Freedom of Information
The Western Australian Freedom of Information Act 1992 gives the community the right to apply for access to documents held by State Public Sector agencies.
As a statutory authority, the Heritage Council, through the State Heritage Office, is required to assist the community to obtain access to documents at the lowest reasonable cost, and to ensure that personal information held is accurate, complete, up-to-date and not misleading.
The community's right to apply for access to information is not affected by any reasons they may have for wishing to obtain access or the agency's belief as to what their reasons are for applying.
The kinds of documents the community may request access to includes paper files, computer records, maps, plans, photographs, tape recordings, films, video tapes and electronically stored information.
Any member of the community may also apply for access to personal information about themselves that is contained in agency documents. They have the ability to correct that information if it is considered incorrect, inaccurate, out of date, or misleading. Personal information is information about the person applying for the information whilst non-personal information concerns other people or subjects.
Schedule 1 of the FOI Act lists 15 categories of information, which are exempt under the Act:
- Cabinet and Executive Council – agendas, minutes and other records of an Executive Body (Cabinet, Committees of Cabinet, sub-committees of Cabinet and Executive Council)
- Intergovernmental Relations – that may damage relations between the Government and other governments and the revelation of confidential information communicated in confidence
- Personal information
- Commercial or Business Information
- Law enforcement, Public Safety and Property Security Deliberative Processes – opinions, advice or recommendations, consultation of the government, a minister or an agency
- Legal Professional Privilege
- Confidential Communications – revealing information of a confidential nature obtained in confidence and reasonably expected to prejudice the future supply of that kind of information to the Government
- The State's Economy
- The State's Financial or Property Affairs
- Effective Operations of Agencies
- Contempt of Parliament and the Courts
- Information as to the Adoption or Artificial Conception
- Information Protected by certain Secrecy Provisions
- Information as to Precious Metal Transactions.
Overview of FOI Process
Outlined below is the process the Heritage Council takes for handling requests under the FOI Act.
- The Heritage Council usually has a maximum of 45 calendar days to deal with an FOI application and to decide if access to the documents will be granted.
- The applicant can negotiate a shorter or longer period, or they can apply to the Information Commissioner to reduce the time allowed for the Heritage Council to deal with the application.
- The Heritage Council must provide a written notice of its decision to the applicant informing them whether they will be provided with access to all or some of the documents requested. If access is refused to any documents or parts of any documents, the written notice must provide the applicant with the reasons for the decision and explain the applicant's rights of review under the FOI Act. If the applicant is dissatisfied with the Heritage Council's decision they have 30 days to make an application for an Internal Review.
- The Heritage Council then has 15 calendar days to conduct an Internal Review. Another person in the agency, who is not subordinate to the original Decision Maker must make the decision in respect to the outcome of the Internal Review.
- If the applicant is dissatisfied with the decision coming out of the Internal Review they may lodge a complaint with the Information Commissioner within 60 days of receiving the Heritage Council's Notice of Decision.
- The Information Commissioner may, as a result of the applicant's complaint, conduct an External Review.
No fees or charges apply to applications for personal information or the amendment of personal information about the applicant (such as their medical records; details of employment and the like).
Applications for other documents (such as those which are non-personal in nature) require a $30 application fee to be paid when the application is lodged, and there may be other charges imposed by the Heritage Council.
The Heritage Council does not usually apply a charge, apart from the $30 application fee, for FOI Applications unless the task is considered to be unusually large and time consuming.
Public Interest Disclosures
The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2003 aims to facilitate and encourage the disclosure of public interest information and to provide protection for those who make disclosures and for those whom disclosures are made.
The Act is a significant step towards reducing and eliminating corrupt conduct and maladministration in the public sector.
The Heritage Council views the legislation as providing a solid foundation for increasing accountability and public confidence. The provision of complaints and grievance avenues, to both employees and members of the public, is indicative of good management. While protected disclosures offer another avenue for receiving and resolving complaints. The Act provides a means of assisting in the identification of areas of maladministration, criminal and ethical risk of public interest and taking remedial action in addressing those issues.
All contact and related discussions are treated in the strictest confidence, in accordance with the requirements of the Act.