Applying for Complaint Documents

This information is intended to assist people who were involved in a complaint and are now applying to access documents about, or arising out of, that complaint. It applies both to people who made a complaint and to people who were complained about. It does not apply to documents arising out of a workplace investigation.

Will I get access to the documents?

You are not likely to be given access to all the documents you ask for. You will likely get access to documents that contain only your personal information and to procedural documents.

Personal information of other people

Other people’s personal information (such as any information which identifies the complainants) is generally considered to be contrary to the public interest to disclose and you are not likely to get access to that.

Releasing someone else’s personal information (such as other people’s observations, opinions, concerns or recollections) or information which infringes their right to privacy has been found to be contrary to the public interest. You may be refused access to this sort of information. Personal information of other people will include information which enables you to work out who made the complaint—it is very unlikely that you will be given access to this information.

In some circumstances it will not be possible to separate your personal information from the personal information of other people. An example of this may be a complaint containing the thoughts and feelings of the complainant about an incident or situation which you were involved in. If it is not possible to separate personal information, access to all of the personal information—yours and the other people’s—may be refused. This means that you may not receive a complainant’s complaint letter, even where it is a complaint made against you.

Confidential sources of information

Anything that would reveal a confidential source of information which relates to the enforcement or administration of the law is exempt information. When considering complaint documents the Council may have to consider if the documents you have applied for would reveal the existence or the identity of a confidential source of information. If so, you are likely to be refused access to the information.

Prejudice the flow of information

It has also been previously decided that releasing information that could prejudice the flow of confidential information to government is contrary to the public interest. For example, where witnesses or complainants understand that the information they provide to investigators will be held in confidence and they would be less likely to provide that information in the future if it is released, that sort of information may not be disclosed.

What about accountability in conducting investigations?

There will often be a broad public interest in the Council being accountable to the public for its actions. It is necessary, however, for the facts in each case to be considered to decide whether the interest in accountability is:

  • favoured by disclosing the information in question
  • strong enough to outweigh the specific factors against disclosure.

In most cases, the broad general interest in accountability has not been found sufficient to outweigh the above factors against disclosure.


Information sourced from: Office of the Information Commissioner, Queensland (2013)