skip to navigation skip to content skip to footer

Freedom of Information

What is a document for the purpose of freedom of information

“document means any record of information”

What is a Document under the FOI act?

The FOI Act does not contain an exhaustive definition of what constitutes a 'document'. However, section 4 states that a 'document' includes:

  1. any of, or any part of any of, the following things:
    1. any paper or other material on which there is writing;
    2. a map, plan, drawing or photograph;
    3. any paper or other material on which there are marks, figures, symbols or perforations having a meaning for persons qualified to interpret them;
    4. any article or material from which sounds, images or writings are capable of being reproduced with or without the aid of any other article or device;
    5. any article on which information has been stored or recorded, either mechanically or electronically;
    6. any other record of information; or
  2. any copy, reproduction or duplicate of such a thing; or
  3. any part of such a copy, reproduction or duplicate;

  4. but does not include:
  5. library material maintained for reference purposes; or
  6. Cabinet notebooks

Things to consider When identifying documents for an FOI request

Understand the scope of the FOI Request:

  • Before identifying documents for an FOI request, action areas need to understand what documents the applicant is seeking and whether they can be released administratively. If the scope of the request is still unclear, notify the FOI Directorate to liaise with the applicant to seek clarification.
  • Once the FOI request scope is established.
  • Make sure you conduct adequate searches to locate the documents matching the FOI request.
  • Drafts are included within the FOI Act and need to be considered if within the scope of the request. Providing a Preliminary Assessment (PA) on the AD850 webform:
  • Consider the number of documents that fit the scope of the request.
  • The PA may be revised if the applicant narrows the scope after receiving the estimated charges. Make sure you conduct a thorough search at this first stage.

Meaning of a document in the form of a 'Record' and 'Writing'?

  • "record" includes information stored or recorded by means of a computer or paper.
  • "writing" is any mode of representing or reproducing words, figures, drawings or symbols in a visible form and therefore constitutes a document.

What can Documents include?

Documents can include minutes, submissions, files, emails, post it notes, diaries, notebooks, reports, computer print outs, tapes or disks, text messages, maps, plans, photographs, microfiche, tape recordings, films and videotapes.
Drafts are included within the FOI Act and need to be considered if within the scope of the request.