Accessing records through Freedom of Information (FOI)
FOI and your rights
The Freedom of Information Act 1991 gives you a legal right to:
- request access to documents held by state government agencies, ministers, local councils or state universities
- request the amendment of documents about you which are incomplete, incorrect, out-of-date or misleading
- seek a review of a decision made by a state government agency, minister, local council or state university.
Who to apply to
FOI applications can be made to South Australian:
- state government agencies
- local councils and
- state universities.
Each agency has FOI staff responsible for processing FOI applications in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1991, and have 30 days to deal with an application.
If the documents you want to access relate to a police matter, send your application to South Australia Police.
If you want to access hospital records, send your application to the hospital you attended.
- Documents available through FOI
Documents you can apply for under freedom of information
The Freedom of Information Act 1991 enables you to apply for access to any document in the possession of a South Australian:
- State Government department or agency
- Government Minister
- Local Council or
This includes paper based documents as well as other types of documents including:
- computer files and databases
- videos, and
- audio tapes.
Examples of the types of documents held by government agencies include:
- school records
- health records
- welfare records
- criminal records
- minutes and agendas
- policy documents
- Cabinet documents
- research materials, and
- instruction and procedure manuals.
Each agency has an Information Statement published on their website or in their Annual Report which outlines the types of documents they hold.
Documents you may not get access to under freedom of information
While the aim of the Freedom of Information Act 1991 is to provide access to the maximum amount of information possible,
a number of exemptions are necessary to ensure that other people's privacy is not breached or that the proper administration of Government is not adversely affected.
Examples of documents that you may be refused access to include documents:
- that would lead to an unreasonable disclosure of another person's affairs
- that contain trade secrets or information of commercial value
- affecting law enforcement and public safety
- subject to legal professional privilege or parliamentary privilege.
For further information, refer to Schedule 1 of the Freedom of Information Act 1991.
- Documents available outside FOI
Documents publicly or otherwise available
It is not necessary to make a freedom of information application for documents that are already publicly available such as:
- agency annual reports
- budget statements
- public registers
- the electoral roll.
Government agencies may also be prepared to give access to documents not publicly available outside of the freedom of information process.
If you want to find out whether documents are publicly available or available outside of freedom of information you can check the website of the relevant:
- state government agency
- local council or state university or
- contact the agency's FOI officer or
- FOI Unit.
Agency Information Statements may also list documents that are publicly available or available outside the freedom of information process.
Information Statements are published on agency websites or in agency annual reports.
Disclosure Logs for non-personal information released through freedom of information
Where an FOI applicant is given access to non-personal information through the freedom of information process,
some State Government agencies are required to publish details in a disclosure log on their website of the:
- FOI application and
- documents given access.
This disclosure is authorised by Premier and Cabinet Circular PC045 – Disclosure logs for non-personal information released through freedom of information (PC045).
Regularly requested government information published online
Some government information regularly requested by the public is proactively disclosed by government agencies on their websites for everyone to access.
This information includes government expenditure on:
- credit cards
- mobile phones
- overseas travel and more.
This disclosure is authorised by Premier and Cabinet Circular PC035 - Proactive Disclosure for Regularly Requested Information (PC035).
Cabinet documents published online
Some Cabinet documents between 10 and 20 years old are published on the Department of the Premier and Cabinet website.