From 1 July 2010 the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (FOI Act). The Right to Information policy sets out how the Aboriginal Housing Office (AHO) complies with its obligations under the GIPA Act, and how a member of the public may exercise the right of access to information held by government.
The GIPA Act:
- Is designed to promote a fair, transparent and open government for the people of New South Wales.
- Specifies details known as Open Access Information, where you will find information relating to our functions, our policies and other information that may be of public interest, made available free of charge.
A Formal Request for Information can be submitted by any member of the public, or a client of the AHO seeking details relating to a service they have received. Only information of a non-personal nature can be disclosed, and fees and charges will be applicable.
The GIPA Act also allows for an Informal Request for Information application to be lodged, if the information relates to AHO policy or is already freely available. A client may be able to obtain limited information contained in their file without the need for a formal access application, at the AHO's discretion.
The Right to Information Policy applies to the AHO when publishing information, or responding to a request under the GIPA Act. It outlines how a client of the AHO or any member of the public can obtain access to information held by the AHO.
A contractor engaged by the AHO to provide a service to the public on the AHO’s behalf will also be required to provide information that may be requested under the GIPA Act.
The AHO is committed to openness and transparency in carrying out its functions, to publish information in accordance with the GIPA Act, and to disclose information in response to an Informal or Formal Request for Information application, unless doing so would be contrary to the public interest.
Publication of government information
The free publication of Open Access Information is a mandatory requirement in accordance Section 6 of the GIPA Act.
In addition to this information, a wide range of other published materials is available on the AHO website. If you are unable to access this information via the internet:
All applications and enquiries related to accessing AHO information and documents should be directed to:
Right to Information Officer
The AHO will review its Open Access Information at intervals no less than 12 months and will continue to update its website to provide the best possible information relating to its functions and services.
Informal Requests for Information
Unless the information has already been made publicly available, it may be necessary to complete an Informal Request for Information form, which must lodged at any local AHO throughout NSW, or with the Right to Information Officer.
Any member of the public has a legal right to make an Informal Request for Information held by the AHO. This includes access to personal and non-personal information held by the AHO. Information that is available free of charge,includes:
- Copy of an applicant's correspondence with the AHO
- Information from our website
- Information that has been made publicly available in the past.
Requests for non-personal information that does not include information about another person or otherwise sensitive information may also be considered.
The Aboriginal Housing Office reserves the right to refuse an Informal Request for Information.
The release of information in response to an informal request is subject to following conditions:
- An informal request will be processed as soon as practicable, and within 10 working days. In the event that it would exceed this time limit, an applicant will be advised to lodge a Formal Request for Information application.
- Information relating to a third party or other sensitive matters will not be considered as part of an informal request. However, this does not override an applicant’s legal right to apply for this type of information as a formal access application.
The AHO will endeavour to accommodate informal requests wherever possible, in accordance with the objectives of the GIPA Act. A decision that is made in response to an informal request is not subject to any legal review rights.
An applicant who has an informal request refused will be informed of their right to make a Formal Request for Information application under the GIPA Act.
Formal Request for Information
When the information sought is publicly available or cannot be obtained through an informal request, then a Formal Request for Information application is necessary.
Contractors delivering a service to the public on behalf of the AHO also have obligations. They are required to yield to AHO any information that has been requested through a Formal Request for Information, if it:
- relates to the performance of the service,
- has been collected by the contractor from a member of the public, or
- was received by the contractor from the AHO to facilitate delivery of the service.
A Formal Request for Information application can only be made for information held at the time it is lodged.
How to make an application
A formal access application should be addressed directly to the Right to Information Officer, who is responsible for the management and processing of it. The AHO must comply with statutory deadlines for responding, in accordance with the GIPA Act.
All applications to the AHO for access to information must:
- be in writing and sent to the Right to Information Officer;
- clearly state the information sought;
- be accompanied by the application fee of $30 in the form of a money order or cheque made payable to "The Aboriginal Housing Office";
- have a return postal address within Australia;
- include a valid copy of your Healthcare Card or Pensioner Concession Card, if this is applicable to the applicant;
- include as much specific information as possible to assist us to identify the information you are requesting.
Fees & charges
A formal access application is subject to the following fees and processing charges:
Type of Information
Charges for processing
Access to information personal to the applicant
Requests that require more than 20 hours to process will be charged at $30 for each additional hour
Access to information of a non-personal nature
A processing charge of $30 per hour is applicable for non-personal information
Request for an internal review of a decision
An applicant may be eligible for a 50% discount on processing charges if they:
- hold a valid Pensioner Concession Card;
- hold a valid Healthcare Card;
- are a full-time student; or
- represent a not-for-profit organisation.
An advance deposit of up to 50 per cent of the total estimated processing time may be requested by the AHO after assessment of the chargeable time likely to be required in identifying the information and considering its suitability for release. In such instances, the applicant will be advised of the estimated processing charge and be given at least four weeks to make payment.
The AHO will contact you promptly if it is necessary to clarify any aspect of the application, and you will receive an acknowledgment letter within five working days confirming that it has been lodged.
The applicant will usually be notified of the AHO's decision within 20 working days of lodgement (beginning from when all fees and charges are received). This period can be extended by 10 to 15 days to allow for the retrieval of records from archives or where consultation with a third party is required under the GIPA Act.
The AHO is required to consult with a third party in some circumstances, where an applicant requests information that contains:
- personal information about another person;
- business information from a third party (including another government agency); or
- information concerning the affairs of the Commonwealth Government or another state government.
- The decision
An officer of the AHO authorised by the NSW Dept of Family & Community Services is solely permitted to decide on the validity of a formal access application.
The AHO must refuse access to certain information outlined in Schedule 1 of the GIPA Act, as there is a conclusive presumption of an overriding public interest against disclosure. Examples of these certain types of information include:
- Information that was prepared for the dominant purpose of submission to Cabinet
- Information subject to legal professional privilege
- Information contained within a report made under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
In deciding on all applications, the AHO must consider whether the public interest is best served by disclosure of the information or non-disclosure. Examples of the public interest being served by disclosure are when the information:
- promotes discussion of public affairs;
- enhances accountability;
- informs the public about the operations of agencies;
- ensures effective oversight of the expenditure of public funds; or
- reveals or substantiates misconduct or negligent, improper or unlawful conduct.
Among the circumstances listed in the GIPA Act as being against the public interest are where disclosure:
- would prejudice the supply to an agency of confidential information that facilitates the effective exercise of that agency’s functions.
- would reveal an individual's personal information.
- could reasonably diminish the competitive commercial value of any information to any person, or prejudice any person’s legitimate business, commercial, professional or financial interests.
Notice of decision
A written notice of the decision will be provided to an applicant within 20 working days of the application being lodged, unless it is subject to an extension. Any notice refusing access will include reasons for the decision.
Payment of fees
Should any charges be payable, access will be given to the information only when full payment is received.
Rights of review
A person aggrieved by a AHO decision has three options for review:
- internal review
- external review by the Information & Privacy Commission NSW
- external review by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
An internal review may be sought within 20 working days of a notice of decision. The application must be accompanied by the a fee of $40. The AHO will arrange for the review to be undertaken by an authorised officer who did not make the original decision, nor is subordinate to the officer who did. A notice of decision regarding an internal review will be issued within 15 working days.
To apply, use the Internal Review Application Form
Legislation & compliance
The AHO complies with the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009. An annual report on the management of its functions will be prepared for the Minister as required by law.
For further advice on your rights under GIPA, contact the Information & Privacy Commission NSW.