Freedom of Information
The Freedom of Information Policy applies to AHPRA, the Agency Management Committee and National Boards.
The purpose of the Freedom of Information policy is to provide information and direction to enable and support members of the public to effectively exercise their rights under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (the FOI Act) in relation to documents held by AHPRA, the Agency Management Committee and National Boards. It also outlines the types of documents which may be released or exempt under the FOI Act, as well as procedures for processing FOI requests.
It is policy in AHPRA that, where appropriate, you should be able to request access to your personal information directly, without the need to make a formal application under the FOI Act. However, there are situations where it will not be appropriate to provide direct access to information, and you will be required to make a Freedom of Information application. (For example, where providing access would compromise the privacy of another person).
Background to the FOI Act and AHPRA
The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009, as enacted in each State and Territory (the National Law) established a national regulatory system for health practitioners.
The National Law established entities (the National Law entities) including:
- the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA),
- the Agency Management Committee; and
- National Boards for 14 regulated health professions.
AHPRA is governed by the Agency Management Committee appointed by the Ministerial Council and supports the operations of the National Boards for each profession covered by the national regulatory scheme. AHPRA administers the national regulatory scheme and is responsible for processing FOI requests.
AHPRA and the application of the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act
AHPRA is established by the National Law. Section 215 of the National Law sets out that the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Act 1982 ("FOI Act") is the relevant legislation to be applied with respect to the National Law entities.
According to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Regulation 2010 ("National Law Regulation"), the regulations made pursuant to the FOI Act, aside from the provisions relating to fees and charges, do not apply. The National Law Regulation also amends the FOI Act as it applies to the National Law.
From 1 November 2010, the FOI Reforms commenced under the Commonwealth Act which included the removal of the application fee. The Health Practitioners Regulation no. 42 states that the FOI Act applies as if the amendments made to it by the FOI Amendment (Reform) Act 2010 of the Commonwealth had not taken affect. Therefore, the $30 application fee is still required for FOI applications to AHPRA.
Documents available for assessment under FOI
The FOI Act applies to all documents in the possession of AHPRA. A ‘document’ is broadly defined by the FOI Act to include but is not limited to paper documents, electronic documents, audio recordings, pictures, plans, photographs and emails.
However, not all documents are required to be released on request as some documents maybe exempt from disclosure under other legislation.
Some documents held by AHPRA are made available to the public through the AHPRA website and do not require an FOI request. These can be accessed at www.ahpra.gov.au. AHPRA may also decline to provide information that is available for public access by other means including public registers, libraries, and documents available for purchase.
National Board documents can be accessed at the websites of the National Boards. A list of the National Boards for each of the regulated health professions, together with links to the websites of the National Boards is available at www.ahpra.gov.au/Health-Professions.aspx.
Potentially exempt documents under FOI Act
Certain categories of documents may be exempt from release in accordance with the FOI Act, these categories include, but are not limited to:
- Cabinet documents and Ministerial briefings (s34)
- Internal working documents (s36)
- Documents subject to secrecy provisions in other legislation (s38)
- Documents that concerning certain operations of agencies (s40)
- Documents affecting the personal affairs of another person (s41)
- Documents subject to legal professional privilege (s42)
- Documents containing information obtained in confidence (s45)
However, in some circumstances documents may released to you with the partially exempt material redacted. The document may be copied with the exempt or irrelevant information deleted so that the remainder of the document can be provided to you. You will be advised of the grounds for the deletions, and the provision under which the deleted information was deemed exempt.
For more information about possible exemptions please refer to FOI Guidelines – Exemptions Sections in the FOI Act which is available on the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet website.