Freedom of Information Act 1982 (review)
This page provides general information and should not be considered as legal advice. Seek legal advice if you are unsure about your legal rights. Be aware that the law can change.
VCAT can review some decisions made under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Cases we can hear
Read the decision letter carefully. It should include information about your review rights – either to the FOI Commissioner or to VCAT.
If you have made a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for documents from a Victorian Government Department or agency and you are dissatisfied with the decision, you may be able to apply to VCAT. But in most cases, if a department or agency refuses to provide or amend documents in whole or in part, you must apply for a review to the FOI Commissioner.
Usually the FOI Commissioner's decision resolves the issue. If you are dissatisfied with the FOI Commissioner's decision you may be able to apply to VCAT for review of that decision. The parties will be the applicant and the original department or agency. The FOI Commissioner will not usually be a party.
You can also apply to VCAT to review a decision about charges for accessing documents if the FOI Commissioner has certified that the matter is one of sufficient importance for VCAT to consider.
The main situations where an applicant may apply direct to VCAT – having made an FOI request to a department or agency – are where:
- the department or agency fails to decide the request (usually within a 45 day time limit). Under the FOI Act, the request is then deemed to be refused. However, the person can decide to wait for the agency or department to make its decision; and
- where (rarely) the principal officer of a department or agency, such as chief executive officer, makes the FOI decision.
Applications for review at VCAT may also be made by:
- a person who is opposed to the release of documents containing information relating to their personal affairs to another person, under the FOI Act
- a business that is opposed to the release of documents containing information relating to its trade secrets, under the FOI Act
- a person who seeks amendment of documents held by a department or agency concerning them
- a government department or agency that is dissatisfied with the decision of the Freedom of Information Commissioner for documents to be released.
See section 50 of the FOI Act for a complete list.
Cases we cannot hear
The FOI Commissioner deals with complaints about how departments and agencies deal with FOI requests, including complaints about the department or agency not identifying all relevant documents. The Commissioner's decisions about complaints are not reviewable at VCAT.
Legislation that gives VCAT the power to hear these applications
Freedom of Information Act 1982 – section 50.
If you have a decision document, use it to help you complete the VCAT application form and attach a copy of the document to your application.
You should apply to VCAT within 60 days of becoming aware of the decision you disagree with.
What can VCAT order?
- confirm the decision
- make a different decision. This may include ordering that some or all of the documents be provided to the applicant.