What happens after an application is lodged?

We will send the applicant a confirmation letter explaining what will happen next.

We will also notify other parties to the review that we have received the application. The parties are:

  • the person who made the AAT application
  • if they are not the applicant, the person who made the original request for access to documents
  • if they are not the applicant, the agency or the Minister who made the FOI decision
  • any other person who is made a party to the review.

The agency or the Minister must also notify any third party who was consulted about the documents that an application has been made to the AAT. A third party can apply to be made a party to the review by using the Application to be Made a Party form.

You can look at the Freedom of Information Practice Direction for more information about what happens after an application is lodged. You can also watch our video guide.

If the agency or the Minister claims that a document is exempt because its release might cause damage to Australia’s national security, defence or international relations, we will notify the Inspector-General of Security of the review.

For more information about a review of an FOI decision in this circumstance, you can look at the Timing of Requests under section 50A of the Archives Act 1983 or Section 60A of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 Practice Direction.


What if we cannot review the decision?

We will write to the applicant and give you a chance to tell us why you think we can review the decision. If you do not respond or cannot show us that we can review the decision, we might dismiss the application. Sometimes a hearing is held to decide if we can review the decision.


Does the decision continue to operate during the review?

The decision will usually continue to operate during the review. In some cases, we can make an order which 'stays' (suspends) the operation or implementation of the decision until the review is finalised.

The applicant can use the Request for stay order form to ask for a stay order.


Documents relevant to the review

T documents

The agency or the Minister who made the FOI decision will send us the decision and all relevant review documents within 28 days after being told the application has been received. These are called ‘T documents’.

They will also send the T documents to you and any other party. If you have a representative, the T documents will usually be sent to that person.

T documents are provided under section 37 of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. Find more information in the Lodgement of Documents Under Sections 37 and 38AA of the AAT Act Practice Direction

Exempt documents

If the agency or the Minister claims that a document is exempt under the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act), that document is not required to be provided under section 37.

However, we might ask to inspect a document to help decide whether or not it is exempt. Only an AAT Member or staff member may have access to the document.

Confidential T Documents

The agency or Minister can apply to the AAT for a direction that certain information within the T documents is not to be disclosed to you or another party. You can also apply to the AAT for a direction if there is information you do not want a party other than the agency or Minister to see. We will consider any application and tell you our decision.

Request the T documents earlier

You can ask for the T documents to be provided earlier if a delay would cause you hardship. You must use the Request for order to shorten time for lodging documents form.

Giving us new information

You can give us new information that you think supports your case.


Confidentiality orders

In limited circumstances, we can order that:

  • the hearing is held in private
  • the name or address of a party or witness, or other information that we hold, be kept confidential
  • a written decision is not made public.

You or another party can ask for a confidentiality order at any stage of the review by telling us in writing what it is that you want to be kept confidential and why.

We will only make a confidentiality order if we are satisfied there is a good reason for doing so.


Alternative dispute resolution

We use alternative dispute resolution (ADR) to:

  • talk with the parties to the review about the decision and the issues in dispute
  • if possible help parties to reach an agreement before a hearing
  • if an agreed outcome cannot be reached, prepare for a hearing.

We will usually hold a conference first. Many cases are resolved without the need for a hearing.

You can look at the Alternative dispute resolution guidelines for more information.


Directions Hearing

We might decide to hold a directions hearing by telephone or in person at the AAT’s offices to talk about any issue in the review. This could happen if you, the agency or Minister, or another party ask for it, or if we decide it is necessary.


Hearing

If the review is not resolved at an earlier stage, we will usually hold a hearing.

The hearing is an opportunity for you to present information and talk about why you agree or disagree with the FOI decision under review.