Information for Staff
The Freedom of Information (FOI) Act gives members of the public the right to request access to documents created or held by the University of Adelaide in a manner that is fair and transparent.
As a University of Adelaide employee, you may get asked to help an FOI Officer respond to an FOI request. This section offers:
- a brief overview of how the University manages FOI requests.
- detailed guidance on what to do as a University of Adelaide employee if you think you have received an FOI request or if you have been asked by an FOI Officer for help with a request.
How the University handles FOI requests
- FOI requests are processed by a University FOI Officer.
- The FOI Officer is accredited to make decisions about access to documents under the FOI Act and will handle the request in accordance with the University’s Freedom of Information policy.
- University schools or branches will work with the FOI Officer to provide copies of records that fall within the scope of the request.
- The FOI Officer will then advise the applicant on the outcome of their decision and any fees.
Download the Freedom of Information (FOI) process chart.
Guidance on what to do as a staff member
Step 1: Contact an FOI Officer immediately
If you receive an informal request for information or records that you have concerns about releasing, contact a University FOI Officer to discuss - it may be appropriate for them to ask the person to submit a formal FOI request, or that may not prove necessary if for example the information the person is seeking is already publicly available.
Where appropriate the University will provide access to information in a voluntary, cooperative manner without the need to resort to applications under the FOI Act.
If you receive a formal request, i.e. one that states it is an application for the purposes of the FOI Act, forward it immediately to a University FOI Officer.
Do not delay, as the FOI Act specifies response timeframes and we want to process the application as quickly as we can.
Let the FOI Officer know if you do not think your area is the one most likely to hold information relating to the request (and mention, if you know, of the area that is).
Step 2: Cooperate with the FOI Officer
You do not need to respond directly to the person.
The FOI Officer will work with the person to progress their request – this includes steps such as making sure their application has been formally acknowledged, advising them of any potential fees or charges and so on.
See the 'Procedures' section of the University's Freedom of Information policy for more information.
If you are contacted by an FOI Officer to help search for documents in response to an FOI request, you must cooperate and provide the FOI Officer with copies of all documents within the scope of the FOI application.
A document includes ‘…anything in which information is stored or from which information may be reproduced’.
In other words, not only paper records can be counted as relevant, but also electronic letters, reports, emails, minutes, notes, archived files, as well as electronic data stored within databases and servers we have control over.
Let the FOI Officer know if:
- you think the request’s scope will involve looking through or retrieving a lot of documents – the FOI Officer can discuss the options with you.
- you think you may have difficulty responding to the FOI Officer by the requested due date or you think relevant documents might need to be retrieved from electronic or physical archives – as these factors could impact on the response timeframe.
- you are not sure whether all or part of a document falls inside the scope of the applicant's request - the FOI Officer will help clarify this.
Step 3: Conduct a reasonable search and record how you did it
The University has an obligation under the FOI Act to ensure sufficient searches are carried out for documents requested by FOI applicants. When looking for relevant records consider:
- local / personal drives
- network drives
- HPRM / other databases
- email accounts
- mobile devices
- audio-visual material
- office desks / notepads / draft papers
- physical files / cabinets / compactus
- loan locations / offsite storage
- informing the FOI Officer if there are other areas likely to hold such records.
Use the response proforma supplied by the FOI Officer to keep a record of the places you looked for documents, how you went about looking for them, when and how long it took you.
See the response proforma provided by the FOI Officer for the details you or your manager would be expected to provide.
Taking note of the time spent on the FOI request is important, as applicants may be charged a ‘by-the-hour’ processing charge.
This record is not only for yourself and the FOI Officer to refer back to, but potentially the State Ombudsman or South Australian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (SACAT), should the applicant request an external review.
Step 4: Mention any concerns about release
Please do not withhold any relevant document because you are concerned about it being released. You can raise these concerns in the response proforma and the FOI Officer will decide if the document is eligible to be exempted from release.
Your views will be taken into account when deciding on the document's release, however note that the following factors are generally not relevant in deciding if an exemption applies:
- The author of the document was or is of high seniority
- Disclosure would confuse the public or there is a possibility the public might misinterpret the information
- Disclosure would reasonably be expected to cause embarrassment to the University
If the FOI Officer is satisfied that the criteria for exemption is met, the content may be 'redacted' (blanked out) from the copy that is released to the applicant or the entire document may be withheld from release.
See our FOI exemptions page for more information.
Step 5: Report back to the FOI Officer ASAP
Let the FOI Officer know as soon as possible if you cannot find any relevant documents or need more time to find or retrieve them.
If you could not find any relevant documents, advise the FOI Officer of how and where you looked (and why) - they will need to include this information when responding to the applicant.
See our response timeframes page for information about extensions should you need more time.
Download the questions to guide your search fact sheet for a quick reminder list when you are dealing with an FOI request.