What to do if we refuse you access

If we refuse access to open access period records under the Archives Act 1983, we will give you our reasons in writing. In many cases only a small amount of information is withheld.

Please check the record first. Read why the information has been withheld. You can ask us a question about the statement if needed.

If you do not agree with our reasons, you may apply for a review. There are two ways to appeal:

  • internal reconsideration of the decision by the National Archives, and
  • review by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal

Apply for internal reconsideration

National Archives can reconsider the decision to refuse you access. A senior officer will do the review.

You may apply for an internal reconsideration if:

  • the record you want to see is in the open access period and any information has been withheld
  • access to the record is refused (or is granted subject to conditions) for the record’s safety and preservation
  • the record has been made available to you in a different form from what you asked to see (for example, a photocopy rather than the original), or
  • the record cannot be located

You cannot apply for an internal reconsideration if you submitted an application for access and we have not let you know our decision:

  • within 90 business days, or
  • within any notified extended consideration period

To apply for internal reconsideration please contact us. There is no application fee.

When you apply:

  • clearly identify the record, including the series number and control symbol
  • lodge the application within 28 days of us notifying you of our decision to refuse or restrict access

We will give you the result of your application for internal reconsideration in writing. This will happen within 30 business days. If we still refuse access you may then appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or contact the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) independently reviews administrative decisions made by Australian Government agencies, including the National Archives. It operates much like a court, but you do not need a lawyer to present your case.

The AAT reviews our decisions on their merits. It decides whether the right decision has been made under the Archives Act. It can uphold, modify or reverse our decision.

If you disagree with the AAT's decision, you may appeal on a point of law to the Federal Court.

Decisions the AAT can review

Section 43 of the Archives Act explains the reasons why you may appeal our decision to the AAT. There are a range of decisions that can be reviewed. You can lodge an application for review within 60 days if:

  • our internal reconsideration has confirmed our decision to refuse you access to open period material
  • you submitted your original application for access and we have not given you a decision within 90 business days or within any notified extended consideration period
  • you submitted your application for internal reconsideration more than 30 business days ago and we have not given you a decision

You will find application forms for making an appeal to the AAT, and information about application fees, on the AAT website. You can also contact the AAT on 1300 366 700.

The AAT has a registry in each capital city. You can choose the one that is closest to you.

Complaining to the Ombudsman

You may complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman about any aspect of your dealings with the National Archives.

If you do complain to the Ombudsman about how we handled your application for access or appeal, you must wait for the Ombudsman's response in writing before applying to the AAT for a review of the access decision. You can't appeal to the AAT while you have an ongoing complaint with the Ombudsman.

Information about the Ombudsman and an online complaints form is available on the Ombudsman's website. You can also contact the Ombudsman’s office on 1300 362 072.

What if I am concerned about information that has been released?

Under the Archives Act we must release as much information as possible. If you have concerns about what we have released, please email us at publicrelease@naa.gov.au or contact us via the form below.

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The Archives has an Access Examination Policy that explains how we manage the release of personal, professional and business information about individuals. Please refer to this policy if you are concerned about the release of personal information.