parties must provide evidence of their identity.

We require that you provide a certified copy of an identification document. Documents that provide sufficient evidence of identity include:

  • Passport
  • Birth Certificate
  • Citizenship Certificate
  • Australian Drivers Licence

The Department prefers a copy of an identification document to be certified as a true copy of the original by a person having the power to sign a Commonwealth statutory declaration.

Letter of authorisation for requests made on behalf of another person

If another party is acting on your behalf we require that you submit a letter of authorisation with the FOI application.

Processing charges

The Department levies the applicable processing charges imposed under the Freedom of Information (Fees and Charges) Regulations. There is no charge for applicants seeking access to their own personal information. If you are seeking documents containing information other than your own personal information, the first five hours of decision-making time are free of charge. Where the Department levies a charge for the processing of your request, you will be required to pay the charge before you are given access to the documents.

Financial hardship

The Department may decide to remit, reduce or not impose processing charges for any reason, including if grounds of financial hardship or general public interest can be established by the applicant. If you are seeking a waiver of the processing charges on grounds of financial hardship, you will need to provide sufficient evidence about your financial position to allow the Department to make its determination (for example, bank account statements or a copy of your current Health Care Card).

Further queries regarding charges may be directed to the Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section at foi@dfat.gov.au or at the above address.

Review rights

If you wish to seek an internal review of the decision made on your FOI request, you must write to the Department within 30 days of being notified of its decision.

Alternatively, you may write to the Australian Information Commissioner seeking a review of the Department's original or internal review decision. An application to the Information Commissioner should be made within 60 days of being notified of the decision. Your application to the Australian Information Commissioner must include an address (which may be an email address) for notices to be sent and a copy of the Department's decision. Refer to the Australian Information Commissioner's website for more information.

Information Publication Scheme

Information Publication Scheme

The 2010 reforms to the FOI Act included the introduction of the Information Publication Scheme (IPS) which requires Australian Government agencies subject to the FOI Act to provide a broad range of information on their websites. The IPS commences from 1 May 2011.

More about the Information Publication Scheme.

FOI disclosure log

FOI disclosure log

Since 1 May 2011 the Department has been required by the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to publish a disclosure log on its website. The disclosure log lists information which has been released in response to freedom of information access requests (subject to some exceptions).

View the Department's disclosure log.

Release under the Archives Act 1983

The Archives Act 1983 (Archives Act) provides the National Archives of Australia with responsibility for preserving and conserving the archives of the Commonwealth.

As a result of the 2010 reforms to the FOI Act, decisions made under the Archives Act have also been impacted. The main change is that the period of time in which the FOI Act applies for access to Commonwealth documents has been reduced. Under the FOI reforms, the open access period for Commonwealth records (except for Cabinet notebooks and census information) will be reduced from 30 years to 20 years over a 10 year period commencing from 1 November 2010.

In the first instance, requests for access to a document which falls within the 'open access' period prescribed in the Archives Act should be made to the National Archives of Australia.

Contact us

  • Email: foi@dfat.gov.au
  • Mail:
    Director
    Freedom of Information and Privacy Law Section
    Corporate Legal Branch
    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
    R.G. Casey Building, John McEwen Crescent
    BARTON, ACT 0221