What we do

The functions of the Office of the Information Commissioner relate to Northern Territory public sector organisations, including local government. We do not cover Commonwealth organisations or the private sector. Our functions include:

Awareness

We promote understanding and awareness of FOI and Privacy protection in the Territory. We do this within the public sector and in the community generally.

We promote FOI and Privacy by activities like:

  • publishing guidelines and brochures
  • giving presentations to public sector, professional and community groups
  • public displays and advertising
  • our website

We are always looking for new ways to promote FOI and Privacy. We welcome contact from people who would like us to give a presentation or provide information in some other form.

General Inquiries

We have a General Inquiries service to help members of the public with specific questions.

Inquiries may be as simple as wanting to know who within an organisation they need to contact. Or the inquirer may want more information about how a particular exemption works. We cannot give legal advice but we can assist with procedural questions and may be able to point people to relevant information like guidelines, websites, decisions or provisions of the Information Act.

We provide a similar General Inquiries service for public sector organisations.

Complaints

We can receive complaints from:

  • an applicant who objects to an FOI internal review decision to refuse access, to refuse correction or to charge a fee;
  • a third party who objects to an FOI decision to disclose information;
  • a person who is not satisfied with the response of an organisation to a privacy complaint.

When we deal with a complaint, we are independent. We do not take sides. We do not represent complainants, government organisations or anyone else involved in a complaint. We do not give legal advice.

We do our best to resolve complaints informally. Our main aim is to assist the parties to find a solution that meets their needs and obligations. We inform the parties about the rights and limitations in the Information Act, so that they can make a realistic assessment of what they can hope to achieve from the formal processes under the Act. We explore with the parties alternatives for resolution both within and outside the processes in the Act. Our preferred outcome is for the parties to agree on a solution.

However, if an informal resolution cannot be reached, the matter will be referred to Northern Territory  Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NTCAT) which has the power to conduct a hearing and to make binding orders.

Policy Assistance/Input

We give assistance to government organisations that are developing or reviewing practices, policies or legislation. This includes policies about FOI or Privacy. It also includes practices, policies and legislation that raise FOI or Privacy issues. For example, a policy about use and disclosure of DNA information is likely to involve privacy issues.

We may offer assistance or input if an organisation consults us, if there is a public invitation for input, or if we otherwise become aware of a proposed policy or piece of legislation that might have FOI or Privacy implications.

There are two cases where an organisation must seek input from the Information Commissioner.

  • A Code of Practice or Grant of Authorisation can be approved by the Information Commissioner to vary or supplement the Information Privacy Principles for a particular organisation.
  • The NT Archives Service prepares Records Management Standards to guide records management by public sector organisations. The Commissioner must be consulted to ensure consistency with the objects of the Act.

Investigations and applications

In relation to FOI, the Commissioner can (on application from an organisation) declare a person to be a vexatious applicant.

In relation to Privacy, the Commissioner can:

  • conduct privacy audits of organisations;
  • investigate whether a compliance notice should be issued requiring an organisation to take action to comply with the privacy principles or a code of practice;
  • (on application from an organisation) issue a grant of authorisation to allow an organisation to depart from the privacy principles dealing with collection, use and disclosure.

Improving our service

So that we can do our job well, we keep up-to-date with developments in FOI and Privacy in Australia and overseas by:

  • regularly reviewing FOI and Privacy publications (including websites);
  • keeping in touch with other accountability offices in Australia and New Zealand (for example, privacy commissioners, information commissioners and ombudsmen);
  • being a part of various electronic FOI and Privacy networks throughout Australia ; and
  • attending conferences and forums about FOI and Privacy.

We also conduct surveys to make sure that our services are relevant and useful to public sector organisations and to members of the community.

Managing the Office

We undertake various tasks to make sure that the Office runs efficiently and is accountable for its actions and the public resources we use. This includes general administration, staff management, record keeping, accounts and all the other things involved in running an office.

Our Values

  • Integrity – Act ethically, openly, honestly, fairly and with accountability.
  • Courage – Provide robust reporting and advice and comment without fear or favour.
  • Professional Excellence – Work together to positively represent the Office.
  • Commitment – Strive to achieve the outcomes required by the Information Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
  • Respect –Treat each other and all those who come into contact with this Office with respect.