Information sharing

Information-sharing provisions in domestic and family violence legislation vary in scope and detail between jurisdictions; and only some provide for information sharing in the conduct of protection order proceedings (see table below). The practice of information sharing involves interagency coordination and cooperation through protocols developed and regularly reviewed in collaboration between courts, the police and service agencies. These protocols have been shown to improve responses to the enforcement of protection orders, including improved approaches to the assessment and management of risk. There are also differences in how jurisdictions have legislated to prevent the inappropriate sharing of information and to protect people’s privacy.

In addition, all Australian jurisdictions have enacted information-sharing provisions facilitating the National Domestic Violence Orders Scheme (NDVOS), under which a domestic violence order issued on or after 25 November 2017 is automatically nationally enforceable. Every jurisdiction has enacted provisions that enable its courts or law enforcement agencies to obtain information about a DVO from a court or law enforcement agency in another jurisdiction, and use that information for the purpose of making, varying or revoking a DVO. The provisions further require courts or law enforcement agencies in one jurisdiction to provide information about a DVO to a court or law enforcement agency of another jurisdiction that the court or law enforcement agency reasonably requests for the purposes of exercising its functions.

The table below also identifies the provisions in each jurisdiction’s domestic violence legislation that provide for information-sharing in the conduct of protection order proceedings, and the information-sharing provisions in each jurisdiction that give effect to the NDVOS.

Recent research indicates that the broader potential for sharing information between state/territory agencies responsible for responding to domestic and family violence, such as police, courts, child welfare and health authorities and support and referral services, has become an important factor in the overall effectiveness of responses to domestic and family violence. Information sharing in this context may mean that victims of violence are more likely to engage with the agency to which they have been referred if they know they will not be required to repeatedly re-tell their experiences to other agencies, and therefore avoid further trauma and distress. In addition, where the details of past violence or the risks of future violence are shared between agencies, timely action may be taken to address the risks and to ensure the safety and protection of the victim and other people at risk of harm.

Jurisdiction Information sharing provisions under domestic violence legislation Information sharing provisions relevant to the National Domestic Violence Orders Scheme (NDVOS)
Australian Capital Territory s18 Domestic Violence Agencies Act 1986 (ACT) – if ACT/Federal police reasonably suspect domestic violence is being/has been committed/is likely, they may disclose to an approved crisis support agency (s17) any information that will help the agency to assist the victim/children. Part 9, Div. 9.4 Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT)
New South Wales Part 13A Information Sharing

(ss 98D-98H) Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW) – Provides for disclosure by limited agencies (government and health), court, police, designated referral/coordination points to referral/coordination points and support agencies in relation to personal and health information about the victim and (alleged) perpetrator for the purposes of arranging/providing support to the victim, and where there is a domestic violence threat.

Disclosure by government/health agencies and support agencies requires the consent of (and by a court - no express objection by) the threatened person/victim (s98D, E, H). S98J Protocols may be required for this collection, use and disclosure of information.

s98M A government /health agency may collect/use /disclose information if it reasonably believes the threat is serious, disclosure is necessary to prevent/lessen the threat and consent of the victim has been refused or is unreasonable/impractical to obtain.

The NSW Justice Department has developed a protocol for sharing and dealing with information under Part 13A available here.
Part 13B, Div. 4, Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW)
Northern Territory

s124A Domestic and Family Violence Act (NT) Failure of an adult to report to the police harm (or likely harm) or serious/imminent threat because of domestic violence is an offence. S124A(4) Police must investigate such a report.

s125 Domestic and Family Violence Act (NT) Such a report made in good faith is not a breach of a professional code of conduct and cannot attract civil or criminal liability – the report/reporter may only be used in proceedings with leave of the court.

Note:
As at 30 June 2018 there is a Bill before Parliament that may introduce changes to information sharing in the Northern Territory. See https://parliament.nt.gov.au/committees/spsc/DFV.
Chapter 3A, Part 3A.4 Domestic and Family Violence Act (NT)
Queensland Part 3 Domestic violence orders

s55 Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) If the respondent is contesting the naming of a child on the protection order or conditions relating to the child, the court may request relevant information from the child protection authority. The parties must be given a copy and the opportunity to make submissions on the information received unless it would expose the victim or a child at increased risk of domestic and family violence.

Part 5A Information Sharing

ss169A – s169O Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld) Government entities and specialist DFV service providers may give information to another government entity or specialist DFV service provider for assessing domestic violence threat or for responding to serious domestic violence threat. A support service provider (other than a specialist DFV service provider) may give information to government entity, specialist DFV service provider or other support service provider for responding to serious domestic violence threat.

Whenever safe, possible and practical, a person’s consent should be obtained before information sharing. However, safety and protection takes precedence over a person’s consent.

Government entity or specialist DFV service provider may use information given to it to assess whether there is a serious threat to a person’s life, health or safety or to lessen or prevent a serious threat. A support service provider may use information given to it to lessen or prevent a serious threat to a person’s life, health or safety.

Guidelines for sharing and dealing with information under Part 5A have been developed pursuant to s169M and are available here.
Part 6, Div. 5 Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld)
Tasmania

s37 Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) – It is not a breach of the Personal Information Act 2004 (Tas) (which regulates the collection and use of information) for an agency under that Act, acting in good faith, to collect, use, disclose personal information for the purpose of furthering the objects of the Family Violence Act.

s39 Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas) Providing information (voluntarily or as required) to police based on a belief/reasonable suspicion of family violence (or likely family violence) with weapon, physical, sexual violence or where child affected, is not a breach of professional ethics/requirements and cannot, if done in good faith, incur civil or criminal liability.
Part 4, Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Act 2016 (Tas)
Victoria

s140 Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic) – Information from an interview or report relating to (respondent) court ordered counselling may be used in proceedings for a contravention relating to counselling orders or the underlying offence. (Power relating to court ordered counselling is limited to the Family Violence Court Division or other court specified by the Minister s126).

Part 5A Information Sharing

ss144A-144SG Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic)

‘Information sharing entities’ (prescribed by regulation) may share any personal, health or sensitive information relevant to assessing and/or managing family violence between each other, provided the information is not excluded; sharing it does not contravene another law; and applicable consent requirements have been met.

The information may relate to a victim survivor, alleged or established perpetrator or third party. Information may be shared for a “family violence assessment purpose” or “family violence protection purpose” and the relevance and reasonable belief required to share the information varies according to the purpose. Consent requirements vary according to the party to whom the information relates.

Information sharing entities must comply with requests for information meeting the requirements of Part 5A.

Guidelines for sharing and dealing with information under Part 5A have been developed pursuant to s 144P and are available, alongside various other resources on the Part’s operation, here.
Part 5, National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Act 2016 (Vic)
Western Australia s70A Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA) – Limited government agencies, including police and children’s services, may disclose to each other information about person protected by an order or affected child if the disclosure is necessary to ensure the safety of the person protected or the wellbeing of a child. Part 4, Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Act 2016 (WA)
South Australia s38 Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA) – A public sector agency or contractor that is bound by the State's Information Privacy Principles, must, on request, make available to a police officer information to assist in locating a person for service of a protection order. Part 3A, Div. 4 Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA)

Acknowledgement of (adapted) source: Taylor, A., et al, Domestic and family violence protection orders in Australia: An investigation of information sharing and enforcement – State of knowledge paper (ANROWS, 2015) – Table 3, p15