Key published decisions applying Section 50A FOI Act
The applicant sought access to his child’s school reports, sporting awards or cultural award certificates, school photographs and any other extracurricular achievement awards. The Department of Education, Training and the Arts (Department) received objections from a third party and subsequently the applicant sought access to the relevant matter on behalf of his child. The Department decided to disclose the relevant matter, subject to the deletion of information concerning the personal affairs of other people. The third party, who provided objections to disclosing the information, sought external review of the Department’s decision.
Is the application made on behalf of a child under section 25 of the FOI Act?
The applicant’s access application stated ‘I wish to make an application on behalf of my son for the relevant school reports and other materials in relation to my son’s ongoing achievements in his education’. The applicant provided both his and the child’s name. 
The Assistant Commissioner found the application was not genuinely made under section 50A of the FOI Act because the applicant was applying for information about the child, rather than on the child’s behalf.  The Assistant Commissioner considered the applicant’s previous statements to the Department that: 
- he had not applied for the information on behalf of his son and in his view, his son could access the documents independently; and
- access to the relevant matter was his right as the child’s father.
Does the relevant matter contain information concerning the personal affairs of the child?
Determining whether matter comprises information concerning a child’s personal affairs is a question of fact, to be determined according to the proper characterisation of the relevant matter.  The Assistant Commissioner was satisfied that the personal affairs of a child are separate from the personal affairs of their parent or guardian.5  Further, an applicant’s familial relationship to another person does not confer any entitlement to access the information concerning the personal affairs of that other person under the FOI Act. 
The Assistant Commissioner was satisfied that the child’s last name, photographs of the child, names of relevant schools and school emblems as well as names and signatures of relevant teachers and principals as they appeared in various school reports was information concerning the personal affairs of the child. 
As section 50A of the FOI Act did not apply, the Assistant Commissioner considered whether disclosure of matter concerning the personal affairs of the child was in the public interest. The relevant matter was found to be exempt under section 44 of the FOI Act.
5 Adopting the reasoning in KT and Brisbane North Regional Health Authority (1998) 4 QAR 287 at paragraph 31, referring with approval to Haines v Neves and Another (1987) 8 NSWLR 442 and Gillick and West Norfolk and Westbeck Area Health Authority  1 AC 112. [up]
Last updated: March 5, 2012