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Factsheet FIP01 - Access to Information

Purpose

This Factsheet explains the various ways that you can access information held by DVA, under:

  • the Safety, Rehabilitation and Compensation (Defence-related Claims) Act 1988 (DRCA);
  • the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA); and
  • the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act).

It also explains how you can access historical information under the Archives Act 1983.

Can I access information under the DRCA or the MRCA?

Section 59 of the DRCA (section 59)  and section 331 of the MRCA (section 331) provide persons who have made claims under these Acts the ability to access documents held by the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Commission (MRCC) relating to their claim.  

A current claim includes: 

  • a claim that is yet to be determined;
  • a claim in which liability has been accepted but the extent of liability may require further determination; or 
  • a determined claim to which review /appeal rights remain available.

A request for ‘any documents held by the MRCC that relates to the person's claim, may include records held by the MRCC in hard copy or electronically.  Such a request may also capture policy documents which a MRCC delegate has relied on in making a determination on the claim or other documents of an operational or administrative nature that support the claim process such as factsheets, procedures and guidelines.  

Where you make a request for documents relating to your claim, without specifying under which Act the request is made, your application will be processed, as far as possible, under section 59 or section 331, whichever is appropriate.  DVA will advise you if a full release of the documents requested is not possible under section 59 or section 331.

What information cannot be accessed under section 59 of the DRCA or section 331 of the MRCA?

If you do have a current DRCA or MRCA claim and make a request for information under the DRCA or MRCA, there are certain documents you will not be provided access to, including those:

  • not related to your claim;
  • publicly available through other sources or can be easily purchased or otherwise obtained; 
  • attracting legal professional privilege;
  • containing information about departmental investigations which is of its nature deliberative (i.e. opinions, advice and recommendations relating to the deliberative processes of the Department). 

Where you do not have a current DRCA or MRCA claim, section 59 and section 331 do not apply.  In this case, you may wish to make a request under the FOI Act instead (see below for further information). 

The Veterans’ Entitlements Act 1986 (VEA) does not have a similar provision to section 59 and section 331 under the DRCA and the MRCA.  If you wish to access information relating to your VEA claim, you should make an application under the FOI Act (see below for further information).

How do I make a request under section 59 of the DRCA or section 331 of the MRCA?

If you wish to make a request under section 59 or section 331, this claim should be made in writing (e.g. by letter, or email), and it should be made by you or by your authorised representative. The request should include a description of the document or documents which you seek to access. 

What are my rights to access information under the FOI Act?

The FOI Act gives you the right to:

  • access documents (except exempt documents) held by DVA
  • ask for your personal information as held by DVA to be amended if the information is incomplete, out of date, incorrect or misleading; and
  • seek a review if you disagree with a decision made by DVA about your FOI request.

What documents can be accessed through DVA under FOI?

You can access both paper-based documents and electronic records via an FOI request. This may include, personal files, written materials, photographs; and computer records.

Where documents are being released to you under the FOI Act, ordinarily copies of documents are provided, however you may also request to inspect documents at a DVA office. You may also authorise someone else to request or inspect documents on your behalf, but they will need to provide evidence you have authorised them.

Can I get access to information about someone else?

A document which contains personal or business information about someone else (a ‘third party’) may not be released to you without the authority of the third party.

Generally, you will need to have the written authority of the third party individual or business before that information can be released to you.  Without that authority, DVA is required to consult with the third party individual or business about the FOI request and the relevant documents, to allow them the opportunity to comment on the release of the requested documents.

How can I access non-personal information, such as policy information?

DVA publishes a broad range of information on its website including:

  • details of DVA’s functions and responsibilities
  • annual reports, responses to Parliament (parliamentary enquiries) and reviews
  • routinely requested information and FOI disclosure log
  • consultative arrangements; and
  • operational information.

For more information visit the Information Publication Scheme page of the DVA website at https://www.dva.gov.au/about-dva/freedom-information/information-publication-scheme

If you are seeking access to information which has not been published, you can make an FOI request for that information.

How do I request information under the FOI Act?

All FOI requests must be in writing and:

  • state that your request is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act;
  • provide enough information to allow DVA to identify the document/s you are seeking; and
  • provide your contact details to which notices and documents are to be sent (for example an email or postal address).

Alternatively, you can apply by filling out form D8601 Information Access Application Form.

You may submit your request in person to any DVA office, by emailing the Information Access Inbox, information.access@dva.gov.au

Information Access
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
GPO Box 9998
BRISBANE QLD 4001

If you are seeking your personal information, you may be required to confirm your identity if DVA doubts or suspects your identity.

There is no application fee for making an FOI request. However, processing charges may apply to some requests (see below).

Are there any documents I can’t access under the FOI Act?

The FOI Act allows DVA to refuse requests or to exempt information or documents from disclosure in certain circumstances. Most commonly, access to documents is refused if they are not in the possession of DVA or if they contain the personal information of another individual.

The FOI Act provides for access to existing documents. It does not require DVA to create documents to address queries or to provide answers to questions, except in very limited circumstances.

Are there any charges applicable for requests for my personal information?

No, there is no charge when you request documents that consist only of your own personal information.

Do charges apply to other FOI requests?

DVA may impose charges in accordance with the FOI Act and its Regulations in relation to requests involving information other than your personal information. Any charges imposed will fairly reflect the work involved in providing access to the documents you have requested.

The most common charges are:

  • search and retrieval - $15 per hour
  • decision making - no charge for the first five hours, $20 per hour thereafter; and
  • photocopying - 10c per page.

If DVA is seeking to impose charges for an FOI application, it will write to you detailing a quote for the estimated charge amount and seeking a deposit ($20 for an estimated charge between $25 and $100, or 25% for charges greater than $100).  Further details about how the charges were calculated, how to make payments or what to do if you are unhappy with the charge amount would be outlined to you in writing. This includes providing you with an opportunity to contend the estimated charge.

What happens if access is refused under the FOI Act?

The FOI Act requires DVA to provide reasons for all decisions including a decision to refuse access to documents. A statement explaining your review rights, including how to seek a review, is also provided. You may seek internal review by DVA or by the Office of the Australian Information Commission (OAIC). DVA encourages you to seek internal review as a first step, as it can be quicker than OAIC review, and allows a different DVA decision-maker to take a fresh look at the original decision, consider any further information you have provided in the meantime. There is no application fee for seeking an internal review or OAIC review.

Can I have information amended or annotated under the FOI Act?

The FOI Act allows you to submit an application to amend or annotate documents containing your personal information if it is incomplete, incorrect, is out of date or is misleading. However, the FOI Act does not provide for the deletion of documents.

An application to amend or annotate documents must be made in writing and to assist your application should as far as practicable specify the following:

  • that you are submitting an application to amend or annotate documents (preferably by also stating that the application is made under the FOI Act);
  • the document/s containing the record of personal information that you claim requires amendment;
  • the actual information you claim to be incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading as well as the reasons you claim that it is incomplete, incorrect, out of date or misleading; and
  • the amendment you are requesting.

You must also provide your contact details where notices can be sent to you (for example an email or postal address).

You may submit your application to amend or annotate documents under the FOI Act in person to any DVA office, by emailing the Information Access Inbox at information.access@dva.gov.au dva.gov.au or by post to DVA’s Information Access postal address listed above.

How do I access historical information held by DVA?

Much government information is eventually available to the public via the National Archives of Australia (NAA) when it reaches the ‘open access’ period under the Archives Act 1983.

The NAA holds the service records for servicemen and women who served in World War I and World War II. There are various ways you can access these records from the NAA such as viewing the original documents or ordering digital or print copies. For more information, visit the NAA website at www.naa.gov.au

More Information

DVA General Enquiries

Phone: 1800 555 254 *

Email: GeneralEnquiries@dva.gov.au

DVA Website: www.dva.gov.au

Factsheet Website: www.dva.gov.au/factsheets

* Calls from mobile phones and pay phones may incur additional charges.

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Disclaimer

The information contained in this Factsheet is general in nature and does not take into account individual circumstances. You should not make important decisions, such as those that affect your financial or lifestyle position on the basis of information contained in this Factsheet. Where you are required to lodge a written claim for a benefit, you must take full responsibility for your decisions prior to the written claim being determined. You should seek confirmation in writing of any oral advice you receive from DVA.

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9 April 2018