Requirements for a valid access application

Remember: You may not need to make an FOI access application at all – before you lodge an application ask the FOI Coordinator at the agency whether the documents you want are already available without the need to use the FOI process.

To make a valid access application under the FOI Act,  you should:  

  • Apply in writing to the agency that you believe holds the documents you want. The agency’s website will probably have information to assist you. In most agencies, there is a person nominated as the FOI Coordinator who should also assist you. The application requires no special form – a letter will do.
  • Identify or describe the documents you want. You must give enough information to enable the agency to identify the requested documents. 
  • Give an address in Australia where notices can be sent. If possible, include your contact details such as telephone number/email address/fax number. This will help the agency to contact you if necessary and will assist in your application being dealt with efficiently. 
  •  Pay the application fee of $30 if you are seeking information that is not just about you – no application fee is payable for access to personal information that is just about you.

These requirements are set out in section 12 of the FOI Act.  If your application does not comply with the requirements of section 12 the agency has to take reasonable steps to help you to change your application so that it complies with those requirements (section 11).

TIP: If you ask for access to ‘everything’ on a particular subject, the agency may ask you to narrow the scope of your application to reduce the work involved in dealing with it. An agency is permitted to refuse to deal with your application if dealing with it would divert a substantial and unreasonable portion of its resources away from its other operations.

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Related information


OIC publications


Who do I contact to ask for documents?
Steps for access applicants



Relevant sections of the FOI Act

Sections 11 & 12