Access to government information

The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) was established to provide an open and transparent process for giving the public access to information from New South Wales (NSW) public sector agencies and to encourage the proactive public release of government information. 

The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) provides support by helping government agencies with their responsibilities under the GIPA Act and helping the public in accessing government information.

Our goal is to ensure that the purpose of the law is achieved by:

  • promoting and educating the community and public sector agencies alike about rights and roles in accessing information
  • reviewing public sector agency decisions, investigating and resolving complaints and monitoring agency performance
  • assisting public sector agencies and the community to understand and use the law
  • providing feedback about the law and advice about developments and technology relevant to the law.

What is the GIPA Act and who does it apply to?

The GIPA Act replaced the Freedom of Information Act 1989 (NSW) on 1 July 2010.

The law applies to all NSW public sector agencies including:

  • Government departments
  • Ministers and their personal staff
  • NSW local councils; public offices and courts.

The law facilitates access to information by:

  • making it necessary for agencies to make certain information publicly available
  • authorising agencies to proactively release other information to the community
  • authorising agencies to release their information in response to informal access requests
  • giving the public a legally enforceable right to access government information through making a access application, unless there is an overriding public interest against doing so.

What is government information?

Government information is information in a record held by an agency, on behalf of an agency by a government contractor, or by the State Records Authority.

A record can mean any document or source of information that is compiled, recorded or stored in printed or electronic form.

What is open access information?

The GIPA Act makes it necessary for agencies to freely provide the following information:

  • an information guide describing an agency’s structure and functions, how those functions affect the community, the type of information held by the agency and how the information is available
  • documents tabled in Parliament by or on behalf of the agency
  • the agency’s policy documents
  • a disclosure log of information released under formal access applications that may be of interest to the community
  • a register of contracts that an agency has with private sector organisations with a value of $150,000 and over
  • a record of the open access information that is not made public due to an overriding public interest against releasing that information

Government departments, in particular, must also supply:

  • a list of major assets, including the number and value of properties disposed of in the previous financial year
  • a guarantee of service
  • a code of conduct.

Councils, in particular, must also supply:

  • annual financial and auditors reports, management plans and various codes
  • agendas, business papers and minutes of meetings
  • information contained in certain registers
  • plans and policies
  • development applications and associated documents
  • information concerning approvals, orders and other documents.

Additionally, the GIPA Act also specifies that Ministers must disclose any media releases and details of overseas travel, but are not required to publish an agency information guide.

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The IPC provides support to government agencies with their responsibilities under the GIPA Act and helps the public in accessing government information.