The NT Information Act deals with three important elements of the way that the NT government manages information:
Freedom of information (FOI) gives you the right to apply for access to government information, and the right to apply to correct personal information the government holds about you. It is about enhancing government accountability and participation in our democratic system of government.
Privacy controls how government collects, manages, uses and discloses your personal information. The Act sets out 10 Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) that bind public sector organisations. It gives you a right to complain about breaches of your privacy.
Records management provides a legal framework for continuing improvements to the way that government activities are recorded and the way that those records are managed.
The Information Commissioner is the independent officer appointed to oversee the Freedom of Information and Privacy provisions of the Act. The two main functions of the Information Commissioner are to:
promote understanding and awareness of FOI and Privacy in the community and the public sector;
deal with complaints about breaches of privacy and about FOI decisions made by public sector organisations (from 1 July 2004).
Ms Brenda Monaghan is the current Information Commissioner (as well as the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures).
Ms Monaghan's roles to date have included Executive Director of Licensing Regulation & Alcohol Strategy, Legal Member of the Northern Territory Licensing Commission, Judicial Registrar of the Darwin Magistrates Court and Deputy Coroner. Ms Monaghan is a qualified solicitor and barrister and lectured law at Charles Darwin University.
The functions of the Office of the Information Commissioner relate to Northern Territory public sector organisations, including local government. We do not cover Commonwealth organisations or the private sector. Our functions include:
- General Inquiries
- Policy Assistance/Input
- Investigations and Applications
- Improving our service
- Managing the office
We promote understanding and awareness of FOI and Privacy protection in the Territory. We do this within the public sector and in the community generally.
We promote FOI and Privacy by activities like:
publishing guidelines and brochures
giving presentations to public sector, professional and community groups
public displays and advertising
our website: www.infocomm.nt.gov.au.
We are always looking for new ways to promote FOI and Privacy. We welcome contact from people who would like us to give a presentation or provide information in some other form.
We have a General Inquiries service to help members of the public with specific questions. People can contact us by telephone (1800 005 610) or
Inquiries may be as simple as wanting to know who within an organisation they need to contact. Or the inquirer may want more information about how a particular exemption works. We cannot give legal advice but we can assist with procedural questions and may be able to point people to relevant information like guidelines, websites, decisions or provisions of the Information Act.
We provide a similar General Inquiries service for public sector organisations.
We can receive complaints from:
an applicant who objects to an FOI internal review decision to refuse access, to refuse correction or to charge a fee;
a third party who objects to an FOI decision to disclose information;
a person who is not satisfied with the response of an organisation to a privacy complaint.
When we deal with a complaint, we are independent. We do not take sides. We do not represent complainants, government organisations or anyone else involved in a complaint. We do not give legal advice.
We do our best to resolve complaints informally. Our main aim is to assist the parties to find a solution that meets their needs and obligations. We inform the parties about the rights and limitations in the Information Act, so that they can make a realistic assessment of what they can hope to achieve from the formal processes under the Act. We explore with the parties alternatives for resolution both within and outside the processes in the Act. Our preferred outcome is for the parties to agree on a solution.
However, if an informal resolution cannot be reached, the Information Commissioner has the power to conduct a hearing and to make binding orders.
We give assistance to government organisations that are developing or reviewing practices, policies or legislation. This includes policies about FOI or Privacy. It also includes practices, policies and legislation that raise FOI or Privacy issues. For example, a policy about use and disclosure of DNA information is likely to involve privacy issues.
We may offer assistance or input if an organisation consults us, if there is a public invitation for input, or if we otherwise become aware of a proposed policy or piece of legislation that might have FOI or Privacy implications.
There are two cases where an organisation must seek input from the Information Commissioner.
A Code of Practice can be established to vary or supplement the Information Privacy Principles for a particular organisation. However, a draft Code must be recommended by the Commissioner before it can be submitted for approval to the Minister.
The NT Archives Service prepares Records Management Standards to guide records management by public sector organisations. The Commissioner must be consulted to ensure consistency with the objects of the Act.
In relation to FOI, the Commissioner can (on application from an organisation) declare a person to be a vexatious applicant.
In relation to Privacy, the Commissioner can:
conduct privacy audits of organisations;
investigate whether a compliance notice should be issued requiring an organisation to take action to comply with the privacy principles or a code of practice;
(on application from an organisation) issue a grant of authorisation to allow an organisation to depart from the privacy principles dealing with collection, use and disclosure.
So that we can do our job well, we keep up-to-date with developments in FOI and Privacy in Australia and overseas by:
- regularly reviewing FOI and Privacy publications (including websites);
- keeping in touch with other accountability offices in Australia and New Zealand (for example, privacy commissioners, information commissioners and ombudsmen);
- being a part of various electronic FOI and Privacy networks throughout Australia ; and
- attending conferences and forums about FOI and Privacy.
We also conduct surveys to make sure that our services are relevant and useful to public sector organisations and to members of the community.top of page
We undertake various tasks to make sure that the Office runs efficiently and is accountable for its actions and the public resources we use. This includes general administration, staff management, record keeping, accounts and all the other things involved in running an office.
- Integrity – Act ethically, openly, honestly, fairly and with accountability.
- Courage – Provide robust reporting and advice and comment without fear or favour.
- Professional Excellence – Work together to positively represent the Office.
- Commitment – Strive to achieve the outcomes required by the Information Act and the Public Interest Disclosure Act.
- Respect –Treat each other and all those who come into contact with this Office with respect.
This website is produced by the Information Commissioner to promote awareness and understanding about the Information Act. It is not a substitute for the Act. You should read the relevant provisions of the Act to see how it applies in any particular case. Any views expressed in this website about how the Act works are preliminary only. In every case, the Commissioner is open to argument by a member of the public or a public sector organisation that a different view should be taken.
Acknowledgment. The assistance of the offices of the Federal and Victorian Privacy Commissioners has been invaluable in the preparation of materials for this website.