Freedom of information

Last updated: 15 September 2022

What is freedom of information?

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) provides a legislative framework for access to documents held by Victorian public sector organisations. It is underpinned by the principles of open and accountable government and that people have the right to access information that is held about them.

The right of access

The FOI Act gives you the right to request documents held by Victorian public sector organisations including Sustainability Victoria (SV).

The FOI Act gives you the right to:

  • access documents about the activities of SV
  • access documents about your personal affairs
  • request that incorrect or misleading information held by an agency about you be amended or removed.

What is a document?

Documents include those held in files or records and may include electronic mail messages in either paper or electronic format.

Documents exempt under the FOI Act

The FOI Act exempts some types of documents from access, including:

  • documents containing information of a kind which is already available for public access (for example, publications)
  • documents created prior to 5 July 1978 other than documents which relate to the personal affairs of the applicant
  • documents affecting the personal privacy of a third party
  • internal working documents, including those documents that are a part of the deliberative processes involved in the functions of an agency, a minister or Government
  • documents affecting legal proceedings
  • documents relating to trade secrets, or other matters of a business, commercial or financial nature
  • documents containing material obtained in confidence
  • documents where disclosure would be contrary to the public interest.

Who can make a request for information?

You can make a request for information under the FOI Act or you can authorise another person (for example a solicitor) to make a request on your behalf.

If you want someone to make a request on your behalf for your personal information, you must give them your written authorisation and this be provided to us before your request can be assessed.

Making a freedom of information request at SV

Before you make a request for documents under the FOI Act, you should consider whether the documents are available in other ways, including on our website.

If you still want to access documents under the FOI Act the request must:

  • be in writing
  • clearly describe the documents you are requesting access to
  • include the application fee
  • be made to the agency that holds the documents you are seeking.

You can make a freedom of information (FOI) request to SV by writing to:

Freedom of Information Officer
Sustainability Victoria
Level 28, 50 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, Victoria 3000

Or you can send an email to:

Timelines for requests

SV has 30 days from the time that it receives your request to notify you of its decision.

Sometimes, particularly where requests are complex or necessitate us to contact a third party, delays can occur. SV will make its best efforts to contact you and inform you of the progress of your request if there are delays.

If you believe you have been unfairly denied access to documents, you can apply for internal review of the decision by the Information Commissioner within 28 days of being notified of the decision.

For more information see the Victorian Government FOI website.

Protecting access to personal information

In line with SV's commitment to protecting personal information under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014, you must provide evidence of your identity when you request access to documents containing personal information about you.

Evidence of your identity is best provided through the provision of a photocopy of current photo identification (ID). If you are unsure about what ID to provide, contact the FOI Officer.

The Act does not apply to privately-owned businesses.


There are two costs associated with making an FOI request:

  • the application cost
  • the access cost.

The application fee is a fixed cost which is non-refundable. The exception is for people suffering hardship who can ask SV to waive the application fee.

Access charges relate to the costs incurred in granting access to the documents that you have requested. These costs may or may not apply depending on the nature of your request.

All fees and charges are exempt from GST.

Application cost

  • Application fee – $30.10 (non-refundable unless fee is waived)

Access costs

  • Search – $22.50 per hour or part of an hour
  • Supervision – $5 per quarter hour
  • Photocopying – 20c per black and white A4 page
  • Access in a form other than photocopying – the reasonable costs incurred by SV in providing the copy
  • Listening to or viewing a tape – the reasonable costs incurred by SV in making arrangements to listen to or view (supervision charges also apply)
  • Making a written transcript out of a tape – the reasonable costs incurred by SV in providing the written transcript

These charges are set by Government regulations.

If you want the fee to be waived, include evidence that payment of the fee would cause you financial hardship. For example, a photocopy of your current health care card. Processing your request cannot begin if any of the required information is not supplied. If you are unsure about what to include with the request, contact the FOI Officer.