Q What happens if you are injured on a public street or footpath and you need information about the maintenance records or notices of injury from your Local Council?
Q What if you are charged with an offence that is later withdrawn and you want to know why the charge was brought in the first place?
Under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) (“the GIPA Act”), a person in New South Wales can request information from the State Government, the Local Government and agencies run by the State Government.
The GIPA Act allows an applicant to be provided with information unless there is an overriding public interest in not disclosing the material. The GIPA Act allows you to access documents from all Government agencies and departments, such as the Police, Health, Justice, a ministry office, and local government.
Each government department will have a specific form for you to complete. You need to identify the classes of documents you require to be provided by the agency. You need to put in as much information as possible to allow the person tasked with locating the information sufficient detail to respond.
These forms are easily accessible and an individual and a nominal fee is charged which is usually around $30 or so.
Once your application has been processed, the relevant agency may decide to release all the information you have requested, a partial release of the information you have requested, or decide not to release any information. You have rights to challenge any decision concerning the release of information.
The GIPA Act is there to release information from the relevant agency, often material is not disclosed if it affects the privacy of others. If the agency or department partially releases or chooses not to release the requested information, an applicant may request a review of the decision.
It should be noted that the review processes follow strict time limits and these should be observed.
Initially there is an internal review option. The agency will look at their decision again to see if the correct decision was made to release information.
If the initial review is unsuccessful an applicant can request the Privacy Commission perform an external review of the decision.If an applicant is still dissatisfied with the outcome of the release of documents, they can apply to the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) to determine the matter.
NCAT will make the final decision regarding the release of documents and there usually there is no further review unless there is an error of law or a substantive error made by NCAT into Court.