How to access NSW government information

How do I...
  • find government information?
  • make an access application?
  • access my personal information?
How do I find government information?

Check if the information you are seeking is on the agency’s website and disclosure log. If you are unable to find the information, contact the agency and ask if it’s already available. The agency should tell you if the information that you want:

  • is open access, or proactive release and already available. If it is available, they should point you in the right direction or offer you a copy
  • will be made available as part of a ‘proactive release’ of information
  • can be disclosed to you informally
  • requires an access application.

Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act), the Information and Privacy Commission maintains a list of NSW public sector agencies contacts.

Watch the animation below to find out more information on ways to access govenment held information in NSW:

The four ways to access government information are as follows:

  1. Open access information (mandatory release)
    Under the law, agencies need to publicly release certain information on their website unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so. Generally, open access information must be available on an agency’s website. A list of particular information needed to be released is provided in a regulation under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act).
  2. Authorised proactive release
    If it is in the public interest, agencies are authorised and encouraged to release as much other information as possible, free of charge or at the lowest possible cost.
  3. Informal release of information
    Contact the agency and ask for information. This is known as an informal request. Agencies can release information informally, subject to any reasonable conditions.
  4. Access application (also known as a formal application) for release of information
    If the information cannot be accessed through the above methods, you can make an access application.
How do I make an access application?

If the information you want isn’t ‘open access’ and you have made an informal request but have been refused, then you can make an access application.

Most public sector agencies will have a form available on their website, or a form can be given to you on request. If an application form is not available, you can lodge your own application. Click here to access the generic GIPA Access Application Form to request information from a NSW Agency other than the IPC.

Either way, an application will only be valid if it meets the following requirements:

  • It must be in writing
  • lodged with the correct agency - this should be by post, lodged at an office of the agency or in another manner that the agency has approved
  • state that you are seeking the information under the GIPA Act
  • include your name
  • include your postal or email address for a response
  • be clear and specific about the information you seek, so the agency can identify it
  • pay the $30 application fee.

If you have applied at any time to another agency for substantially the same information, your application must also include the name of the other agency. However, your application will not be invalid if this information is not provided.

An agency may also require you to prove your identity before being provided with any personal information requested in your access application.

**NOTE: Your application must be lodged with the agency that holds the information you are seeking NOT with the IPC**

How long will it take the agency to process my application

The application process will take up to 20 working days, unless you agree to extend the time. However, if an agency needs to seek further information from a third party or from archives, the agency may take an additional 10-15 working days. The agency must tell you if the process will take longer, why and when it will be completed.

If the agency does not decide your access application within 20 working days, it is considered a ‘deemed refusal’ and your application fee will be refunded. This does not apply if an extension of time has been agreed or payment of an advanced deposit is pending.

What will they charge me?

The standard fee is $30.

The agency may also charge processing fees. Processing fees cover the time and resources needed to give you the information you asked for and can vary depending on the circumstances. You should be able to find out more through the agency’s right to information officer, or their website.

Agencies can ask you to pay up to a 50% deposit on expected processing costs in advance; this request must be made in writing and you have at least 20 working days to pay.

If you seek access to your own personal information, the first 20 hours of processing time is free of charge.

Am I eligible for a discount?

Agencies have a general discretion to waive, discount or refund charges under the GIPA Act. Concession card holders, pensioners, students and not-for-profit organisations may be able to receive a 50% discount off processing fees. If you believe that a discount should apply, you will need to request it in writing. You can also apply for a 50% reduction in the processing cost because of financial hardship or ask for a waiver of the fee if the information will be of special benefit to the public.

The total discount that can be applied to any processing charge for dealing with an access application is 50%.

What do I do if I'm dissatisfied with the decision?

If you have asked for a formal application and you are dissatisfied with the decision, you can ask for a review. For more information on GIPA reviews please visit our Reviews by the Information Commissioner page.

How do I access my personal information?

You can ask for your personal information from a NSW public sector agency using either the GIPA Act or the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (PPIP Act).

There are different fees, processing times and review rights depending on what act you choose to apply under. See Fact Sheet - How to access your personal information from government agencies for more information.

Last updated: February 2023