Steps in the FOI review process
Step 1Acknowledgement and assessment
Find out more about what is required when making an application.
Step 2Reviewing Ahpra's FOI decision
Learn more about how we analyse Ahpra's FOI decision and the role of the preliminary view.
Step 3Finalising the application
Find out more about how we finalise FOI review applications.
Acknowledgement and assessment
We aim to acknowledge an FOI review application within three days of receiving it.
The assigned staff member will introduce themselves to the applicant within two weeks of receiving the application and will be the main contact person for the applicant throughout the FOI review process.
We check that the application:
- has been made in writing
- includes contact details for how information can be sent to the applicant (this is usually an email address or mailing address)
- includes a copy of the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency's (Ahpra) FOI decision the applicant would like to be reviewed.
It is also useful if the FOI review application provides an explanation of why the applicant thinks the decision should be reviewed.
We may contact the applicant during the assessment phase to find out more information.
Choosing the best way forward
If we decide to review the FOI decision, we will inform both the applicant and Ahpra. We usually do this by email but can send information to applicants by post if they prefer.
If we believe the applicant’s concerns could be better addressed in another way, we will discuss this with the applicant. This may include suggesting that the applicant’s concerns might be better addressed by making a complaint to the Ombudsman.
We may recommend that a court or tribunal hears the matter. We may also decide not to review the decision for other reasons and where this is the case, we provide a thorough explanation of this outcome.
Reviewing Ahpra's FOI decision
If the application proceeds to a decision to undertake a review, there are several steps involved.
This process may take some time depending on the number of documents involved in the review and the complexity of the issues raised.
Seeking information from Ahpra
We formally request that Ahpra provides all information and documents that are relevant to the FOI request or internal review request and their decision. This usually includes:
- the FOI request and, if applicable, the internal review request
- copies of relevant correspondence between the applicant and Ahpra, such as letters, emails or file notes of telephone conversations
- copies of all documents contained in the schedule of documents to Ahpra’s FOI decision. For documents that were partly or fully exempt, we request the documents in both redacted and unredacted form.
We also ask Ahpra to provide a submission to explain why it made its decision.
Analysing the decision
We thoroughly consider all the information provided by the applicant and Ahpra. This process usually involves considering the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cwlth), the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s (OAIC) FOI guidelines and relevant decisions made by the Commissioner, the Australian Information Commissioner, tribunals and courts.
We may request more information from the applicant or Ahpra during the analysis, if needed. We try to resolve most FOI review applications by agreement. We are empowered to use any technique that the Commissioner considers appropriate to resolve the matters at issue in the review. For example, by using techniques that are used in alternative dispute resolution processes. If we are able to facilitate an agreement between the applicant and Ahpra, we encourage the applicant to withdraw their FOI review application.
If no agreement is reached, the assigned staff member will form a view on the review application. The is an important step because it explains the staff member’s analysis of Ahpra’s FOI decision and can help the applicant get a quicker resolution of their matter as informally as possible.
Our FOI review process focuses on whether the FOI legislation has been appropriately applied. The reasons why a person wants access to particular documents is not relevant to assessing whether a document, or part of a document, has been appropriately exempted from disclosure in accordance with legal requirements.
The assigned staff member will share their view with the applicant or Ahpra depending on who the preliminary view is adverse to.
The staff member may decide that the original decision should be:
- affirmed (not changed)
- varied (decision not changed but aspects of the decision modified), or
- set aside and a fresh decision made.
The preliminary view is generally a good indication of the final outcome of an FOI review application. To date, all preliminary views that have proceeded to a final decision have been upheld by the Commissioner in her decision.
Responding to the preliminary view
If the applicant or Ahpra agrees with the preliminary view, the review request will be finalised at this point in time. This could involve:
- Ahpra issuing a revised decision in line with the view (including releasing any additional documents in full or in part)
- the applicant withdrawing the application.
If the applicant or Ahpra is not satisfied with the preliminary view, our office invites the relevant party to provide a response. This response should explain the reasons why they disagree with the preliminary view and identify any errors in the preliminary view.
Finalising the application
If the preliminary view is not accepted by the relevant party, the Commissioner can:
- discontinue the review without making a final decision
- make a final decision about the FOI review application.
If the Commissioner makes a final decision, she can decide to:
- affirm the decision (not change it)
- vary the decision (decision not changed but aspects of the decision modified), or
- set aside the decision and make a fresh decision (make a new decision).
The Commissioner will consider the information relevant to the matter, the preliminary view and any submissions received in response to the preliminary view. The Commissioner will write a report explaining her reasons for the decision. A copy will be provided to the applicant, Ahpra and, if applicable, any other review party.
Ahpra must comply with any final decision the Commissioner makes.
The decision will also be published on our website. To protect privacy, identifying personal information is removed from published decisions.
If the applicant or Ahpra disagrees with the Commissioner’s decision, an appeal can be made to the relevant state or territory tribunal. An appeal must be made within 28 days of receiving notice of the Commissioner’s decision.
The tribunal will reconsider Ahpra's original decision and has the power to make a new decision.
We are not involved in any subsequent tribunal proceedings.
Find out more
FOI reviewFOI review
We can conduct a review of an FOI decision made by Ahpra.
FOI review decisionsFOI review decisions
View all of the decisions made by the Commissioner in relation to Ahpra's FOI decisions.
Apply for FOI reviewApply for FOI review
Find out how to make an application for a review of Ahpra's FOI decision.
FOI complaintsFOI complaints
Our office can consider complaints to the Ombudsman about how Ahpra handled a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.