Your rights to accessing government information

Fact sheet - Your rights to accessing government information (PDF, 253kb)

Available in other languages:
Arabic حقوقك المتعلقة بالحصول على المعلومات الحكومية في NSW
Assyrian نیو ساؤتھ ویلز میں حکومت معلومات تک رسائی حاصل کرنے کے لئے آپ کے حقوق
Bangla/Bengali NSW মধ্যে সরকারি তথ্য অ্যাক্সেস করতে আপনার অধিকার
Chinese NSW 政府信息公众知情权
Greek Τα δικαιώματά σας για πρόσβαση σε κυβερνητικές πληροφορίες στη NSW
Hindi NSW में सरकारी जानकारी तक पहुँच प्राप्त करने के आपके अधिकार
Indonesian Hak Anda untuk mengakses informasi pemerintah di NSW
Korean NSW주의 정부 자료 열람권
Persian حقوق شما برای دسترسی به اطلاعاتدولت در NSW
Vietnamese Quyền của bạn trong việc truy cập thông tin chính phủ ở NSW

In NSW, you have a legal enforceable right to access most government information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 – or the ‘GIPA Act’, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

What is the GIPA Act?

The GIPA Act sets out the rules about how you can access information from government agencies. Government information can include how a government agency works, or your own personal information that is held by a government agency. It excludes some information, such as information about an individual who has been dead for more than 30 years.

Who does it apply to?

The GIPA Act applies to all public service agencies in NSW, including:

  • Government departments
  • Local councils
  • State-owned businesses
  • Universities
  • Ministers and their staff.

How can I access government information?

There are two things you can do:

  1. Check out the agency website to see if the information you are seeking is publicly available OR
  2. Contact the agency’s Right to Information Officer and ask for their assistance in obtaining the information.

NOTE: You need to contact the government agency that you believe has the information you want. The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) does not keep this information.

How do agencies give out information?

  1. A lot of information will be publicly available on an agency’s website, however, if you don’t have access to the internet you can request a copy.
  2. A lot of information is easily available - the agency's Right to Information Officer should be able to tell you how and where you can access it.
  3. If it is your own personal information and easy to find, the agency should just give it to you - this is called an "informal release".
  4. If you can't get the information any other way, you can make a "formal application" - there is normally a fee for this.

How do I make a formal application?

You can ask the agency if they have an application form, as these are often available to download from the agency's website. Otherwise, these are the steps to follow:

  • Put your application in writing
  • Say you are seeking information under the GIPA Act
  • Include your postal address
  • Explain clearly the information you are requesting
  • Pay the application fee of $30.

How much will it cost?

The standard cost for a formal application is $30 plus processing charges. The application will be deemed invalid until the fee is paid.

Processing charges will vary accoridng to the tim and resources required. Information about processing fees is usually available on the agency's website, or speak to their Right to Information Officer for assistance.

What if I can't pay the fees?

Talk to the agency and ask if they can help you.  Agencies have a general discretion to waive, reduce or refund any fee or charge that may be imposed under the GIPA Act.

How long should my application take?

  • 20 working days
  • If the agency needs to talk to another person or find information stored in archives it may take an extra 10-15 days
  • If it takes longer than this, the agency should give your money back.

What if I don't get the information I wanted?

If you are unhappy with the agency’s decision, you can:

OPTION 1: Request an internal review by an agency within 20 working days after the notice of the decision has been posted to you.

OPTION 2A: Request an external review by the Information Commissioner within 40 working days of being notified of the decision.

OR

OPTION 2B: Request an external review by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) within 40 working days of being notified of the decsion.

NOTE: You cannot ask the Information Commissioner to review a decsion that has already been reviewed by NCAT.

OPTION 1: Internal review process

You have 20 working days from the time the decision is sent to you to ask for an internal review by the agency that made the decision.

An internal review is carried out by the agency where you made your application. The review must be carried out by an officer no less senior than the person who made the original decision.

You cannot ask for an internal review if a Minister or their personal staff, or the principal officer of an agency made the decision. However, you can ask for an external review by the Information Commissioner or NCAT (see Option 2A and 2B).

There is a $40 application fee, however no fee applies for an internal review if the decision is a ‘deemed refusal’ because the agency did not process your application in time; or if the internal review is conducted because the Information Commissioner has recommended the agency reconsider its decision.

The agency must acknowledge your application within five working days of receiving it, and decide the internal review within 15 working days (this can be extended by 10 working days if third party consultation is required).

OPTION 2A: External review by the Information Commissioner

If you are disagree with the agency’s decision you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner. If you are the person applying for access to information, you do not need to have an internal review of the decision before asking the Information Commissioner to review it.

If you are not the access applicant, the decision must be internally reviewed before you can apply for a review by the Information Commissioner. However, if an internal review cannot be sought (e.g. because a Minister, their personal staff, or the principal officer of an agency made the decision) you can seek a review by the Information Commissioner.

You have 40 working days from the time the decision is sent to you to ask for a review by the Information Commissioner. On reviewing the decision, the Information Commissioner can make recommendations about the decision to the agency.

NOTE: You cannot ask the Information Commissioner to review a decision that has already been reviewed by NCAT.

OPTION 2B: External review by NCAT

If you are disagree with the agency’s decision you can ask for a review by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT).

You have 40 working days from the time the decision is sent to you to apply to NCAT for a review. However, if you have applied for a review by the Information Commissioner, you have 20 working days from being notified of the Information Commissioner's review outcome to apply to NCAT.

NOTE: You do not need to have the decision reviewed internally or by the Information Commissioner before applying for a review by NCAT.

Text alternative for 'How can I get information from a government agency?' flowchart

About the IPC

The Information and Privacy Commission (IPC) is an independent statutory authority that administers New South Wales' legislation dealing with privacy and access to government information.

The IPC was established on 1 January 2011 to support the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner in fulfilling their legislative responsibilities and functions, and to ensure individuals and agencies can access consistent information, guidance and coordinated training about information access and privacy matters.

Contacting the IPC

Our business hours are 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday (excluding public holidays).

Level 17, 201 Elizabeth Street, Sydney

post: GPO Box 7011, Sydney NSW 2001

phone: 1800 IPC NSW (1800 472 679)

email: ipcinfo@ipc.nsw.gov.au

web: www.ipc.nsw.gov.au

fax: (02) 8114 3756

 

Last updated: December 2015

 

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Fact sheet - Your rights to accessing government information
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In NSW, you have a legal enforceable right to access most government information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 – or the ‘GIPA Act’, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

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