Understanding public information access
The fundamental principle of the GIPA Act is that the public should have access to government information unless, on balance, it would be contrary to the public interest to provide that information.
This applies to the information that has always been publicly available such as annual reports, corporate strategies and statistics. It also applies to policies, general information, reports and data produced at every level of the Department which may in the past have been considered 'internal' information.
What does 'information' mean?
The definition of information under the GIPA Act is very broad and includes whatever is compiled, recorded or stored in writing or electronically.
How can the public access this information?
The Act outlines four ways for the public to access government information:
- Mandatory disclosure - information routinely made publicly available on the department's website
- Proactive release – automatically publishing information to make it available to the public (via print, electronically etc)
- Informal release – releasing information in response to informal requests from the public
- Formal access - involving a formal application process for the release of information
How does the GIPA Act affect my business area?
Continue to routinely release information as part of your usual business practice. Most business areas have policies and guidelines covering public access to information held and any conditions that must be met, for example requiring identification to access personal information. Legal Issues Bulletins may also provide guidance. If you are unsure, check the policies on the website and if still in doubt, check with your supervisor about what can be released.
Records that might be suitable for routine release may include: information on the department's website; published reports; published statistics; information provided under statutory orders such as subpoenas or court orders. Note that records containing third party information should be considered under guidelines for formal release.
Media requests should continue to be referred to the relevant media liaison officer or the department Media Unit (T: 9561 8501)
Help for staff – GIPA Act
(Schools, Corporate Services, External Affairs and Regulation)
- Informal release - staff guidelines (PDF 300.96 KB)
- Questions and answers about GIPA (PDF 217.67 KB)
- How does the GIPA Act affect business areas? (PDF 230.39 KB)
- Informal release - checklist for business areas (PDF 140.23 KB)
- Informal release - summary for business areas (PDF 231.66 KB)
- Complying with contract requirements (PDF 0.05MB) (PDF 179.77 KB)
- Reasonable searches – Guidelines for DE Search Officers (PDF 0.06MB) (PDF 395.94 KB)
- Proactive release guideline (PDF 313.85 KB)
- Education Datahub
Help for schools
NSW public schools already publish large amounts of the information they hold through annual reporting. Below are some resources that will help principals and school staff to make decisions about releasing other information in line with the GIPA Act: