FOI review process

What to expect

There are five main steps in the Freedom of Information (FOI) review process:

  • acknowledgement of the FOI review application
  • assessment of the FOI review application
  • review of Ahpra’s FOI decision
  • preliminary view by an NHPOPC staff member
  • final decision by the Commissioner.

Acknowledgement of the application

We aim to acknowledge an FOI review application within three days of receiving it.

Assessment of the application

The assigned staff member will introduce themselves to the applicant within two weeks of receiving the application and will be the main contact person for the applicant throughout the FOI review process.

We check that the application:

  • has been made in writing
  • includes contact details for how information can be sent to the applicant (this is usually an email address or mailing address)
  • includes a copy of Ahpra’s FOI decision the applicant would like to be reviewed.

It is also useful if the FOI application provides an explanation of why the applicant think the decision should be reviewed.

We may contact the applicant during the assessment phase to find out more information.

Choosing the best way forward

If we decide to review the FOI decision, we will inform both the applicant and Ahpra. We usually do this by email but can send information to applicants by post if they prefer.

If we believe the applicant’s concerns could be better addressed in another way, we will discuss this with the applicant. This may include suggesting that the applicant’s concerns might better be addressed by making a complaint to the Ombudsman.

We may recommend that a matter be heard by a Court or Tribunal. We may also decide not to review the decision for other reasons and where this is the case, we provide a thorough explanation of this outcome.

Review of Ahpra’s FOI decision

If the application proceeds to a decision to undertake a review, there are a number of steps involved.

This process may take some time depending on the number of documents involved in the review and the complexity of the issues raised.

Seeking information from Ahpra

We formally request that Ahpra provide all information and documents that are relevant to the FOI request or internal review request and their decision. This usually includes:

  • the FOI request and, if applicable, the internal review request
  • copies of relevant correspondence between the applicant and Ahpra, such as letters, emails or file notes of telephone conversations
  • copies of all documents contained in the schedule of documents to Ahpra’s FOI decision. For documents that were partly or fully exempt, we request the documents in both redacted and unredacted form.

We also ask Ahpra to provide a submission to explain why it made its decision.

Analysing the decision

We thoroughly consider all the information provided by the applicant and Ahpra. This process usually involves consideration of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cwlth), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s FOI Guidelines and any relevant Tribunal or court decisions.

We may request more information from the applicant or Ahpra during the analysis, if needed.

We try to resolve most FOI review applications by agreement. We are empowered to use any technique that the Commissioner considers appropriate to facilitate an agreed resolution of matters at issue in the review, for example by using techniques that are used in alternative dispute resolution processes. If we are able to facilitate an agreement between the applicant and Ahpra, we encourage the applicant to withdraw their FOI review application at this stage.

Preliminary view

If no agreement is reached, the assigned staff member will form a view on the review application. The preliminary view is an important step because it explains the staff member’s analysis of Ahpra’s FOI decision and can help the applicant get a quicker resolution of their matter as informally as possible.

Our FOI review process is only focused on whether the FOI legislation has been appropriately applied. The reasons why a person wants access to particular documents is not relevant to assessing whether a document, or part of a document, has been appropriately exempted from disclosure in accordance with legal requirements.

The assigned staff member will share their view with the applicant or Ahpra depending on who the preliminary view is adverse to.

The staff member may come to the view that the original decision should be:

  • affirmed (not changed)
  • varied (decision not changed but reasons modified), or
  • set aside and a fresh decision made.

The preliminary view is generally a good indication of the final outcome of an FOI review application. To date, all preliminary views that have proceeded to a final decision have been upheld by the Commissioner in her decision.

Responding to the preliminary view

If the applicant or Ahpra agree with the preliminary view, the review request will be finalised at this point in time. This could involve:

  • Ahpra issuing a revised decision in line with the view (including releasing any additional documents or parts of documents)
  • the applicant withdrawing the application.

If the applicant or Ahpra are not satisfied with the preliminary view, our office invites the relevant party to provide a response. This response should explain the reasons why they disagree with the preliminary view and identify any errors in the preliminary view.

Final decision

If the preliminary view is not accepted by the relevant party, the Commissioner will make a final decision about the FOI review application. The Commissioner will consider the information relevant to the matter, the preliminary view and any submissions received in response to the preliminary view.

The Commissioner will then decide to:

  • affirm the decision (not change it)
  • vary the decision (decision not changed but reasons modified), or
  • set aside the decision and make a fresh decision (make a new decision).

The Commissioner will write a report explaining her reasons for decision. A copy will be provided to the applicant, Ahpra and if applicable, any other review party.

Ahpra must comply with any final decision made by the Commissioner.

The decision will also be published on our website. To protect individuals’ privacy, identifying personal information is removed from published decisions.

You can read past FOI review decisions made by the Commissioner here.

Appeal process

If the applicant or Ahpra disagree with the Commissioner’s decision, an appeal can be made to the Tribunal in the relevant state or territory. An appeal must be made within 28 days after receiving notice of the Commissioner’s decision.

The Tribunal will reconsider the original decision made by Ahpra and has the power to make a new decision.

The Commissioner and our office will not be involved in any subsequent Tribunal proceedings.

More information