Right to Know Day 2019

Top 5 tips for applicants — find out more
discover the importance of government-held information and its use as a national resource
Top 5 tips for decision makers — find out more
discover the importance of government-held information and its use as a national resource
Agencies with the most FOI requests — find out more
discover the importance of government-held information and its use as a national resource

Explore your Right to Know to discover the importance of government-held information and its use as a national resource.

The idea of Right to Know Day sprang from a meeting of information access advocates in Bulgaria in 2002. Today, it is a global event where we recognise that a free flow of information is critical for innovation and development.

For #RTK2019, we are encouraging the use of Information for all as a foundation of an open and accountable democracy.

Our Freedom of Information (FOI) laws enshrine our right to access government-held information, which strengthens transparency and accountability in policy making, administrative decision making and government service delivery.

Learn more about the Right to Know and our FOI system for #RTK2019 through our videos, events, RTK tips and other resources.

Right to Know tips

Top 5 tips for FOI applicants

  1. Look for self-service access portals or an administrative access policy
    If you want to access documents relating to you, check the agency’s website to see whether they have a self-service access portal or have an administrative access policy. If in doubt, call the agency and ask. You may able to get the documents you’re looking for by making a phone call.

  2. Check agency websites
    If you’re interested in accessing documents that are not about you, check the agency’s website. They may already publish this information on their disclosure log or in their Information Publication Scheme entry. You can also look for this ‘Access to information’ icon.
    Access to information

  3. Some statistics are already available for public use
    Check out data.gov.au for some statistics and data sets that agencies have already made available for public use. This includes data published by the OAIC on freedom of information statistics.

  4. Be clear in your request
    It’s important to be specific and to the point. When you’re making an FOI request:

    • state that you’re requesting access to information under the FOI Act
    • state the document(s) you want, giving enough detail to help the agency or minister to identify the document(s)
    • give an address or email address where the agency or minister can send you the document(s)
  5. Complex or large requests will take more time
    In most cases your FOI request will be decided in 30 days, however sometimes this time is extended to allow the agency time to consult with third parties or if your request is complex or covers many documents.

Top 5 tips for FOI decision makers

  1. Government information is a national resource
    Government information is for public access and use. There is a presumption of openness in the FOI Act. Give access outside the FOI Act wherever you can. This may include through an administrative access scheme.

  2. Help applicants with their request
    Help applicants meet the formal requirements to make an FOI request. If their request is too large or vague, help them narrow the scope. Keep in regular contact with them, especially if there’s any delay in making a decision.

  3. Search records thoroughly
    Apply a flexible and common-sense approach to the wording of an FOI request. Make sure you search records thoroughly for the documents that could come within the scope of the request.

  4. Meet the timeframes
    You have 30 calendar days to process a request, and another 30 days if you need to consult third parties. The applicant can also agree to a further 30 days. It’s very important that you meet the timeframes — beat them if possible. You can only apply to the Information Commissioner for an extension of time if you have sound reasons.

  5. Keep good records
    Develop and maintain effective records to make processing FOIs as simple as possible. This includes keeping file notes and saving emails. This will make processing an FOI request more efficient for all parties. Use a schedule of documents in making a decision.

Agencies with the most FOI requests

These figures are based on the OAIC’s 2017–18 annual report.

  1. Department of Home Affairs
    Department of Home Affairs has consistently held the top position for several years: 14,177 requests in 2017-18 made up 41.17% of all FOI requests received that year.

  2. Department of Human Services
    The Department of Human Services had the second highest number of FOI requests with 6,238 made. This accounted for 18.11% of requests.

  3. Department of Veterans’ Affairs
    Almost 10% of FOI requests were made to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. This totalled 3,261 requests.

  4. Administrative Appeals Tribunal
    The Administrative Appeals Tribunal made up 4.23% of FOI requests, with a total of 1,458 received.

  5. Australian Taxation Office
    With 1,254 requests made to the Australian Taxation Office, they were the fifth most popular agency for FOI requests. This was 3.64% of all requests for the 2017-18 year.

Commissioner’s message

Portrait of Angelene Falk

Each year International Right to Know Day recognises the fundamental right of all citizens to access government information. This #RTK2019 we celebrate Information for all and the important role that access to government-held information plays in our democracy.

In Australia, our national freedom of information (or FOI) laws contain a presumption that information held by the government should be shared with its citizens, unless there is an overriding reason not to do so. This flow of information increases trust and transparency between the community and government agencies and can also drive innovation and development. Our right to access information is enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act 1982 which acknowledges government-held information as a national resource that should be managed for public purposes.

Our FOI law is intended to promote democracy by increasing public participation, scrutiny and discussion, and lead to better-informed decision-making.

Promoting and upholding information access rights are at the core of our work at the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. We assist Australian Government agencies to understand their obligations to proactively publish information and to release documents under FOI.

We also help the community to understand their rights and the application process. In 2017-18, we received more than 800 applications for Information Commissioner reviews of FOI requests and answered almost 2,000 FOI-related enquiries.

This #RTK2019, we also recognise the work of FOI practitioners in upholding the objects of the FOI Act and supporting the effective management of this national resource.

Thank you for taking the time to explore this website and discover the importance of sharing government-held information. We hope these resources will help you to understand and exercise your information access rights and responsibilities and join us and other countries around the world in supporting our Right to Know.

Angelene Falk
Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner


Show your support for Right to Know Day. You are welcome to co-brand these materials or share them across your networks as they are.

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Discover the importance of government-held information.

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Innovation, development and government transparency.

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Raise awareness about our right to access government-held information by supporting Right to Know Day this September. Please join us at one of our upcoming events to celebrate #RTK2019.

Solomon lecture

Public event

10.00AM to 12.30PM
Wednesday, 28 August 2019

South Brisbane, Queensland


Eminent barrister and human rights advocate Fiona McLeod SC will deliver this year's Solomon lecture on Accountability in the Age of the Artificial.

The lecture, hosted by the Office of the Information Commissioner Queensland, will be followed by a panel discussion led by journalist Madonna King, and featuring:

  • Scott McDougall, Queensland Human Rights Commissioner
  • Dr Brent Richards, Medical Director of Innovation, Gold Coast Hospital and Health Service
  • Simon McKee, Deputy Commissioner, Queensland Treasury and
  • Rachael Rangihaeata, Queensland Information Commissioner.

The event will be live streamed from the State Library of Queensland.

View the live stream

ICON information session

For government officers

10.00AM to 12.30PM
Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Canberra, ACT


Please join us to hear from Australian Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner Angelene Falk, a presentation by Independent Parliamentary Expenses Authority (IPEA) and a representative of the media in conversation with Deputy Commissioner Elizabeth Hampton.

The session will be followed by morning tea and networking.

Please note this event is for representatives of Australian Government agencies and ministers. If you are not an ICON member and wish to join the network and attend the event, please email icon@oaic.gov.au

ICON enquiries

OVIC public forum: Community expectations and FOI – are they at odds?

Public event

12:00PM to 1:30PM
Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Melbourne, Victoria


Join the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner as they celebrate Right to Know Day 2019 with a public forum. Hear from guest speakers about whether community expectations of FOI and how the FOI Act is administered are at odds, and if so, how they may be reconciled.

Light refreshments will be provided at the conclusion of the event. The event will also be live streamed on Twitter for those unable to make it in person.

More information