Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the FOI Act) gives people a right of access to information held by State Government Ministers and agencies. These agencies include but are not limited to:
- state government departments
- councils and prescribed authorities such as
- statutory authorities
- public hospitals
- community health centres
- universities, and
- TAFE colleges and schools.
Some bodies are exempt from the Freedom of Information (FOI) process; for example, Courts.
Documents held by Department of Health
This Department covers the responsibilities of
- Mental Health, and
- Senior Victorians.
You have a right to apply for access to information held by the Departments including, but not limited to, the following documents:
- Documents relating to your own personal affairs, and
- Documents of a non-personal nature which are not older than 5 July 1978.
Examples of personal documents held by the departments can include:
- Ward of the State/Child Protection files
- Psychiatric patient files from some closed hospitals
- Disability Services client files, and
- Public Housing.
Access to requested information may be refused in certain circumstances, in line with the principles of the FOI Act. This information is called "exempt" and can include documents which:
- affect the personal affairs of another person
- are commercially confidential
- concern law enforcement,or
- contain information supplied in confidence.
Please print and complete the relevant Freedom of Information (FOI) application form below. You may also contact the Freedom of Information team directly and have one mailed to you. A letter outlining the details of your request will also be accepted.
Your request should clearly set out the document(s) you require from the relevant department, as well as providing sufficient detail to enable the document(s) you are seeking to be identified. If you are seeking access to documents relating to your own personal affairs, please attach proof of your identity (e.g. driver's licence, passport or Health Care card).
Applications should be forwarded to:
Freedom of Information Team
GPO Box 4057
MELBOURNE VIC 3001
The application fee is $27.20 (effective 1 July 2015) and is generally required to constitute a valid application. Please remember to enclose a cheque/money order with the application. It is to be made payable to the Department of Health. The application fee can be waived if you provide a statement of how the application fee would cause you hardship.
Charges may also be incurred depending on the nature of the request. These include the costs for:
- providing written transcripts of a recorded document
- supervising an inspection of documents.
If the charges relating to your request are more than $50.00, you may be required to pay a deposit. You will be notified of this in writing of an estimate of any charges which may apply.
If you are required to pay a deposit you can request that the access charges be waived or reduced.
For more information:
- Freedom of Information - Fees and charges fact sheet
- See Frequently Asked Questions
- To view the regulations for FOI costs, see legislation
Correction of Personal Records
Every person also has the right to request the correction or amendment of personal information held by the department which they believe is inaccurate, incomplete, out of date, or misleading. A request to amend documents must be made in writing with details of why the information is considered incorrect. Please note that you may be required to provide evidence to support your request.
Once your valid FOI application has been received, together with the application fee and accompanying proof of identity documentation, the department must respond to you in writing outlining its decision as soon as practicable and no later than 45 days from the date your request was received.
If you request the access charges be waived the department will request that the need for compliance with the statutory period (45 days) is also waived.
A decision in relation to a request to amend personal records must be made as soon as practicable and no later than 30 days from the date the request was received.
Can I request a review of my FOI decision?
If you are not satisfied with the decision, you have the right to seek a review from the Freedom of Information Commissioner.
If you wish to appeal the Commissioners decision, you can apply to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The department processes all requests in accordance with the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (the Act).
- What is Freedom of Information (FOI)?
The Act gives you a right to:
- apply for access to documents held by government agencies and Ministers
- apply for amendment of personal information about you held by government agencies.
- What sort of documents can I request?
You can request any kind of personal or non-personal information.
- Personal information includes information pertaining to yourself.
- Non-personal information includes government policy documents, research and data materials and information pertaining to other persons.
- Is any information not available to me?
- In accordance with the Act this department will whenever possible make information available. However, the Act does allow for the department to refuse access to information/documents in certain circumstances.
Such information is called "exempt" and includes:
- documents containing information provided to the department in confidence. e.g.Child protection notifications and investigations
- documents concerning law enforcement and public safety
- documents subject to legal professional privilege
- documents subject to secrecy provisions in other legislation
- documents containing information about the personal affairs of another person
- documents containing information about the business affairs of another person or organisation.
- How do I apply for information?
- You must write to the agency or submit an application online and identify the information or document that you would like to access. It helps if you provide as much information as possible about the document you wish to access, such as the agency reference number, type of document and the date it was produced.
- Is there an application fee?
- Currently the application fee is $27.20. You will need to pay the application fee at the time you make the application.
- Can the application fee be waived?
- The application fee may be waived if:
- a statement of how payment of the application fee would cause hardship is provided
- you are a former ward of the state and you want access to only your own information.
- Who can help me with my FOI application and how do I contact them?
- The FOI officers in the department can help you make your FOI request.
You can contact them by phone on 03 9096 8449 or 1300 650 172.
Freedom of Information Team
GPO Box 4057
MELBOURNE VIC 3001
- Can I apply for documents for someone else?
- Yes. A person may apply for documents as an agent for another person. A parent or another person having guardianship of a child may apply for documents on behalf of the child. The FOI officer will seek evidence of your authority to act as an agent or evidence of your guardianship status.
- Can I apply for my children’s personal information?
- You can apply for the information of your children if you are the guardian of that child and you have custody. You will not be able to access any information related to who reported a child protection matter to the department regarding your child. The FOI officer will seek evidence of your guardianship status.
- How long will my application take?
- The Act requires the agency to make a decision on a valid request within 45 days from the date it was received.
Once an agency receives your request, an FOI officer will review it to make sure that all the necessary information has been included and the documents you are requesting have been clearly identified. If no further information is required, your application will be acknowledged within 7 days of receipt by the department.
If the department believes you need to pay processing charges for the application, you will be sent a letter advising you of this and be given the opportunity to talk to the agency or dispute the charges. You will need to respond to this letter within 28 days.
When your request has been processed, you will be sent a letter setting out the department’s decision and why we have made it.
You can assist the agency by ensuring your request is sufficiently clear for the officer to process it and that you have paid the application fee if it is required.
If the department is unable to identify any documents relevant to your request, it must notify you within 45 days of receiving your request.
- Which applications may require consultation with other people?
If the documents you are seeking contain personal information about other people, and a decision has been made that it is reasonable to release that information to you, the Act requires that those people be contacted and given 60 days to appeal the release of their personal information to the VCAT.
- Are there other charges that might apply to your FOI request?
There is provision in the Act for the department to charge, where reasonable, for access to documents. Access charges may apply depending on the nature of the request and could include:
- search time - charged at 1.5 fee units ($20.40) per hour or part of an hour. Effective 1 July 2015, one fee unit is equal to $13.60, therefore 1.5 fee units currently equates to $20.40
- supervising an inspection of documents - charged at 1.5 fee units ($20.40) per hour (to be calculated per quarter hour or part of a quarter hour)
- photocopying - 20 cents per page
- providing written transcripts of a recorded document - costs reasonably incurred.
If the access charges are more than $50, you will be required to pay a deposit. In this case the department will notify you in writing. You can then choose whether to proceed with your request and pay the deposit or withdraw your request.
- Can the access charges be waived?
You can request the access charges be waived if you are required to pay a deposit.
If you request the access charges be waived the department will request that the need for compliance with the statutory period (45 days) is also waived. The FOI team will contact you with an anticipated completion date once the documents you have requested have been located, if your request for the charges to be waived is accepted
- Can I request a review of my FOI decision?
- The Act provides that a person who is dissatisfied with a decision made by an agency may seek a review from the Freedom of Information Commissioner. Following this review if you are still dissatisfied with the decision you can appeal the matter to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). The Freedom of Information Commissioner can also hear complaints about an agency’s handling of a request.
The Victorian Legislation website provides free access to all relevant Acts and Regulations.
Search for the following:
- Freedom of Information Act 1982
- Ombudsman Act 1973
- Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
- Health Records Act 2001
- Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001
- Whistleblowers Protection Regulations 2001
- Financial Management Act 1994
- Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006
- Disability Act 2006
For further details about how to apply for documents held by the Department, please telephone FOI reception on (03) 9096 8449.
More detail about processes are available for download:
- Making a Freedom of Information request - Fact sheet
- Freedom of Information - Exemptions
- Freedom of Information - Certified Identification
For additional information relating to Freedom of Information, visit the Freedom of Information website.