A-Z Policy Listing

ACCESS TO INFORMATION POLICY

Date approved

17 August 2012

Date Policy will take effect

17 August 2012

Date of Next Review

July 2015

Approved by

University Council

Custodian title & e-mail address

Director, Legal Services
angelata@uow.edu.au

Author

Information Compliance Officer

Responsible Faculty/
Division & Unit

Legal Services Unit, Governance & Legal Division

Supporting documents, procedures & forms of this policy

Processing Access Applications Procedure
Access to Information Application Form
Processing Access to Information Internal Reviews
Internal Review Application Form

References & Legislation

Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW)
Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act, 1998 (NSW) (“PPIPA”)

Health Records and Information Privacy Act, 2002 (“HRIPA”)

Privacy Act, 1988 (Commonwealth)

National Privacy Principles (NPP)

NSW Privacy Commissioner

Independent Commission Against Corruption Act, 1988 (NSW)

Public Interest Disclosures Act, 1994 (NSW)

State Records Act, 1998 (NSW)

University of Wollongong Act, 1989 (NSW)

University of Wollongong By Law, 2005 (NSW)

Rules of the University of Wollongong

Privacy Policy

Fraud & Corruption Prevention Policy
Records Management Policy

Collection Development Policy

Audience

Public – accessible to anyone

Expiry date of Policy

Not applicable

Submit your feedback on this Policy document using the Policy Feedback Facility.

Contents

1 Purpose of Policy

  • 1. The purpose of this Policy is to facilitate the University of Wollongong’s compliance with its obligations under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (“GIPA Act”).
  • 2. This Policy aims to:
        • a. promote UOW’s commitment to open and transparent governance;
        • b. detail the manner in which UOW discharges its obligations under the GIPA Act;
        • c. provide members of the public with information on their enforceable right to access UOW information under the GIPA Act, including a right to review any decision made by UOW.

2 Definitions

    Word/Term

    Definition (with examples if required)

    Access Application

    A formal request for access to information made under the GIPA Act.

    Agency Information Guide

    The Agency Information Guide describes the structure and functions of UOW, the various kinds of information held by UOW and how the information can be accessed.

    ADT

    Administrative Decisions Tribunal

    Applicant

    A person who has lodged an Access Application with UOW.

    Disclosure Log

    The GIPA Act requires UOW to keep a record, called a disclosure log, that contains information about access applications where UOW has decided to provide access to the information, and considers that the information may also be of interest to other members of the public.

    Formal access application

    This provides the person making an application for information with a right to be provided with access to that information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.

    GIPA Act

    Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009.

    OIC

    Office of Information Commissioner. The OIC provides information, advice, assistance and training on any matters relevant to the GIPA Act.

    Open Access Information

    Information held by UOW that is required to be made publicly available free of charge on the UOW website. Refer Section 7.2 (below) for a list of Open Access Information.

    Person

    For the purpose of this policy, a person includes an individual, a corporation, a body corporate, a NSW government agency and an agency or government of another jurisdiction.

    Personal Information

    Personal Information means information or an opinion about an individual (whether living or dead) whose identity is apparent or can reasonably be ascertained from the information or opinion. This information can be on a database and does not necessarily have to be recorded in a material form.

    Policy document

    A document containing interpretations, rules, guidelines, statements of policy, practices or precedents, or describes procedures to be followed. This includes Rules, Policies, Standards, Codes of Practice, Codes of Conduct and related Procedures and Guidelines.

    Principal Officer

    The Vice Chancellor

    Record

    Any document or other source of information compiled, recorded or stored in written form or by electronic process, or in any other manner or by any other means.

    Register of University Contracts

    UOW is required to keep a register of government contracts that records information about each contract to which UOW is a party, that has (or is likely to have) a value of $150,000 or more.

    Review Officer

    The staff member responsible for dealing with internal review applications. The Review Officer must be a person other than the original decision maker and must hold a more senior position than the original decision maker.

    Right to Information Officer

    Staff member who has been given specific authority and responsibility by the Principal Officer to meet the University’s obligations under the GIPA Act.

3 Application & Scope

  • 1. Public access to government information is facilitated by the GIPA Act. A “government agency” is defined by the GIPA Act as, among other bodies, public authorities. As UOW was established by the University of Wollongong Act 1989 for public purposes, it therefore falls under the definition of a public authority. As such, UOW is required to comply with the GIPA Act.
  • 2. This policy applies to UOW in managing the disclosure of all UOW information and responding to requests for information.
  • 3. This policy does not apply to UOW controlled entities.

4 Policy Principles

  • 1. UOW is committed to:
        • a. promoting and maintaining a system of responsible governance that is open, accountable, fair and effective;
        • b. encouraging the proactive release of UOW information;
        • c. complying with the mandatory disclosure requirements (Open Access Information) as prescribed in the GIPA Act;
        • d. providing public access to information held by UOW, having regard to the protection of ‘personal information’ of an individual and commercial interests of a private entity;
        • e. applying ‘public interest considerations’ in the assessment of all information requests.

5 Access to UOW Information

  • 1. UOW is committed to providing, as far as practicable, an open environment which enables members of the public to access University records without the need for formal requests. Information is made available on the UOW website.
  • 2. The release of requested information that is not available on the UOW website or in other publications will be decided within the guidelines of the GIPA Act, taking into consideration factors relating to public interest, exemptions and privacy.
  • 3. Under the GIPA Act, there are four ways that the public may access information, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure. These include:
        • a. Mandatory release of information via UOW’s website (Open Access information);
        • b. Proactive release of information via UOW’s website;
        • c. Informal release of information in response to an informal request;
        • d. Release of information in response to a formal request for access to information (Access Application).

6 Mandatory Release of Information (Open Access Information)

  • 1. UOW must publish Open Access Information, or mandatory release information, on its website unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure or unless the release of information would constitute an infringement of copyright.
  • 2. The following Open Access Information is available to the public via the UOW website:
        • a. Policy Documents;
        • b. Annual Reports;
        • c. A list of unpublished open access information (information that UOW cannot publish because it would be against the public interest);
        • d. Agency Information Guide;
        • e. Disclosure Log;
        • f. Register of University Contracts.
  • 3. UOW will review its Agency Information Guide at least annually and will continue to update its website with information that may be of interest to the public.

7 Proactive Release of Information

  • 1. In addition to mandatory release of information, UOW is obliged under the GIPA Act to proactively release information. In compliance with this:
    • 1.1. UOW may make any information it holds available to the public, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information or unless the release of information would constitute an infringement of copyright.
    • 1.2. Information that is released will be available on the UOW website.
    • 1.3. UOW will review its commitment to release information proactively at least annually, to identify the kinds of information that may be made publicly available.

8 Informal Release of Information

  • 1. The GIPA Act allows UOW to release information in response to an informal request from a member of the public, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
  • 2. UOW is permitted to decide if, and by what means information is to be released, may impose any reasonable conditions prior to the release of information, and may delete matter from a copy of the record to be released informally.
  • 3. Information that is informally released will be provided to the person requesting it. That information may also be made publicly available on the UOW website, if UOW believes that the information would be of interest to the public.

9 Formal Release of Information

  • 1. A formal request for the release of UOW information may be made by lodging an Access Application. This form of access may be made to UOW when the information sought is not readily available or cannot be accessed through an informal request. An ‘Access to Information Application Form’, which is found on the UOW website, must be completed by the Applicant.
  • 2. The GIPA Act allows a person to make an Access Application for UOW information and provides the Applicant with a right to be provided with access, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure of the information.
  • 3. UOW will deal with and determine Access Applications in accordance with the GIPA Act.
  • 4. Decisions made by UOW in response to an Access Application may be subject to formal review. Refer to Section 11 ‘Review Rights under the GIPA Act’ for more information.

10 Public Interest Considerations

  • 1. The GIPA Act prescribes that there is a general presumption in favour of the disclosure of information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
  • 2. Where there are public interest considerations against disclosure and, on balance, those considerations outweigh the public interest considerations in favour of disclosure, then there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
  • 3. The GIPA Act provides details of the only considerations that may be taken into account in determining whether there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
  • 4. UOW is required to take reasonably practicable steps to consult with a person, where appropriate, before providing access to any Personal Information or business information.

11 Review Rights under the GIPA Act

  • 1. An Applicant who has lodged a formal Access Application must be provided with written reasons of the decision made by UOW.
  • 2. An Applicant who disagrees with a decision made by UOW in response to an Access Application has a right to request a review of that decision. A ‘Request for Internal Review Application Form’, which is found on the UOW website, must be completed by the Applicant.
  • 3. There are three options available to the Applicant to have a decision reviewed:
        • a. Internal review;
        • b. External review by the Information Commissioner; or
        • c. External review by the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.
  • 4. Part 5 of the GIPA Act provides detailed information on reviewable decisions and the review options available to the Applicant.

12 Roles & Responsibilities

  • 1. The Vice Chancellor, as the Principal Officer, is responsible for promoting the open government objectives of the GIPA Act across UOW.
  • 2. The Right to Information Officer has been given specific authority and responsibility by the Principal Officer to:
        • a. meet UOW’s obligations under the GIPA Act;
        • b. determine and decide Access Applications within the required timeframes;
        • c. liaise with business units regarding access to records;
        • d. provide training, support and guidance to staff in dealing with the proactive and informal release of information;
        • e. provide assistance to the public in gaining access to UOW information;
        • f. assist with the routine publication of Open Access Information;
        • g. maintain and update Open Access Information as required or at least annually;
        • h. prepare UOW’s response to reviews conducted by the Information Commissioner or the ADT;
        • i. facilitate the reporting requirements in compliance with the GIPA Act and Regulations.
  • 3. The Right to Information Officers are:
        • a. Director, Legal Services Unit;
        • b. Senior Lawyer, Legal Services Unit;
        • c. Lawyer, Legal Services Unit; and
        • d. Information Compliance Officer, Legal Services Unit.
  • 4. The Review Officer will, in most cases, be the Right to Information Officer responsible for dealing with internal reviews of decisions made by another Right to Information Officer. The Review Officer must be a person other than the person who made the original decision and must hold a more senior position than the person who made the original decision.
  • 5. All areas of UOW have a responsibility to:
        • a. identify and proactively release UOW information on the University’s website;
        • b. ensure that all UOW information that is made publicly available is current, accurate and addresses the public interest considerations of disclosure.
  • 6. All staff have a responsibility to:
        • a. comply with requests from the Right to Information Officer or Review Officer to locate and provide all relevant information held in their respective areas in response to a request for information. In the event that information cannot be located, a written explanation of the steps that have been taken to locate the information must be provided to the Right to Information Officer;
        • b. assist the Right to Information Officer meet UOW’s Open Access Information requirements;
        • c. release information relating to informal requests in a timely manner, unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure;
        • d. promptly forward any Access Applications to the Legal Services Unit for action.

13 Version Control and Change History

    Version Control

    Date Effective

    Author/Reviewer

    Approved By

    Amendment

    1

    17 August 2012

    Angela Taylor Director, Legal Services

    Administrative Committee

    New Policy.

    2

    18 August 2017

    Governance Unit

    University Council

    Consequential amendment as a result of the rescission of the University Archives Policy.

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