The purpose of this policy is to ensure schools act in accordance with Freedom of Information (FOI) requirements.
- Schools must act in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act 1982 which creates a right of access to Victorian Government documents.
- The Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit manages all requests on behalf of the Department and Victorian government schools.
- Only authorised officers can make decisions about FOI requests. This includes:
- the Secretary of the Department
- the FOI Unit Manager and Team Leader.
Every individual has the right to request a document from the Department, including documents held by Victorian government schools.
The Department’s Requests for Information about Students Policy provides advice to schools on how to manage requests for documents including when to release documents directly and when to advise the person to make a Freedom of Information request to the Department’s FOI Unit.
What happens when you receive a request for information relating to your school that should be managed by the FOI Unit?
If you receive a request for documents that should be managed by the FOI Unit (for example, a request for documents from the media or requests from parents for documents that is not considered ordinary school communication), you should advise the person to make a Freedom of Information request to the FOI Unit by email: email@example.com
When they receive the request, the FOI Unit will initiate a search through a regional officer, who will then contact your school.
Your school will be asked to undertake a thorough and diligent search for documents to provide to the regional officer contact. This means checking all paper-based and electronic files, emails and databases.
When sending documents to the region, you should advise the regional contact about any concerns you may have about the release of the information so this can be factored into the decision about what should be released.
If you cannot find any documents, please let the regional contact know the places that were searched and any reasons why documents could not be located.
The Department must process requests within 30-days, so your prompt assistance is appreciated.
What if the person is seeking a lot of documents?
If you believe that the request needs clarification, or that the work required to locate and send the documents is too resource-intensive or time-consuming (i.e. over 250 pages in total, or the search would take longer than a few days for one staff member), please contact the FOI Unit to discuss before you begin any searches.
If a request is too broad in scope and/or will take an unreasonable amount of time to process, the FOI Unit is required to consult with the Applicant and may work with you to recommend an alternative request scope.
What happens once the school’s documents are provided to the FOI Unit?
The regional office will provide the documents to the FOI Unit for assessment. Any information that is exempt from release (for example because it is confidential or contains personal information) will be ‘redacted’ (blacked out).
Any third parties (including staff and parents) who may be affected by the release, may be contacted to provide their views on the sensitivity of documents requested.
Do individuals need to make FOI requests to access documents?
Principals have the discretion to release information directly to a student, former student or parent. However, if a document contains other peoples’ personal information or any other sensitive material, it is best to ask the person to submit a FOI request so that exemptions or redactions can be made.
What happens if school council records are requested?
School councils are not subject to the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 . However any document created by a school council and forwarded to the Department, regional office, or school can be subject to a FOI request.
Therefore school council records must be clearly distinguishable from other school records.
For FOI purposes, a ‘document’ means any information in the Department's possession, including in all Victorian government schools. This includes:
- file notes
- computer records (e.g. documents that can be readily extracted from a database)
- videos and CCTV footage
- 'post-it' notes
- diary notes
- minutes of meetings
- telephone messages
- text messages, including short message service and encrypted messages
- invoices and receipts
- draft documents
- audio recordings.
It also includes documents received by a school (not just those created), and work-related documents kept by staff at home (but not personal documents kept by staff at work).
Reviewed 21 October 2021