Frequently asked questions
What is personal information?
Personal information under the Government Information (Public Access) Act (GIPA Act) is information or opinion about an individual’s identity that is apparent from the information or opinion.
We hold personal information that may identify individuals. The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act (PPIP Act) protects your personal information. The Health Records Information and Privacy Act (HRIP Act) protects a specific type of personal information, including information about your physical or mental health, disability, provision of health services or genetic information.
More information on the privacy principles and protections is available from the Information and Privacy Commission.
How can I access my own personal information?
You can access your personal information held by us in the following ways:
- Under the GIPA Act the first step is to make an informal request for your information. Agencies should make every effort to release your personal information in this way. In some circumstances you may need to make a formal access application to the agency concerned.
- You may apply for access under the (PPIP Act), under Information Protection Principle 7. Access to personal information under the PPIP Act is free of charge no matter how long it takes to process the application.
- Your personal health information can be accessed directly from the relevant practitioner/hospital under the Health Records and Information Privacy Act (HRIP Act).
How can I amend my own personal information?
If you think that your personal or health information held by us is incorrect, you can discuss with us how to correct it under:
- Information Protection Principle 8 in the PPIP Act
- Part 6A of the PIPA Act or
- Health Privacy Principle 8 under the HRIP Act (if you wish to correct your health information).
Information on your rights under the PPIP Act and HRIP Act is also available from the Information and Privacy Commission.
How is my privacy protected under the GIPA Act?
Government information sometimes identifies people. Under the GIPA Act information that would reveal an individual's personal information would not generally be disclosed unless there are strong public interest considerations in favour of disclosure.
In deciding whether to disclose personal information about you to a person applying for access to information, we must consider whether you are likely to be concerned about the release of the information and whether those concerns are relevant to the public interest. If so, we must:
- consult with you, and
- take into account any objections you may have to release the information.
If the Council consults with you and decides to release the information, it must:
- tell you of this decision and your right to have it reviewed, and
- not release the information while you still have the right to review this decision.
You may also wish to contact the Privacy Commissioner at the Information and Privacy Commission NSW which publishes factsheets about the handling of personal information and health information.
What can I do if I cannot afford the fee for applying for information?
You can apply for a 50% reduction in processing costs on the grounds of financial hardship, or ask for a waiver of the fee if the information will be of special benefit to the public generally. You will need to provide us with information to help us consider your request.
How will you process my application?
We have up to five days from the day we receive your application to consider it and let you know whether or not it is valid.
If your access application is valid, we will take steps to see if we have the information you want. We may need to consult with other people, businesses or government bodies.
When we have finished consulting, we will provide you with the information unless there is an overriding public interest against disclosure (public interest test) or the information is excluded. Read more in our Agency Information Guide.
If we decide that your application is not valid, we will tell you why.
We will provide you with reasonable help to make a valid application.
How long will my application take?
You will be notified of the decision on your application within 20 working days, unless you agree to extend the time.
We may also extend the time by 10-15 days where consultation with a third party is required or if we need to retrieve records from archives.
If we defer access, we must notify you and include the reason for deferral and the date on which you will be given access. A decision to defer access is reviewable (See IPC Fact Sheet – Your review rights).
If we do not decide your access application within 20 days, it is considered to be "refused". Your application fee must be refunded and you may seek internal or external review of this refusal (See IPC Fact Sheet – Your review rights).
This will not apply if an extension of time has been arranged or payment of an advance deposit is pending.
Is there any government information that is not released?
Information that we are unable to release in response to an access application includes:
- Private health information or personal information about another person
- Information collected under the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 (Schedule 1 clause 1 GIPA Act)
- Information about the Health Care Complaints Commission’s complaint handling, investigation, complaints resolution and reporting functions, including any functions exercised by the Health Conciliation Registry and any functions concerning information to a registration authority or health professional Council (within the meaning of the Health Care Complaints Act 1993 relating to a particular complaint (This is excluded information under Schedule 2, clause 2 of the GIPA Act and is not released unless the HCCC Consents))
We will not release information if there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
Can we refuse your request for information? What are your review rights?
We can refuse your request if:
- the information you have asked for is already publicly available
- you have not paid an advance deposit that we have requested
- your request would take an unreasonable amount of time to process, or
- there is an overriding public interest against disclosure.
Options available if you have been refused access to information:
- Internal review. You can apply to us for an internal review. The review is by a staff member more senior than the original decision maker and there is a $40 fee. You have 20 working days from receiving notice of a decision to ask for an internal review.
- Review by the Information Commissioner. If you are not satisfied with the internal review, or do not want one, you can ask for a review by the Information Commissioner . You have eight weeks from being notified of a decision to ask for this review.
- Review by the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal. If you are not satisfied with the decision of the internal reviewer or the Information Commissioner or if you do not want to take these options you can apply to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT). If you have already asked the Information Commissioner to carry out a review, you have four weeks from notification of this decision to apply to NCAT. If you have not had a review by the Information Commissioner you have eight weeks from notification of the decision to make this application.
Will other people have access to the information released to me?
Information released by way of a formal application is generally recorded in a disclosure log.
The disclosure log is a record containing details of government information already released under the GIPA Act. The disclosure log is part of the open access to information that agencies are required to make available and is a requirement under section 25 of the GIPA Act.
Requests for personal information are not included in the disclosure log.
Some information that has been released under the GIPA Act is provided in the summary disclosure log table.
You can object to information being included in the disclosure log if you believe:
- it includes your personal information
- includes information about a deceased person that you personally represent;
- the information concerns your business, commercial, professional, or financial interests or research undertaken.
What are the public interests factors against releasing information?
There are only limited and specific interests against disclosure that an agency can take into account. These are:
- law enforcement and security
- individual rights, judicial processes and natural justice
- responsible and effective government
- business interests
- environment, culture, economy and other matters
- secrecy and exemption provisions in other laws such as the Health Care Complaints Act
What are the protections under the GIPA Act?
There are a range of protections under the GIPA Act.
- There is no action for defamation or breach of confidence when a decision to disclose information is made in good faith.
- No criminal action will be taken when a decision is made or information disclosed in good faith.
- No action for personal liability is available in relation to any action by an agency, or an officer of an agency, where the action was done in good faith for the purposes of executing the Act.
Are there any penalties if the GIPA Act is not followed?
There are a range of penalties that can be applied under the GIPA Act for the following conduct:
- an officer knowingly deciding a formal access application contrary to the requirements of the Act
- directing an officer to make a decision he or she knows is not permitted or required by the Act
- improperly influencing a decision on an access application
- knowingly misleading or deceiving an officer for the purpose of obtaining access to government information
- concealing, destroying or altering information for the purpose of preventing the release of information.
These offences attract a maximum penalty of 100 penalty units.