Access to Information at SCU
Southern Cross University is subject to three main pieces of legislation that provide a right of access to information:
- The Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 (NSW), which applies when an individual is seeking only to access or request amendment of their own personal information or for a third party to use when acting as agent for such a person;
- The Health Records and Information Protection Act 2002 (NSW), which applies when an individual is seeking only to access or request amendment of their own health information or for a third party to use when acting as agent for such a person; and
- The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW), which provides a framework for access to "government information", this being information which may include the personal information of the applicant but also includes other types of information held by the University.
For further information about access to personal or health information, please visit the Privacy and Personal Information section of the SCU website. Further information about access to government information is contained below.
Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009
The Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (NSW) ("GIPA Act") is the current "Freedom of Information Act" or "Right to Information Act" in New South Wales. The object of the GIPA Act is set out in section 3(1) of the GIPA Act and is to "... maintain and advance a system of responsible and representative democratic Government that is open, accountable, fair and effective... by:
- Authorising and encouraging the proactive release of government information by each Government agency;
- Providing members of the public an enforceable right to access government information; and
- Providing that access to government information is restricted only when there is an "overriding public interest against disclosure".
GIPA Act application to SCU
"Agency" is defined in section 4 of the GIPA Act to include public authorities. The definition of "public authority" in the GIPA Act encompasses a body established for a public purpose by or under the provisions of a legislative instrument. The University was established by the Southern Cross University Act 1993 (NSW) for public purposes, so it is both a public authority and a Government agency under the GIPA Act and is subject to its terms.
Accessing SCU Information using the GIPA Act
The GIPA Act establishes four types of government information release:
- Mandatory Disclosure of Open Access Information: this is obligatory publication of certain information on the University's website, free of charge. See the Open Access Information section of our website for further information;
- Proactive Release: this is the release of more of the University's information than simply the mandatory Open Access Information, in an appropriate manner and at the lowest reasonable cost. Much of the information on the University's website is being released in this manner, as it is information provided voluntarily by the University to assist students and other stakeholders or because the University believes that the public might be interested in that information;
- Informal Release: this is the release of information in response to a person's informal request, wherever possible. An example of when information might be released to someone informally, includes a request to access a work unit's procedure for dealing with a certain type of activity. If the manager of the work unit feels that there are no public interest considerations against release then they might choose to simply email a copy of that procedure to the person who requested it. To make an informal request for information, please email Information Access Officer. If the matter is more complex, and there could be public interest considerations for and against disclosure, the request should be submitted as a formal access application;
- Formal Access: this is the release of information in response to a formal access application. For further information a, please see the Formal Access Applications page for further information.
It should be noted that, in relation to all of the above types of release provided for by the GIPA Act, the public interest test outlined in Division 2 of Part 2 of the GIPA Act is to be applied. Basically, this means that information must (in the case of mandatory disclosure and in response to formal applications) or can/should (in the cases of proactive release and informal releases) be released unless the application of the test results in a finding that there is "an overriding public interest consideration against disclosure". The public interest test is discussed in more detail on the page dedicated to.