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Freedom of Information

The object of the Victorian Freedom of Information Act 1982 is to extend as far as possible the right of the community to access information in the possession of agencies (eg. Ministers, State Government Departments, Local Councils, most semi-government agencies and Statutory Authorities, Public Hospitals, Universities, TAFE Colleges and Schools). 

The Act gives members of the community: 

  • The right to access documents about their personal affairs and the activities of government agencies. 
  • The right to request that incorrect or misleading information held by an agency about them be amended or removed. 
  • Note: The Act does not apply to privately owned businesses. 
  • This site contains information about the Victorian Freedom of Information Act 1982. Commonwealth Government agencies and each State and Territory have their own freedom of information laws. 
  • Councils in Victoria have been subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act) since 1 January 1994. 

 

Making a Freedom of Information Request

You can make a request yourself, or you can authorise another person (for example, a solicitor) to make a request on your behalf. 

If you want someone to make a request on your behalf for your personal information, you must give them your written authorisation and provide evidence of your identity (For example, a photocopy or electronic copy of your current drivers licence). The authorisation and evidence must be provided with the request for access to documents. 

Applications must: Be in writing, (addressed to the Freedom of Information Officer, Wellington Shire Council, PO Box 506, Sale Vic 3850) or lodged electronically via email foi@wellington.vic.gov.au. You can use our FOI Application Form (142KB) to request access to documents sought under the Freedom of Information Act if desired. 

  • Clearly describe the documents you are requesting access to 
  • Be made to the agency that holds the documents you are seeking 
  • Include the application fee or evidence that you qualify to have the application fee waived 
  • Note: Other costs may be incurred in granting access to the documents that you have requested (see below). 

 

Costs

There are two costs associated with making a Freedom of Information request: 

  • The application fee 
  • The access charges 

The application fee is a fixed cost which is non-refundable. The only exception is for people suffering hardship who can ask the agency to waive the application fee. If you want the fee to be waived, include evidence that payment of the fee would cause you financial hardship. For example, a photocopy or electronic copy of your current health care card. 

Access charges relate to the costs incurred in granting access to the documents that you have requested. These costs may or may not apply depending on the nature of your request. 

The Freedom of Information Act states that an application fee will be two fee units. The Treasurer advises the value of fee units under the Monetary Units Act 2004 and application fee changes are effective from 1 July each year. 

The following outlines the current costs associated with a Freedom of Information request. All fees and charges are exempt from GST.


Application Fee
The Freedom of Information Act states that an application fee will be two fee units. The Treasurer advises the value of fee units under the Monetary Units Act 2004 and application fee changes are effective from 1 July each year.
Application Fee   $28.40 (Non-refundable unless fee is waived) 
Access Charges
The fees charged for access to the documents identified as relevant to your request. 
Search Charges  $21.33 per hour or part of an hour (rounded to the nearest 10c) 
Supervision Charges  $21.33 per hour to be calculated per quarter hour or part of a quarter hour (rounded to the nearest 10c)
Photocopying Charges 20c per black and white A4 page
Providing access in a form other than photocopying The reasonable costs incurred by the agency in providing the copy
Charges for listening to/viewing a tape The reasonable costs incurred by the agency in making arrangement to listen to or view (Supervision charges also apply)
Charge for making a written transcript out of a tape The reasonable costs incurred by the agency in providing the written transcript. Note: These charges are set by Government regulations (Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 2014). You can see a copy of these regulations at the Victorian Legislation and Parliamentary Documents 

What Happens When a Freedom of Information Request is Received by Council? 

If Wellington Shire Council is not in possession of the documents requested, the request may be transferred to another agency who will process the request. 

If the Council considers the request is too vague or unclear, they will contact the applicant to give them an opportunity to provide further information to clarify their request. Once a request is sufficiently clear to enable Council to identify the documents, it will become a valid request. 

Wellington Shire Council has 30 days to respond to the request after the day it was received. Please note, the 30 days starts from the date the agency receives a valid request, and payment of the application fee (if required). The 30 days does not start on the date the applicant sends the request to the agency. 

An agency may also extend the 30 day period by up to 15 days if it is required to undertake consultation with third parties. The agency may also seek an applicant’s consent to extend the 30 day period by up to an additional 30 days. 


Freedom of Information Decisions 

When a request has been processed, the applicant will be sent a letter with the agency’s (Wellington Shire Council’s) decision. 

The decision can be:

  • To release the document in full; 
  • To release the document in part; 
  • To exempt the document in full; or 
  • That there are no relevant documents in the possession of Wellington Shire Council. 

Wellington Shire Council must thoroughly and diligently search for the documents to which the applicant seeks access and process each document in accordance with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.

The relevant access charges must be paid prior to the release of processed documents to the applicant. 


Document Exemptions May Apply

An applicant is entitled to access a document unless the document is exempt. However, if it is possible to release a document with exempt material deleted, an agency is obliged to do so if the applicant so wishes. While documents should be released with exempt material deleted wherever practicable this should not be done if the document as released would then be meaningless, misleading or unintelligible. 

Examples which may be exempt under the Freedom of Information Act: 

  • Documents containing matter communicated in confidence, 
  • Internal working documents, 
  • Law enforcement documents, 
  • Documents affecting legal proceedings, 
  • Documents affecting personal privacy, 
  • Documents relating to trade secrets etc; 
  • Documents where disclosure would be contrary to public interest, 
  • Documents to which secrecy provisions apply, etc 

Each Freedom of Information request must be examined and dealt with in accordance with the Act.

 

Reviews and Complaints

Whilst your request is being processed, you may directly contact the Freedom of Information Officer to discuss the progress of your request or your concerns. Alternatively, if you are unhappy with the way your request is being handled, you may contact the Information Commissioner: 

Information Commissioner
PO Box 24274
Melbourne Vic 3001 

Telephone: 1300 842 364
Email: enquiries@foicommissioner.vic.gov.au 


Further Information 

For full details on all topics relating to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the 'Act') please refer to the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website https://foicommissioner.vic.gov.au/ 

If you are intending to seek access to documents held by Wellington Shire Council, under the Freedom of Information Act, you may wish to contact our Freedom of Information Officer for assistance with lodging a valid request, or to ask if the documents are available to be provided outside of the Freedom of Information Act. 

Contact details:
Freedom of Information Officer
Wellington Shire Council
PO Box 506
Sale Vic 3850 

Telephone: (03) 5142 3112
Email: foi@wellington.vic.gov.au

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