As so many are working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the turnaround for records applications will most likely take longer than normal.
Support services are being provided electronic copies of records by most government and community-based record holders. Where that relies on paper records that are not easily accessible, for example records held in libraries or similar places that where access is now restricted, the wait times will be even longer. Support services have enacted a number of ways of providing records in a way that gives people who were in care the most support possible when they receive them.
These delays can make what is already a traumatic experience even harder. The Find & Connect services are there for you. If you need help accessing records, or are struggling, contact the Find & Connect service in your state or territory for support.
For records that are subject to Freedom of Information/Right to Information requests, agencies must still meet legislated timeframes and responses, and are encouraged to work with those requesting records to determine how that may be done at the moment.
This may mean asking requestors if they would be comfortable narrowing the scope of their requests or delaying submitting their requests, explaining that agencies may not have access to the records they need (especially if these are physical records and staff are working from home). Agencies can also ask for an extension of time.
Agencies have been strongly encouraged by Information Access Commissioners to update their websites about how they are responding during COVID-19.
“As a global community, we recognise that resources may be diverted away from usual information rights work. Public organisations will rightly focus their resources on protecting public health, and we recognise our role in taking a pragmatic approach, for example around how quickly public bodies respond to requests. But the importance of the right to access information remains.”Australian Information Access Commissioners
FAQs for people who want to make requests: FOI and coronavirus (COVID-19) FAQs
Information and Privacy Commission information: https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/covid-19-information-citizens
Office of the Information Commissioner information: https://www.oic.qld.gov.au/guidelines/for-community-members/information-sheets-access-and-amendment/applying-for-documents-during-covid-19
Information Commissioner general statement: https://infocomm.nt.gov.au/about-us/news/articles/covid-19
COVID-19 Managing FOI timeframes and potential office closures https://www.oic.wa.gov.au/Materials/FOIProcessGuides
SA, Tas, ACT
While there is no specific information from these states, you can see:
SA Statement from State Records: https://archives.sa.gov.au/finding-information/information-held-sa-government
Tasmania Ombudsman: https://www.ombudsman.tas.gov.au/right-to-information
ACT – Ombudsman: https://www.ombudsman.act.gov.au/home/home-news/joint-statement-on-transparency-and-access-to-information-during-the-covid-19-outbreak