Elisa Hesling

Special Counsel


Elisa is a Special Counsel who commenced working with FOI Solutions in February 2012, having previously worked for the then Department of Human Services in Victoria.  Elisa advises on all aspects of Administrative law focusing particularly on Information Privacy and Freedom of Information. 

Elisa was admitted to practice in 1999.  She has extensive experience in FOI law, privacy law and policy and other administrative law areas and has demonstrated those skills in assisting an extensive number of clients at FOI Solutions.  In October 2015 Elisa obtained Accreditation from the Law Institute of Victoria as a Specialist in Administrative Law and now sits on various committees at the Law Institute. 

Prior to working in administrative law, Elisa worked in a commercial building law firm and as an Associate to a former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (in her earlier capacity as a Judge).

Elisa prides herself on providing practical legal advice to assist clients manage potentially complex and technical administrative law issues.  Her favourite thing is to work with clients to promptly and thoroughly respond to their administrative law queries.

Areas of Expertise

  • Legislation/Regulation/Policy development

    • Assisted a national regulator to develop a policy and legal submission to legislators for amendment to national legislation
    • Advising on parliamentary privilege
    • Advised various agencies on complaint management policies and developed training materials advising on policies
    • Developed policies on FOI processing for agencies
    • Reviewed and advised on likely impacts of draft legislation. Advised on policies required should the legislation proceed.
  • Judicial and Administrative Review

    • Advised on and conducted through to final hearing administrative review proceedings in VCAT in FOI.
    • Advised on and conducted administrative review proceedings in VCAT in privacy.
    • Advised on good decision-making requirements and administrative law concepts in relation to public servants making statutory decisions.
    • Developed and conducted training on making decisions and writing good statements of reasons for decision when exercising statutory powers
  • Public law matters –including public governance

    • Advising many agencies on protected disclosure legislation including drafting processes and procedures and conducting training for agencies.
    • advising on Ombudsman powers and participating in Ombudsman investigations
    • advising and training on the requirements of the Public Records Act and its interaction with FOI Act
    • Proficient in applying principles of statutory interpretation which is crucial in Administrative Law.
    • Advised national regulators with an Ombudsman/Privacy Commissioner function in the handling of complaints including drafting policies, guidelines, manuals with template correspondence, customised correspondence for particular complaints, etc
    • Identifying sources and limits of decision making power; preparing authorisations for decision making conducted training on the requirements for making valid administrative decisions
    • Advising on and training on good decision making statements of reasons for decision
    • Advising clients or directly dealing on their behalf with integrity or oversight bodies such as the Ombudsman, FOI/Information Commissioner, Services(Complaints) Commissioner, Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection (and predecessor), IBAC, etc.
    • Advising on and training on social media use and FOI/privacy risks associated with it
    • Advising on and training on best practice for complaint handling for agencies where there is no specific legislative guidance.

Professional Experience


  • Bachelor of Laws, Deakin University, 1999

  • Bachelor of Arts, La Trobe University, 1995

  • Admitted to Practice, Supreme Court of Victoria (1999)

  • Accredited Specialist in Administrative Law, October 2015

  • Public law body office holder and numerous memberships including :

      • Member of Executive Committee of the Administrative Law and Human Rights Section of the Law Institute of Victoria (December 2023 to date)
      • Deputy Chairperson, Law Institute of Victoria, Administrative Review Constitutional Law Committee (2023), Member (2016 to date)
      • Member, Law Institute of Victoria, Administrative Law Advisory Committee (2017 to date)
      • Former Committee Member, Australian Institute of Administrative Law, Victorian Chapter Former Committee Member, Australian Institute of Administrative Law, Victorian Chapter (2013 to 2020)

FOI, Privacy and Data Protection

Elisa has dealt with all aspects of FOI including:
  • Training FOI decision makers generally and on specific topics

  • Advising on requests for access to documents

  • Advising on exceptions and exemptions under the FOI Act

  • Assisting agencies with processing FOI requests including processing documents and drafting correspondence

  • Advising clients or directly dealing with the FOI/Information Commissioner about reviews or complaints

  • Reviewing FOI processes, auditing, etc

  • Advising on and preparing Part II statements

  • Conducting or advising on reviews to VCAT

Elisa has dealt with all aspects of health and personal information privacy and data protection (under the Health Records Act 2001, Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and repealed Information Privacy Act 2000) including:

  • Conducting numerous privacy impact assessments

  • Auditing agency compliance with privacy laws (including currently doing so for V/Line)

  • Advising on compliance including preparation of collection notices and policies

  • Training agency staff on privacy

  • Advising on potential interferences with privacy in numerous scenarios

  • Conducting investigations of complaints for clients

  • Assisting clients in dealing with Commissioners about privacy complaints

  • Conducting legal proceedings at VCAT

  • Advising on the interaction of FOI and privacy with other access regimes in legislation or subpoenas (summonses to produce)

Litigation and dispute resolution relating to the areas of law for nominated services

Elisa has personally conducted numerous cases at VCAT on FOI matters and some cases on privacy

Employment History

  • Associate to Justice Warren, Supreme Court of Victoria

  • Solicitor, Doyles Construction Lawyers

  • Senior Legal Adviser, Freedom of Information Unit, Department of Human Services

  • Senior Legal Adviser, Freedom of Information Unit, Department of Human Services

  • Senior Solicitor, FOI Solutions (February 2012 – 31 December 2012)

  • Associate, FOI Solutions (1 January 2013 to 31 December 2015)

  • Senior Associate, FOI Solutions (1 January 2016 to 31 December 2021)

  • FOI Solutions (2012 to date)


Freedom of Information

Every Australian jurisdiction has freedom of information, right to information or equivalent laws.

FOI Solutions is pre-eminent in providing legal services about FOI/RTI matters. We have a reputation of excellence as a one-stop-shop when it comes to FOI/RTI, providing services ranging from processing and training through to conducting reviews and court appeals.

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some of the services we provide about FOI/RTI matters.