Freedom of information (FOI) gives you the right to apply for access to NT government information. It is about enhancing government accountability and participation in our democratic system of government.
Government information means records required to be kept by NT public sector organisations as evidence of their activities. It includes computer records, audiotapes, videotapes and CDs.
It includes personal information about people and information about businesses.
It is limited to records held by the organisation. It does not cover knowledge or views held by staff unless they have been recorded. It does not cover documents that once existed but have been destroyed.
You apply in writing to the government organisation that you believe holds the information. So, for example, you would apply to the Department of Health and Community Services for information it holds, or the Northern Territory Police for information it holds.
You apply to the public sector organisation that you think holds the information. For example, the following are organisations: NT Police, the Department of the Chief Minister, the Department of Justice, the Optometrists Board.
Before you make an application, you will probably find it useful to contact the organisation to talk about whether an application is necessary and the best way to apply for the information.
If the organisation you apply to has no information or there is an organisation better placed to deal with the application, the organisation you applied to can:
You have a right to get access to any government information unless there is a good reason for refusing access.
In some cases, access to part or all of the information a person applies for is refused. This will happen when the organisation decides that disclosure of particular information would be contrary to the public interest. The Act sets out a series of exemptions that say when disclosure is or may be contrary to the public interest.
The exemptions relate to things like:
If your application is for your personal information only there is no application fee. But you may have to pay for the cost of providing access, eg. 20c per page for A4 copies of documents you want.
If your application is not limited to your personal information, you will have to pay a $30 application fee, and costs of processing the part of your application that is not for your personal information. These will include costs of searching for the information, consultation, and decision-making.
Fees may be waived or reduced in some cases.
For more information, visit FOI Fees and Charges
There are a number of ways that you can help reduce the amount of work that needs to be done to respond to an access application. These will make it more likely that
To help with the process, you can-
FOI is just one way of accessing government information. NT government organisations already publish a lot of information about what they do. There are also other administrative and legal ways of getting access to information. Some of these alternatives are discussed at Alternatives to FOI.
Before you make an FOI application, you might want to research the type of information the organisation holds or contact the organisation that you think holds information to see what they have available and discuss any options for access.
You can apply to access your own personal information whenever it was created. You can only apply to access other government information if it was created or received by an organisation after 1 July 1993.
Some organisations are partly excluded. The access provisions don't apply to-
FOI only applies to local authorities from 1 July 2005.
You may not get information if it is already publicly available or cannot be identified or does not exist, or if the organisation does not hold it.
The NT FOI scheme does not apply to Commonwealth government agencies or private businesses.
There is a Commonwealth FOI scheme for access to information held by Commonwealth government agencies. If you want information from a Commonwealth agency, you can contact the agency.
For personal information about yourself, there is a Commonwealth Privacy scheme that applies to Commonwealth government agencies and some private businesses. You can contact the agency or business concerned, or the Federal Privacy Commissioner to see whether they are covered by a Privacy scheme.