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Guideline: Processing freedom of information requests


To set out the actions and time frames for the processing of freedom of information requests.


Chargeable request is a request for documents other than the applicant’s own personal information.

Documents include but are not limited to paper documents, electronic documents, audio recordings, pictures, plans, photographs and emails. It does not include documents that are publicly available such as reference material that is otherwise available and documents that can be purchased from or available freely from the University.

Non-chargeable request is a request for access to an individual’s own personal information.

FOI Coordinator is an officer authorised under section 23(1) of the FOI Act to make decisions in relation to FOI requests.

Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (‘FOI Act’) is Commonwealth legislation that allows the public to seek access to information held by any Commonwealth agency or authority, including the Australian National University.


The following actions are to be carried out by staff within the relevant time frames when processing freedom of information requests. These times represent the maximum times available. For simple requests (including those involving a small number of documents or where it is clear that no exemptions apply), the processing time will be shorter.

Calendar day



Determine validity of request


Is the request valid?

  • If Yes:
  • and sent by email, send return email message to applicant advising that their request has been received by the University
  • and sent by mail or delivered, send acknowledgement letter to applicant on calendar day 13
  • If No: clarifies the scope of the request and sends an acknowledgement email or letter to the applicant once a valid request is received
  • If the request is for access to applicant’s own staff or student file refer to either Director Human Resources as a section 15A request or Director Student Administration

FOI Coordinator

Informs the Legal Office of the request if required

FOI Coordinator


Advises FOI Coordinator which lawyer will be assisting

Legal Office

Refers the request to the appropriate areas for confirmation that documents exist, estimate of time to locate documents, contact person for the request

FOI Coordinator

Assess charges


  • Chargeable request - estimates time to search for relevant documents
  • Non-chargeable request – identifies relevant documents

Responsible area


Chargeable request - sends an email to the responsible areas reminding them of estimation and search times

FOI Coordinator


Chargeable request - informs the FOI Coordinator of estimated search time

Responsible area

Chargeable request:

  • calculates charges, based on advice of estimated search time
  • sends applicant notice of preliminary assessment of charges and acknowledgement letter

FOI Coordinator


Retrieve documents


Receives deposit or full payment of charges from applicant:

  • Yes - notifies relevant area to retrieve documents and send to FOI Coordinator
  • No – resulting from applicant’s action or inaction:
  • applicant requests fees to be reduced or waived
  • notifies applicant within 30 days of decision to reduce or waive fees
  • applicant does not respond within 30 days
  • request is taken to be withdrawn

FOI Coordinator


Identifies documents and notes any objections to their release

Responsible area


Sends an email to the responsible areas reminding them of retrieval of documents

FOI Coordinator


Non-chargeable requests sends acknowledgement letter to applicant

FOI Coordinator


Chargeable and non-chargeable requests - sends relevant documents to FOI Coordinator noting any objections to their release.

Responsible area

Non-chargeable requests - sends acknowledgement letter to applicant

FOI Coordinator

Examine documents


Assesses relevance of documents to request, identifies sensitivities of documents in consultation with responsible area and Legal Office

FOI Coordinator


Consults with third parties if necessary

FOI Coordinator

ADD 30 DAYS TO PROCESSING TIME, IF TIME FRAME IS EXTENDED e.g. consultation with third parties, imposition of a charge, extension granted by the Australian Information Commissioner or by agreement with applicant.


Informs responsible area and any other stakeholders of proposed exemptions and seek comments

FOI Coordinator

Prepare decision letter


  • redacts exempt information from document copies
  • prepares decision notification
  • prepares statement of reasons
  • finalises schedule of documents
  • copies and redacts documents if necessary

FOI Coordinator


Provides final comments about proposed exemptions

Responsible area

Quality assurance


Sends decision letter and documents to alternate FOI delegate for final checking

FOI Coordinator


Considers proposed changes and implements if believes they are required

FOI Coordinator


Sends decision letter to applicant

  • Chargeable request - applicant to pay any outstanding fees prior to release of documents
  • Non-chargeable request - documents sent with the decision letter

FOI Coordinator

Informs the Legal Office of decision if required

FOI Coordinator


Publishes material to the Disclosure Log, if appropriate

FOI Coordinator


Printable version (PDF)
Title Processing freedom of information requests
Document Type Guideline
Document Number ANUP_6030790
Purpose To set out the actions and time frames for the processing of freedom of information requests.
Audience Staff, Students
Category Administrative
Topic/ SubTopic Information Management - Records & Archives
Effective Date 14 Jan 2020
Next Review Date 13 Jan 2025
Responsible Officer: University Librarian and Director, Scholarly Information Services
Approved By: University Librarian and Director, Scholarly Information Services
Contact Area Library, Archives and University Records
Authority: Freedom of Information Act 1982
Archives Act 1983
Delegations 398, 399

Information generated and received by ANU staff in the course of conducting business on behalf of ANU is a record and should be captured by an authorised recordkeeping system. To learn more about University records and recordkeeping practice at ANU, see ANU recordkeeping and Policy: Records and archives management.