Freedom of information

The Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) gives members of the community a legally enforceable right to seek access to information held by the government. The Victorian Building Authority (the VBA) supports this right by:

  • making information about VBA operations available to the public
  • facilitating a general right of access to documents held by the VBA, only limiting access to documents by the proper application of exceptions and exemptions provided for under the FOI Act
  • delivering an efficient process for disclosing information at minimal cost to the community.

How to make a request

To make a request for documents, you can either write a letter or fill out the VBA application form (PDF, 235.26 KB) (with credit card authority). You should clearly set out the document or documents you seek from the VBA, and provide sufficient detail to enable us to locate them.

We may also require proof of your identity (a copy of your birth certificate or driver’s licence, etc.). If you are submitting a request on behalf of someone else, you should provide a signed authority from that person.

You must also pay the FOI application fee for us to start processing your request (or apply for us to waive the fee, if paying the fee would cause you hardship). We accept payment by cheque (made out to the Victorian Building Authority) or by credit card (Visa/MasterCard only).

If you are paying by credit card, you should not send any of those details by email. The VBA accepts no liability if these details are intercepted and used by a third party without your consent.

Requests for documents held by the VBA should be sent by email to foi@vba.vic.gov.au or posted to:

Freedom of Information Officer
Victorian Building Authority
Goods Shed North
733 Bourke Street
Docklands Vic 3008.

For further information on how to make an FOI request, email the VBA's FOI Officer at foi@vba.vic.gov.au or visit the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner website.

What happens to a request?

Once we receive your FOI request and the FOI application fee, we will respond to you in writing as soon as practicable, but not later than 30 days, with an outline of our decision. The 30-day time frame may be extended in certain circumstances, including where the VBA is required to consult with third parties, or where you agree to an extension of time.

If we refuse you access to the documents sought, you may apply to the Victorian Information Commissioner for a review of our decision. You must do so within 28 days of the date the decision was sent to you by us. The Information Commissioner has 30 days to conduct the review, unless you agree to an extension in time. For further information visit ovic.vic.gov.au.

Frequently asked questions

FOI applications

We are required to respond to your request within 30 days of receiving a valid request, but will always try to provide you with a response as soon as practicable. The due date of your decision may be extended:

  • by 15 days if we are required to consult with third parties
  • by any additional period of up to 30 days with your agreement.

The FOI Officer handling your request will contact you concerning any extension of time for making a decision on your request.

There are a few reasons why your request might be considered invalid by the VBA.

  • If your request is too broad, we will not be able to undertake a search of our records to identify documents relevant to your request. We may therefore request that you narrow the scope of your request or provide more information concerning the information that you are seeking.
  • Similarly, if your request is not clear, we will not be able to identify the documents relevant to your request. We may therefore ask you to clarify your request or provide further information before your request will be considered valid.

We cannot accept your application until you have paid the application fee. We may waive this fee if paying the fee will cause you hardship.

The VBA often manages a high volume of FOI requests at one time.  We will always try to get back to you promptly, but this is not always possible.

We will be able to process your request more quickly if your request is very specific or the number of documents you have requested is not extensive.

We may also be able to process your request sooner if you exclude certain information or documents from the terms of your request.

If you are not sure what documents you require, we encourage you to contact the FOI Officer named on the correspondence sent to you to discuss the information that would best suit your needs. This may help us to make a decision on your request as quickly as possible.

Before we can release documents that contain information relating to the personal affairs of third parties, we are required to contact those third parties to seek their views about whether the information should be released.

Personal affairs information includes names, home address details, telephone numbers and other information that can be used to identify or locate a person.

Where we are required to consult third parties, we are permitted under the FOI Act to extend the period for making a decision by 15 days, without seeking your agreement. In addition, where we determine to release personal information of a third party without their consent, a document containing that information cannot be released to you for 60 days. This 60-day period provides a period within which third parties can seek review of our decision to release their personal affairs information to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

You may choose to exclude personal information from the scope of your request, which may assist us in making a decision on your request sooner. This is because we will not be required to contact third parties about the disclosure of their personal information, as this information will be removed before any documents are released to you.

FOI and personal information

The VBA has received a request for access to one or more documents that contain information relating to your personal affairs. This might include your name, address or other information that could be used to identify you.

When we receive such a request, we are required to consult you about whether disclosure of this information would be unreasonable.

It might not be the case that the applicant wants information that is specific to you, but as your personal information appears on the documents, you are receiving this notice.

We commonly receive requests for personal information from:

  • consumers wanting information about the practitioner that carried out building or plumbing work for them
  • people who have made a complaint about building or plumbing work who want information about the status of that complaint
  • the media for information about a topical issue.

The VBA cannot release your information in response to a request under the FOI Act without first seeking your views about whether the disclosure of information relating to your personal affairs would be unreasonable. This is the case even if the applicant knows you or has received information relating to your personal affairs in the past.

If you have no objections to the applicant having your personal information, please let us know as this will assist us in making decisions under the FOI Act.

In most cases, we will not know why the applicant has made a FOI request.  There is no requirement under the FOI Act for an applicant to provide a reason when making a request.

Even if the applicant already has received information relating to your personal affairs in the past, the VBA is required to process their request under the FOI Act, which includes seeking your views about the disclosure of your information.

If you have no objections to us releasing information relating to your personal affairs to the applicant, please let us know as this will assist us in making decisions under the FOI Act.

The VBA will not release information relating to your personal affairs if it would be unreasonable to do so.

If you object to the release of your information, it is important that you respond to our invitation to provide your views about the disclosure, including reasons why you consider the disclosure of your personal information would be unreasonable.

We cannot consider your concerns if you do not respond to the invitation.

If you do not agree that the disclosure of information relating to your personal affairs is reasonable, you may seek a review of this decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

If you intend to seek a review, you must do so within 60 days of receiving notification of the VBA’s decision. The VBA will not disclose information relating to your personal affairs until the end of the 60 day review period.

Information about how to seek review of the VBA's decision at VCAT can be found at www.vcat.vic.gov.au.

FOI decisions

The document(s) you have requested contain the information relating to the personal affairs of at least one third party. Before making our decision, we contacted relevant third parties to seek their views about the disclosure of their personal information.  In your case, one or more third parties have not consented to the disclosure of their personal information.

Where a third party does not consent to the disclosure of their personal information, but the VBA decides to release that information, the third party has 60 days to seek a review of our decision at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT).

The FOI Act prevents us from providing you with your requested documents until the end of the 60-day notice period.

The VBA is required to release documents requested under the FOI Act, unless those documents contain material that is exempt under the FOI Act.

Where we consider the documents contain exempt material, we will delete or redact that material before providing the documents to you.

Exempt material commonly includes information relating to:

  • the personal affairs of third parties
  • ongoing investigations, where the release of information could prejudice criminal or disciplinary proceedings
  • communications made with the VBA in confidence.

The FOI Act and the Freedom of Information (Access Charges) Regulations 2014 set out the circumstances when access charges are payable. The VBA cannot release documents requested under the FOI Act until applicable access charges are paid. Access charges can only be waived or are not applicable in specific circumstances.

We can only waive access charges where you demonstrate that payment of the charges would cause you financial hardship and your request was for access to a document relating to your personal affairs information.

We are not otherwise able to waive access charges.

Yes. You may seek a review of our calculation of the access charges at VCAT, but you must first obtain certification from the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC) that the matter is of sufficient importance for VCAT to consider.

You can contact OVIC at www.ovic.vic.gov.au for more information about seeking a review.

The VBA’s decision letter will outline the reasons for the decision, including whether we have refused access and the reasons for such refusal.

You may seek review of our decision to refuse access to documents by making an application to the Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner (OVIC).

Information about how to seek review of a VBA decision with OVIC can be found in your decision letter or at www.ovic.vic.gov.au.