Privacy and Confidentiality Policy
All people in contact with QAI are entitled to have their personal information treated confidentially. QAI endeavours to protect confidentiality and to create an environment of respect and privacy.
QAI supports and complies with the Australian Privacy Principles in the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth), which regulate the collection, use, disclosure, and storage of personal information.
In this policy “personal information” has the same meaning as defined by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth):
“information or an opinion about an identified individual, or an individual who is reasonably identifiable:
- whether the information or opinion is true or not; and
- whether the information or opinion is recorded in a material form or not”.
QAI as an organisation is committed to a human rights culture and supports the operation of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) (“Human Rights Act”). QAI acknowledges the right to Privacy and Reputation and notes that compliance with privacy obligations, and this policy, is essential to protecting the right to Privacy and Reputation and promoting QAI’s human rights culture. QAI will only use personal and sensitive information collected by it as permitted by law, and in accordance with this policy. This policy does not apply to ’employee records’ held and used by QAI for the purpose of employment. However, QAI will treat employee personal information confidentiality and on a need-to-know basis for purposes connected with employment.
Collection of personal information
QAI will only collect personal information that is reasonably necessary for, or directly related to, one or more of its functions or activities.
QAI collects, holds, uses and discloses personal information for the following purposes:
- participating in and providing systems advocacy;
- providing individual advocacy services, including legal advice and representation and non-legal support;
- meeting QAI’s obligations to funding bodies by providing statistics and reports;
- applying for further funding to ensure continuation of QAI’s services and expand service provision;
- assessing applications for employment with QAI;
- ensuring QAI functions effectively to meet its obligations as an incorporated association, as an employer of paid staff and manager of volunteers; and
- any other function or activity reasonably necessary for, or relating to, QAI’s functions of activities.
QAI will normally collect personal information about an individual directly from that individual. QAI sometimes collects personal information about an individual from another person or source, but only if:
- the individual consents to the collection; or
- QAI is required or authorised by an Australian law, or a court/tribunal to do so;
QAI will collect information in a manner which is least intrusive into an individual’s private and personal life. QAI will ensure that the manner in which personal information is collected is respectful of each individual’s privacy. For example, an interpreter or support person will only be present during the collection of information if the individual consents.
QAI endeavours to collect personal information which is accurate and relevant.
Use and disclosure of personal information
QAI will not use or disclose an individual’s personal information for a purpose other than for the primary purpose of collection unless:
- the individual consents to QAI’s use or disclosure for a secondary purpose;
- the secondary purpose is related (in the case of personal information) or directly related (in the case of sensitive information) to the primary purpose and the individual would reasonably expect QAI to use or disclose the information for the secondary purpose; or [Under the Privacy Act, the primary and secondary purpose must be “related” for personal information and “directly related” for sensitive information (such as health information).]
- the secondary purpose is required or authorised by an Australian law, or a court/tribunal.
QAI may disclose confidential information, including personal information:
- where it suspects unlawful activity;
- to lessen or prevent a serious threat to the life, health or safety of any individual, or to public health or safety; or
- where a staff member is obliged by law to notify a relevant authority.
In these cases the CEO of QAI or their delegate will determine the most appropriate course of action, having regard to the Australian Privacy Principles.
To properly perform its functions, QAI may disclose personal information or (if permitted) sensitive information to another person or organisation in order to provide our services, for example:
- to obtain an expert report from a doctor;
- to make legal submissions to a tribunal;
- for supervisory or debriefing purposes with an external agency; or
- to QAI’s professional indemnity insurer.
QAI takes all reasonable steps to ensure that these people and organisations treat that personal information confidentially.
Information gathered during interviews and meetings may be de-identified and aggregated into broad categories and used for data collection.
Accidental breach of personal privacy
At times, human error can inadvertently result in the accidental disclosure of personal information to an incorrect recipient.
All staff must double-check addressees to all communications including emails and numbers on faxes.
Should an accidental breach of confidentiality occur, the QAI staff member concerned must as soon as possible:
- contact the incorrect recipient, advise of the mistake, ask that the relevant documents be returned, destroyed or deleted (as appropriate), and obtain written confirmation that this has been done.
- Seek guidance from the Director and/or Principal Solicitor as to what further steps to take. This will depend on the circumstances, but will likely include contacting the client and advising of the mistake, inform them of any action taken by QAI to prevent further disclosure, and if necessary advising of any ramification or recommended action as a result of the disclosure. Note that in some circumstances, mistaken disclosure may require further guidance from the Queensland Law Society Ethics Centre and/or notification to the Professional Indemnity Insurance representative and insurer or Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (for mandatory data breach notifications).
All action taken must be documented on the client’s file.
The Director and/or Principal Solicitor must consider whether there should be any action to improve systems to avoid breach in the future.
Storage and security of personal information
QAI takes all reasonable steps to protect personal information it holds from misuse, interference, loss, unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.
Electronic files are stored on computers which are password protected and regularly scanned for viruses. Paper files are located in a physically secure environment with restricted access. In accordance with the Legal Profession (Solicitors) Rule 2007, legal files are held for 6 years after they have been closed.
All QAI staff, volunteers and Management Committee members are required to treat any personal information held as highly confidential and in accordance with this policy.
QAI further ensures that the personal information it collects is kept private by:
- discussing privacy and confidentiality with staff (including volunteers and contractors), the Management Committee and others QAI works with to maintain a high awareness of the importance of confidentiality; and
- using anecdotal and personal stories at public venues with great precaution and care to ensure that privacy is protected.
QAI also takes reasonable steps to securely destroy or de-identify personal information where it is no longer needed for the purpose for which QAI collected it (and provided QAI is not required by or under an Australian law, or a court/tribunal order, to retain the information).
Access to personal information
An individual may request access to, or request a change to, their personal information held by QAI.
Sometimes, QAI may refuse access to personal information held about an individual for reasons consistent with the Australian Privacy Principles or because access is prevented by some other law. If access is refused, QAI will give reasons for the refusal. QAI aims to deal promptly with requests for access to personal information.
QAI will take reasonable steps to correct personal information held about an individual which QAI believes is inaccurate, incomplete, out of date or no longer relevant. QAI will also do so in circumstances where an individual requests us to correct their personal information. QAI will correct the information within a reasonable time of becoming aware it needs to be corrected, or an individual’s request. QAI will also notify relevant third parties of the correction. If QAI is not satisfied that the personal information needs amendment, QAI will take reasonable steps to record the individual’s views about the accuracy, completeness or currency of their personal information that is held by QAI.
QAI values the contribution of People with Disability to our systems advocacy efforts.
QAI recognises people with disability are often consulted about their experience. This may often cause stress to a person. Therefore, QAI will only seek stories of lived experience when it is fundamental to the outcome of a project, and has benefit to the individual and systemic benefits to all people with disability. All contact with contributors are undertaken with a strict code of conduct and ethics, and at times information may be de-identified to protect the person and or their families.
In accord with QAI recognition of and response to vulnerability QAI will only seek consent to use the experience of vulnerable people with disability in systemic advocacy activities where the person will not be exposed to heightened risk or vulnerability and where the use of such experience provides valid evidence to support the advocacy effort.
Where an individual story or experience of a person or people with disability is used as a case study contribution for systemic advocacy, QAI will respect the dignity and privacy of the person or persons who make this contribution. All staff will adhere to the six principles of ethical treatment of story-telling in advocacy:
- Consent must be informed, freely given and where QAI de-identifies case studies, some effort will be made to obtain consent for documented systemic actions.
- Vulnerable people may require additional support and time to determine their consent and QAI adheres to the principles of advocacy in relation to conflict of interest, sincerely perceived interests of the person, paying keen attention to the potential costs to the person by the advocacy action and being mindful of the potential harm to other more vulnerable people.
- Participation by the person themselves will lend more authenticity to the story, but at all times their personal dignity and reputation should be promoted and protected. Participation can be in many forms including video, works of art, photos or other images.
- Collaboration with other groups of people who may be affected by the systemic action involving a personal story can ensure that there is shared ownership and lend support and strength to the individual. Cooperation and collaboration with other allies in the community will begin a process of change.
- Campaign context is crucial to ensuring the audience becomes part of the change process. It is essential that the uses of personal stories are relevant to the issues at hand.
- Construction of the story must be engaging and capture the attention of the audience. Advocacy and the use of personal experiences are more effective when it is factual, sets the scene, contains quotes, observations or anecdotes are more important than chronology. Stories that reflect this will offer indisputable evidence to the advocacy goal.
The collecting of information is done in a supportive manner which upholds the Guiding Principles of the organisation.
QAI will proactively seek informed consent from people with disability who are engaged or supported by QAI individual advocacy services or allies.
The interests and wellbeing of the person and other more vulnerable people will be maintained, promoted and protected by QAI and staff members.
The collection of information relating to the unmet needs, circumstances, issues pertaining to the person or persons will be recorded as evidence of breaches of human rights, legislation, policies and practices to advance systemic change.
QAI will develop processes and resources that respond to the needs of people with disability from Non English speaking background (NESB), culturally and Linguistically diverse background (CALD) otherwise declared diverse backgrounds in order to support them to tell their story by:
- accessing professional interpreters when required.
- providing information in different languages when required.
- providing information and materials in alternative formats as required
- providing accessible and safe meeting spaces when working with people with disability.
- supporting staff in accessing information, networking and training necessary to ensure that the 5 Principles outlined in this policy are implemented when using personal stories as case studies.
- QAI will support staff to engage with allied advocacy organisations and specialist services in order to support the individual in telling their story and safeguarding them from increased risk or ill treatment.
Personal stories can be recorded in a range of media including images, audio files, video, artwork, poetry, or by verbal presentations accompanied by any or all of the above in meetings and at events such as forums or with media. All measures shall be made to ensure that informed consent has been obtained from the person or where this is not possible; consent shall be obtained from their formal or informal guardians and supporters.
When reporting to funding bodies or for accreditation purposes, QAI will endeavour to use case examples with the consent of individual clients of our services. However, where the example has been de-identified and the circumstances are not acutely unique to the individual, QAI’s individual services are not obliged to obtain full consent
Changes to this policy
Any questions, concerns or complaints about information privacy or use of personal stories should be directed in writing to:
Fax: 07 3844 4220
Post: Queensland Advocacy Incorporated, PO Box 3384, South Brisbane Qld 4101
QAI will respond within a reasonable period of time to acknowledge any complaint and advise the next steps which will be taken.
Phone: 1300 363 992
Fax: 02 9284 9666
Post: PO Box 5218, Sydney NSW 2001