Significant changes to the Victorian Freedom of Information Act 1982 are about to take effect that have implications for councils.

The changes include:

  • New Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, comprising the Information Commissioner, the Public Access Deputy Commissioner (for FOI matters) and the Privacy and the Data Protection Deputy Commissioner (for privacy matters)
  • Less time to respond to FOI requests, being 30 days down from 45 days (although this can be extended in some instances)
  • Extended consultation and notification requirements, including individuals being consulted about release of their personal information before a decision is made on an FOI request, which is likely to add significantly to FOI officers’ workloads
  • New Commissioner search powers, which may require councils to undertake specific searches for documents, including emails
  • New Commissioner coercive and investigative powers over councils and their CEOs.

Councils will need to review their FOI processes to ensure they can meet the reduced timeframes with the increased workload. In particular, councils should review their document management and search processes to ensure all relevant documents are located in response to an FOI request as soon as possible.

View a version of the FOI Act with the changes shown in ‘track changes’.