How we handle personal information
How we handle personal information
Victoria Legal Aid handles a lot of personal information in the course of our work. This is a responsibility we take seriously. We take care to comply with our legal obligations about handling personal information. If we make mistakes, we fix them as quickly as possible.
Contact us with any questions about how we handle personal information.
Complaints and Statutory Compliance
Phone: (03) 9280 3789
This policy explains how Victoria Legal Aid handles personal and health information.
Personal and health information handled by Victoria Legal Aid is managed in accordance with the privacy principles contained in the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic), and the Health Records Act 2001 (Vic). Some information will also be protected by other legal obligations. These include client confidentiality, legal privilege and the Legal Aid Act 1978 (Vic).
Personal information is almost any information, including numbers or images, that relates to an identifiable living person. Some personal information is considered sensitive, such as ethnic origin, sexual orientation or criminal record.
Health information is information that relates to an identifiable living or deceased person and concerns their health, disability or genetic make-up.
What we do
We are a government funded agency set up to ensure that people who cannot afford to pay for a private lawyer can get help with their legal problems. We provide free information for all Victorians, provide lawyers on duty in most courts and tribunals in Victoria, and fund legal representation for people who meet our eligibility criteria. We can help people with a range of legal problems, including criminal matters, family breakdown, family violence, mental health and discrimination. See more about what we do.
What personal and health information we collect
We only collect the minimum information we need to fulfil our statutory functions and to run our organisation. When collecting personal information, we will take reasonable steps to advise you of:
- what information is being sought
- for what purpose the information is being sought
- whether any law requires its collection
- the main consequences for you, if any, of not providing us with the information.
The main kinds of information we collect are:
- information about people’s legal problems and personal and financial circumstances
- complaints, enquiries and submissions from members of the public
- education and employment history from people who work for us, or apply to work for us
- contact details of our clients, staff, contractors and members of the public
- security footage of some of our offices
- applications from private lawyers to join our panels.
How we use personal and health information
The main ways we use personal and health information are to:
- help people with their legal problems
- assess whether people are eligible for a grant to help pay for a lawyer
- answer enquiries and resolve complaints
- provide updates on our publications and services
- assess applications from private lawyers to join our panels
- recruit and manage staff
- meet our workplace safety obligations.
We also use this information, after removing identifying details, to meet our reporting obligations.
When we disclose personal and health information
We generally only disclose information to the extent needed to help someone with their legal problem, to resolve a complaint or to respond to a submission or enquiry.
In some cases, and in accordance with the law, we may disclose documents to an external body, such as a court, tribunal or review organisation such as the Victorian Ombudsman or Legal Services Board and Commissioner.
We might make other disclosures with your consent or otherwise in accordance our legal obligations.
How we ensure the quality of personal and health information recorded
We take reasonable steps to ensure the information we have about individuals is accurate, complete and current. We ask people to tell us when their personal or health information changes so we can update our records. Where possible, we check the accuracy of information before we use it.
How we keep personal and health information safe
We do our best to protect information from loss, misuse, unauthorised access, modification and disclosure. To do this we use procedural, physical and software safeguards.
We limit and record access to our buildings and systems. We encrypt our internal communications. We only use external information storage partners when we are confident they will protect the information as well as we can.
We require our staff to handle information with care and access only what they need to do their job. We support this with usage policies, information barriers and access controls.
We destroy or de-identify information when it is no longer required. We do this in accordance with our obligations under the Public Records Act 1973 (Vic) and Legal Profession Act 2004 (Vic).
We can provide anonymous services
We provide an anonymous service through our website. We do not collect any personal information from people who browse the website, unless they choose to provide it through an online form.
People can be anonymous when contacting us, but it may limit the level of service we can provide.
We use unique identifiers
We create a client number for each person to whom we provide legal advice. This helps us keep a record of the services we provide, make appropriate referrals and avoid conflicts of interest. We do not share client numbers with any other agency.
We will sometimes, with the person’s consent, collect and use their Centrelink number to check their Centrelink entitlements. We do this to assess whether that person is eligible for legal aid funding.
Transferring information outside Victoria
We generally do not send information outside Victoria. Some exceptions apply, for example, if we are helping a person with a legal matter outside Victoria. If we do this, we take care to ensure we comply with legal protections on trans-border data flows.
We collect sensitive information
We sometimes ask for sensitive information. For example, if helping a person with a criminal matter we may need their criminal history to give legal advice. We only seek such information with the person’s consent or if required by law.
How you can access and correct your personal information
You can contact us to request access to your personal information or to ask us to correct an error. We will arrange this as soon as possible, or we will assist you to put in a more formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Alternatively, those who have received legal services from us can request copies of documents from their legal file by asking their Victoria Legal Aid lawyer. Lawyers’ professional obligations entitle clients to certain documents on their file.
If you have a complaint about privacy
Please contact us if you have a complaint about how we have handled your personal information. We aim to resolve complaints quickly and fairly.
Complaints are handled by our Complaints and Statutory Compliance team. If we can’t resolve a complaint directly with you, we will refer you to the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection or the Health Services Commissioner.
Find out how to make a complaint.
All requests, complaints and queries can be directed to:
Complaints and Statutory Compliance
Phone: (03) 9269 3789
Address: GPO Box 4380, MELBOURNE VIC 3001