Research into the use of the Informal Release pathway announced


As part of the IPC’s commitment to maximising public access to information, the NSW Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd, has announced she will be undertaking research to examine the use of the Informal Release pathway under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (GIPA Act).

In NSW, agencies can release government information informally, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information. Informal release under the GIPA Act is a quicker and cheaper access option for both the applicant and the agency. Agencies also have flexibility in deciding the means by which information is to be informally released. This research will seek to provide greater insight into this pathway and make recommendations to agencies to better support informal release and improve the outcomes of applications.

In 2021/22, the number of formal applications for information received by agencies increased by a staggering 30%, representing the largest increase in over a decade of reporting. Considering this rapid growth in formal information access requests, the research will contribute to the right to access information by promoting administrative arrangements to facilitate informal, rather than formal, access and proactive release programs by NSW agencies. The research may also contribute to a stabilisation of the number of formal access applications.

In undertaking the research, the IPC will:

  • examine past information access data since 2014
  • complete a literature review to examine extant FOI reporting for formal and informal access schemes globally
  • engage with select NSW agencies to examine their information access systems and documentation
  • make recommendations to support informal release including reporting requirements to monitor the use of informal release and inform proactive release of information.

More information regarding the research will be made available as it progresses, and the results will be published to the IPC website.