The Guides to Social Policy Law is a collection of publications designed to assist decision makers administering social policy law. The information contained in this publication intended only as a guide to social security payments. The information is accurate as at the date listed at the bottom of the page, but may be subject to change. To discuss individual circumstances please contact Services Australia.

6.3 Disclosing protected information

Summary

In certain circumstances the Operator, or a government official may disclose protected information. Generally, the disclosure of this information allows government officials to comply with their mandatory reporting requirements and reportable conduct schemes.

Publicly disclosing that an institution is not participating in the Scheme

The Operator may publicly disclose that a non-government institution is not participating in the Scheme if:

  • a person has applied for redress and the application identifies the non-government institution as being involved in the abuse of the person, or
  • the institution is believed to be connected with abuse of a person that is within the scope of the Scheme.

In publicly disclosing that an institution is not participating in the Scheme, the Operator may also publicly disclose any of the following that are applicable:

  • that an application identifies the non-government institution as being involved in the abuse
  • that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the non-government institution is connected with abuse
  • the non-government institution has been contacted to participate in the Scheme and not responded
  • that the non-government institution has informed it agrees, or does not agree to participate in the Scheme
  • the non-government institution intends to agree, or does not agree to be listed as a partly-participating institution
  • there are not reasonable grounds to expect that if the non-government institution was participating in the Scheme that its liabilities would be discharged.

Publicly disclosing that a non-government institution is not participating in the Scheme provides people who have applied, or are considering applying for redress through the Scheme, information on the institution’s participation in the Scheme, and encourages institutions to participate in the Scheme.

Act reference: NRSAct section 95A Additional authorisation–Operator publicly disclosing that institution is not participating in the scheme

Use of protected information by government institutions & officials

A person employed by a government institution (a government official) that receives protected information may obtain the information; make a record of the information; disclose the information or use the information only for a permitted purpose, which includes:

  • the enforcement of criminal law
  • the safety or wellbeing of children
  • investigatory, disciplinary or employment processes related to the safety or wellbeing of children.

The official must only use the information as part of their job role with the institution, and they must not be prevented from doing so by another Commonwealth, state or territory Act.

A person who is not an officer of the Scheme, or an officer of a government institution, may disclose protected information to a government institution. However, the disclosure must be reasonably necessary for a permitted purpose, and the disclosure must be permitted or required under a Commonwealth, state or territory law. This enables participating institutions to comply with existing mandatory reporting legislation and reportable conduct schemes.

Act reference: NRSAct section 97 Additional authorisation-disclosing etc. for a permitted purpose

Disclosures of protected information to a court or tribunal by a person

An officer cannot be required to disclose protected information or information from the Assessment Framework Policy Guidelines (the Guidelines) to a court or tribunal for the purposes of any civil proceedings. However, an officer may disclose this information if it is done for the purposes of giving effect to the NRSAct. This includes a situation where the disclosure of information is in civil proceedings for judicial review of a decision made under the Act.

An officer may also disclose information in the following circumstances:

  • if the disclosure of the information gives effect to the Act
  • in civil proceedings, but only as a result of a person providing false or misleading documents, information or statements to the Scheme
  • the person obtained the information before or separate to the Scheme.

An officer, court or tribunal cannot publish any protected information, or information from the Guidelines.

Act reference: NRSAct section 105 Disclosures to a court or tribunal

Disclosures made in good faith

A person may inadvertently disclose protected information for the purposes of the Scheme. So long as the person is or was acting in good faith, with no malicious intent, the person is not liable to any civil or criminal proceedings, or disciplinary action, for disclosing this information. The person also cannot be held to have breached any code of professional etiquette or ethics, or departed from any accepted standards of professional conduct.

Act reference: NRSAct section 97 Additional authorisation-disclosing etc. for a permitted purpose, section 105 Disclosures to a court or tribunal, section 106 Disclosing information in good faith

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