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Information Sharing under Part 13A of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007
Domestic violence is a crime that is preventable.
It requires a coordinated response from service providers in the areas of policing, justice, health, welfare, education, child protection and victim support services to reduce its incidence.
Part 13A was introduced to the
Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 to improve the response to domestic violence and increase agencies' capacity to share information and work collaboratively to support families at risk from domestic violence.
This web resource is intended for service providers – staff of government agencies, non-government service providers and other professionals - whose clients may be at threat of domestic violence.
You are encouraged to read this information to improve or maintain your knowledge of information sharing in the context of domestic violence: to help your clients access domestic violence support services and to reduce or prevent serious domestic violence threats to the life, health or safety of victims, their children or any other person.
For more information and guidance see the
Domestic Violence Information Sharing Protocol.
Where possible you should assess the level of threat to your client and work in partnership with other service providers, including sharing relevant information in order to:
Domestic violence generally occurs behind closed doors and no one person or agency can see the complete picture of the circumstances of a victim, but all may have information or insights that are crucial to their safety.
Every second year, the NSW Coroner prepares a Domestic Violence Death Review Report. These reports include stories of deaths that could have been prevented if agencies and services had shared information about clients at threat of domestic violence, and had taken actions to prevent escalation of the violence.
Many more people, including children, are subjected to illness, injury, and homelessness as a result of domestic violence. It is responsible for more ill-health and premature death among women under the age of 45 than any other well-known risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking.
By sharing information we can do more to reduce this incidence and its impact on families and communities.
Every piece of information helps build a better picture of what is happening in a person's life and the domestic violence threat they are facing.
Sharing information with other relevant agencies also minimises the risk of victims falling through the cracks, supports victims to more easily and quickly engage with the service to which they have been referred, and ensures that swift action can be taken to address serious threats of domestic violence.
Sharing information with other services also avoids victims having to repeat their story each time they are referred to a new service provider.
Click here to read a case study: Information sharing saves lives: John and Anna
Privacy and confidentiality are very important, and NSW privacy laws protect the confidentiality of everyone's personal and health information.
But safety is paramount; that is why new legislation was enacted to allow agencies and organisations to share information more freely in the context of domestic violence, where:
The new legislation commenced in September 2014 as Part 13A of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (Part 13A).
For more details and guidance about sharing information under Part 13A, see the Domestic Violence
Information Sharing Protocol.
Part 13A of the Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (Part 13A) commenced in September 2014.
Part 13A supports a new framework and information sharing practices intended to improve safety outcomes for victims of domestic violence. It creates certain exceptions to NSW privacy laws that allow NSW agencies and organisations to exchange information to respond appropriately to the needs of victims, and encourages inter-agency collaboration.
There are two key aspects to Part 13A:
1) Sharing information to facilitate victims' access to domestic violence support services
Part 13A permits an agency or service provider to disclose victim and perpetrator information to the
Central Referral Point or a
Local Coordination Point where the agency believes that a person is subject to a domestic violence threat. The purpose is to make referrals for domestic violence support services, or to provide support services to the victim. While not required by police or the local court, any other agency or service provider must obtain the victim's consent. The consent of the perpetrator is not required.
2) Sharing information to prevent or lessen a threat to the life, health or safety of a person
Part 13A allows an agency or service provider to share any persons' information without the consent of the person if the agency believes on reasonable grounds that:
In all other cases, the person's consent must be obtained for information to be collected, used or disclosed. The perpetrator's consent is not required.
Part 13A makes it easier for you to work collaboratively with other agencies and service providers and share information to enable victims to access support services to keep them safe. Part 13A also supports It Stops Here Safer Pathway.
For more detail and guidance about sharing information under Part 13A, see the Domestic Violence
Information Sharing Protocol.
Victims may suffer different levels of threat, so it is important that they receive the most appropriate response to address their safety needs.
Where you believe your client is a victim of domestic violence, or they have reported that they are a victim, you can assess their level of threat based on the following:
The outcome of the DVSAT will indicate whether your client is 'at threat' or 'at serious threat'.
For more information on threat and assessment of threat, refer to the Domestic Violence Safety Assessment Tool Guide. The Guide also includes the most recent version of the DVSAT and information on how to use the tool.
Where you have assessed that there is a domestic violence threat to your client (by applying the
DVSAT, another recognised assessment tool, and/or your professional judgement), you may share information about them and the perpetrator so that they can access support services.
You must obtain your client's consent to share their information (unless you are police or the local court).
You do NOT need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
You can only share the information with the
Central Referral Point (CRP) or the Local Coordination Point (LCP). This is because where sharing information under Part 13A in order to access domestic violence support services, the information must flow through the LCP.
Where you also want to make other referrals directly to services, you may share your client's information under NSW privacy laws. These laws mean you must have your client's consent and you
must not share the perpetrator's information. This is because the information is no longer shared under Part 13A.
Where you receive a referral from a LCP or another service provider that received the information from a LCP under Part 13A, you may make further referrals under Part 13A directly to other domestic violence support services (with your client's consent), and share information about your client and the perpetrator for this purpose.
There are additional provisions where your client is
at serious threat.
Where you want to make referrals to domestic violence support services or to provide support services:
Yes. Where you
(a) want to share your client's personal and/or health information to the
Central Referral Point (CRP) or
Local Coordination Point,
(b) receive referrals from the LCP and want to make further referrals for support services.
You must seek and obtain their consent. You do not need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
Where your client does not give consent to share their information, you cannot share their information under Part 13A or under NSW privacy laws.
Where you want to take actions to reduce or prevent a serious
seek your client's consent to share their information. Gaining consent is best practice and it is preferable to work with victims to increase their safety.
However, Part 13A allows you to share information without your client's consent where:
Also in some situations where your client has refused consent and you reasonably believe that by sharing information, actions could be taken that are necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to your client's life, health or safety, that of any children or any other persons. In that case you may override their refusal to consent.
In all other cases, your client's consent must be obtained for information to be collected, used or disclosed.
You do not need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
You must still consider whether there are concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person; in this case, you should take any actions as required by the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
For more guidance refer to the
consent case examples
Under Safer Pathway,
Local Coordination Points (LCPs) have been established in some areas in NSW to coordinate domestic violence support services to victims, and to collect information and make referrals.
Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service) (WDVCAS) hosts the LCPs for women across NSW, and
Victims Services acts as the LCP for all male victims and some female victims.
Where your client is 'at threat' and you want to share information for them to access support services, you must share it initially with the CRP, LCP or a WDVCAS (where Safer Pathway has not yet been rolled out).
Where you have received a referral from the
Local Coordination Point or a WDVCAS, you may share information further under Part 13A (share information about the victim and the perpetrator) to make ongoing referrals for the client - where you have verified your client's consent.
You are responsible for decisions about what information you consider necessary to share to make referrals or to provide domestic violence support services to your client.
The information can be about your client and/or the perpetrator.
As a guide, information shared may include, but is not limited to:
Where there are domestic violence proceedings underway, you may also share:
To assess the level of threat to your client, you may use any of the methods below:
Where the outcome of the assessment is that your client is at threat but you believe your client is at serious threat, you can use your professional judgement to upgrade the level of threat. You should never downgrade a level of threat.
Particular domestic violence acts or behaviours indicate a higher level of threat to a victim. For example, attempted strangulation or choking immediately place a victim within reach of a dangerous threshold level and is often a predictor for more serious violence.
Some identified persons and communities are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence threats due to their situation of social and cultural disadvantage, isolation, or increased dependence. These include women from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, from cultural and linguistically diverse communities, persons with disabilities or in residential settings.
Certain circumstances that can make victims more vulnerable to serious threats include:
No, under Part 13A there is no requirement to show that the threat is also imminent. This is because in domestic violence situations a serious threat may exist but it might be hard to determine whether any adverse outcome is imminent.
For example, in cases of long term domestic violence where there have been repeated assaults there may be no identifiable immediate threats to a victim's safety, but concerns remain and violence can escalate very rapidly.
You can share information about them and the perpetrator with a
Local Coordination Point for your client to access support services and safety planning. You need to obtain your client's consent. You do NOT need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
You can additionally share information about them, the perpetrator, and/or any other persons more broadly with any agency or support service where you identify actions that can be taken to reduce or prevent the serious threat to your client or to anyone's life as a result of domestic violence.
For example, you may share information with any support service or government agency, with Commonwealth agencies, Commonwealth funded NGOs, interstate agencies and organisations located anywhere in Australia.
You should try to obtain your client's consent. You do not need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
You may share information
without your client's consent where:
It is recommended that you also share the information with the Local Coordination Point in your area so that your client can be listed at a Safety Action Meeting.
For more guidance about sharing information where your client is at serious threat, see the Information Sharing Protocol.
What is unreasonable or impractical depends on the situation and may include situations where for example:
When deciding if something is unreasonable or impractical, you must consider what an ordinary person (not a professional) would expect or think would be acceptable in the situation.
When considering how to respond to domestic violence, you may need to balance your client's right to privacy and their need for safety and support.
In most instances you should seek your client's consent to share their information, and you may feel an obligation to respect your client's right to privacy. But where you have assessed that your client is at serious threat and does not consent to having their information shared with other agencies, an exception exists under Part 13A that allows you to override their refusal to consent - where you reasonably believe that by sharing information, actions could be taken to prevent or lessen the serious threat.
This is a difficult decision but you must consider the impact to their safety if the information is not disclosed. Ultimately, the safety of your client or any other persons' is paramount and should guide your decision-making.
Where your client has children in their care, you must also consider your responsibility under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998.
You should inform your client at the earliest opportunity and, where possible, before the information is shared. The only exception is where telling your client may actually increase the serious threat, or you cannot contact them after repeated attempts.
You should inform your client that:
You should also provide details of the service providers with which the information will be/was shared and the [potential] outcomes of sharing that information.
You can print the
Information Sharing Fact Sheet and give it to your client.
Where you have identified that your client is at serious threat, and there are actions you can take to reduce or prevent the serious threat, you may share information with any government agency, any NGO or service provider, a Commonwealth agency, a Commonwealth funded NGO and interstate agencies and organisations located anywhere in Australia.
When disclosing information, you should consider:
Resources to help create collaborative relationships with other services are available in the
Information Sharing Protocol, and include a compliance checklist and a draft MOU.
You are responsible for decisions about what information you consider reasonably necessary to reduce or prevent a serious threat to any person.
You can disclose personal or health information of your client and/or the perpetrator, and/or any other person.
As a guide, information that can be shared is that of your client, the perpetrator,
or any other person. It may include, but is not limited to:
When receiving a request for information, consider:
Where your client is assessed at threat (as identified by you or the agency requesting the information)
You must obtain your client's consent and where the request is made by -
Where your client is assessed at serious threat (as identified by you or the agency requesting the information)
Where you have received a request for information from an agency or service, you should consider your obligation to gain your client's consent, and share information requested under Part 13A.
You should consider that where your client is at serious, your response should be timely as serious threats can rapidly escalate.
Where you have determined that you will share your client's information (where there is a threat or a serious threat), you should tell them what information you will share, with whom, why and what the likely outcome may be.
You can hand out the
information sharing fact sheet that provides information on information sharing under Part 13A.
You do not need to tell the perpetrator anything, and the perpetrator must never be informed that information was shared or is held about them.
You must always protect the victim's safety and privacy, and you do not need to acknowledge any contact with the victim.
Not where it relates to a domestic violence threat. You should never disclose information about the victim to the perpetrator (or to anyone acting on the perpetrator's behalf), and you are not required to let them know that you have any information about them.
The primary consideration is the safety and privacy of the victim.
Part 13A overrides NSW privacy laws in relation to perpetrators' access to their information.
It Stops Here Safer Pathway launched in September 2014.
Safer Pathway provides a coordinated interagency approach to the management of domestic violence victims, with those at serious threat given a priority response and referred to
Safety Action Meetings (SAMs). SAMs are attended by a wide range of government and NGO health, welfare, justice and other service providers. These agencies share information under Part 13A and coordinate actions to prevent or reduce serious threats to the life, health or safety of victims.
The key elements of Safer Pathway are:
For more information on Safer Pathway, refer It Stops Here Safer Pathway Overview.
Domestic violence and child abuse should not be viewed separately, the safety of children is interwoven with that of the adult victim, and the non-offending parent must be supported to achieve safety for themselves and their children.
If you are a mandatory reporter under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (CYPCP Act), your mandatory reporting obligations continue. Where you have concerns for the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or a young person, you must complete the online mandatory reporter guide. The outcome of the guide will direct the service provider to make a report to the Child Protection Helpline or to the Child Wellbeing Unit where available, or to take any other action as required under the CYPCP Act.
If you are a prescribed body under the CYPCP Act you may exchange information that relates to the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person under
Chapter 16A of the CYPCP Act.
You should also take any actions to ensure the adult victim receives support services, and share information under Part 13A as required.
If you are not a prescribed body, or Chapter 16A does not apply, you can take actions by sharing information under Part 13A - to make referrals for domestic violence support services, or share information more broadly to reduce or prevent a serious threat.
For more information and guidance, refer to the
Domestic Violence and Child Protection Guidelines.
You should follow normal complaint procedures in your agency.
The NSW Department of Communities and Justice maintains a confidential register of all complaints made about information sharing under Part 13A. The information will be analysed to identify any systemic issues and resolve any problems, and may be used for monitoring and reporting purposes. For this reason, you are required to provide a summary of all complaints received in relation to information sharing under Part 13A. The information must include:
The information must be provided to the NSW Department of Communities and Justice within one month after you have resolved the complaint. You may write to:
Domestic Violence Strategy team, Justice Strategy and Programs
NSW Department of Communities and Justice
GPO Box 31 SYDNEY NSW 2001
For more information see the Information Sharing Protocol complaint procedures.
You should seek legal advice before producing any information under a subpoena.
You may be able to challenge a subpoena for a number of reasons. For example, the information requested may be 'privileged at law', which creates a right to keep communication (written or verbal) confidential and protects it from disclosure. Privileged information may include sexual assault communications, counselling notes, or legal advice.
The three privileges at law that you may potentially rely upon to keep information about your client confidential are:
Any privilege belongs to your client and can only be waived by them, so any subpoenas must be discussed with them. If your client consents to disclosure of the information, the information can be disclosed.
Disclosing information and potential loss of privilege
As a legal privilege may be waived, it is important that you understand and identify what type of information may be subject to a privilege before deciding to share your client's information. If you determine that it is essential to share the information, then you must have a conversation with your client about what the privilege means, why you believe it is important to share that information and that sharing the information may mean that the privilege is lost. Your client must give informed consent before the information can be shared.
Where your client is at serious threat and you determine it is important to share information where you do not have their consent or where you override their refusal of consent, your client should not be considered to have waived their privilege in respect of that information, as they have not consented to that information being shared.
A conflict of interest occurs when your agency's or your relationship with, or services to the victim is compromised, or might be compromised, because of an existing professional or personal relationship with:
In these situations, it may not be appropriate for you or your agency to work with the victim.
The actual or perceived safety of your client must be a primary consideration when dealing with a conflict of interest. For this reason, it is generally good practice for different services to deal with victims and perpetrators separately to avoid any real or perceived conflict of interest. Given the potential for serious threats and the sensitive nature of the work in the domestic violence context, services must have policies and procedures to ensure they can assist victims in a way that makes them feel protected and safe and that their privacy is protected.
Where you identify a conflict of interest, you should declare the matter immediately and escalate to a line manager for consideration whether the conflict can be dealt with through internal policies or procedures. If it can in a way that the safety and wellbeing of the client is not compromised, then you may continue to work with the client, or your agency may provide services to both the victim and the perpetrator.
The following questions will help you consider whether internal policies and processes are adequate to manage such a situation:
Where you identify that there may be a conflict of interest you should consider:
If the answer is yes, you can continue to work with the client.
More detail about conflict of interest is available in the Information Sharing Protocol.
The Protocol provides precise and detailed information about how to share information under Part 13A and sets out standards that you must adopt when sharing information. You should refer to the Protocol when you are unsure or have a question relating to information sharing practices.
This is important as high standards and good practices will build victims' confidence in Safer Pathway and the domestic violence response system, promote their engagement with support services and ultimately increase their safety.
The Protocol contains useful tools and templates designed to assist you, these include:
More information is available in the Information Sharing Protocol.
This case study is based on a real example that was examined in a NSW Coroner's Domestic Violence Death Review Report where the Coroner identified that the victim's death could have been prevented if information had been shared by agencies involved.
Anna and John were married and have 2 children, one recently born. John was on a community treatment order which provided for compulsory medication and his attendance at specialist consultations. The community treatment order had lapsed, but John still regularly attended a Community Health Centre. John had previously assaulted Anna and police had applied for an ADVO for her protection. An ADVO was currently in place for Anna's protection.
At an appointment at the Community Health Centre, the doctor noted that John had stopped taking his medication, and John informed the doctor that he was hearing voices. Anna was present but she was withdrawn and detached, even with the couple's recently born second child sitting on her lap. The doctor had some concerns about risks to Anna due to John's history of violence and current behaviour but there was nothing to suggest the threat of an adverse outcome was imminent.
In this case the doctor and other agencies that held information about John and Anna did not share information, or act on their concerns and nothing further was done.
John killed Anna the following day.
Had the doctor or any of the other agencies that had contact with John or Anna acted upon their concerns, completed a risk assessment with Anna, or used their professional judgment AND shared information with other agencies, then a complete picture of the situation would have revealed:
With all this information there is a much clearer picture of the threat to Anna and her children.
Local Coordination Point (LCP) has been working closely with Thani for several weeks, making warm referrals to a range of service providers for her ongoing needs. The LCP is about to close their file on Thani, as she has been successfully referred to a case management service, when her ex-boyfriend Leon is released from prison and begins to harass and threaten her again.
The LCP reassesses the level of threat to Thani's safety and identifies her at serious threat. Thani says that she does not want any further support, saying it will cause more trouble with Leon.
The worker would like to share Thani's and Leon's information at the next Safety Action Meeting
Thani is at serious threat.
The LCP should try to obtain Thani's consent in the first instance, but can override Thani's refusal of consent and share Thani and Leon's information in or outside of the Safety Action Meeting, if the LCP identifies actions that can be taken necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to Thani's life, health or safety.
In all other cases, the LCP cannot share Thani's information.
The NSW Police Force attends a home following a phone call from neighbours reporting a domestic violence disturbance between Connie and Victor. The Police apply the DVSAT and based on Connie's answers identify her at threat. The Police apply for a provisional ADVO for Connie.
The Police would like to share information with the Central Referral Point
The police do not need consent to share information to the CRP.
On receipt of the referral from police, the LCP worker will contact Connie and seek her consent to share Connie's and Victor's information.
Jamila attends a doctor's surgery after being assaulted by her partner Salaam. The doctor is not trained in the use of a threat identification tool, but based on the evidence of physical injury and her psychological state, the doctor believes that Jamila is at serious threat. The doctor asks Jamila for an assessment of her own level of threat, and Jamila says she is worried Salaam will seriously harm her.
The doctor would like to share information with a domestic violence support service.
Jamila is at serious threat:
The doctor seeks Jamila's consent and shares Jamila and Salaam's information with a DV support service.
If Jamila refuses consent - the doctor could override the refusal of consent, if he identifies that actions could be taken to reduce or prevent the serious threat.
Li makes a private application for an ADVO against her partner Jiang in the Local Court. A referral is made to the Central Referral Point and then allocated to a LCP.
Li receives a phone call the following day from the LCP and accepts their support. Li advises that she would like assistance with finding accommodation so she can leave Jiang. The LCP helps Li find a refuge and would like to share her information to make the referral to the refuge.
Li is concerned that her community is small and she does not want people to know about her situation. The LCP worker informs Li that there are strict confidentiality and security guidelines for any information shared with another service provider, but Li is still unsure.
The LCP would like to share information with the refuge
Li is at threat.
The LCP cannot share Li's information with the refuge if Li does not consent.
Trudi is a young woman with three small children. She lives in a rented house five kilometres from town. Trudi goes to a non-government service provider in a very distressed state accompanied by her three children. Trudi's regular counsellor, Agnes, comes in and speaks to her. Trudi tells Agnes that her uncle Tim moved in with her and the children six weeks ago, and that when she confronted him after she discovered that he had not paid rent as promised and she received an eviction notice as a result, Tim threatened to hurt her. The threats frightened Trudi so much that she fled the house and walked to town with the children to seek refuge. Trudi is so distressed that just telling the story upsets her so much that she is crying and shaking.
Agnes cannot get Trudi to consent because she is so upset she cannot speak, but she would like to share information with the women's emergency housing service
Trudi is at threat.
In this case, Agnes could assume Trudi's implied consent, and should consult with her manager to confirm the decision to share information with implied consent.
Then she may share information to make a referral for emergency housing.
See the Protocol for more information.
Fatima is estranged from her husband Ahmed but he keeps harassing her. One day Ahmed comes to Fatima's house and assaults her in front of their two children, saying he will kill her if she doesn't come back to him. The next day Fatima visits a nurse at the local community health centre. She tells the nurse about the assault and that Ahmed has stopped taking medication for depression, but walks out of the centre when the nurse talks to her about making referrals, and is not answering her phone.
The nurse wants to share information with the
Local Coordination Point, the local migrant support service, and with Health.
Yes, where it is unreasonable or impractical to obtain Fatima's consent, or she has refused consent and the nurse reasonably believes that by sharing information, actions could be taken that are necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to Fatima's life, health or safety.
In that case she may override the refusal to consent.
Fatima is at serious threat.
The nurse should seek consent, but as Fatima is not answering her phone and there are actions that can be taken to prevent or lessen a serious threat to Fatima's life, health or safety, the nurse can share information without consent.
The nurse should also share the information with the police.
The nurse should additionally take any actions under the
Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection Act) 1998.
XiaoMei presents at a migrant support service in a regional town. The worker has spoken with XiaoMei on previous occasions, and knows that her husband John is a patient with the hospital's mental health unit.
XiaoMei has an infection on her leg as a result of not treating a wound that occurred because of 'another fall in the garden'. The worker asks XiaoMei about the situation at home, and XiaoMei tells her that John is in a really 'bad way' right now because he lost his job and spends his time at home drinking. The worker asks if she is worried for her safety and XiaoMei replies that she is, especially when he 'goes crazy' at her for no reason. She admits that her injury is as a result of John pushing her down the front stairs to their house because she didn't close the front door properly.
The worker uses her professional judgement to determine that XiaoMei is at serious threat from John's escalating violent behaviour, and tells XiaoMei that she would like to make referrals to make sure she will be safe. But XiaoMei says that she doesn't want any assistance and does not consent to sharing her information.
The worker speaks with her manager as she believes that by sharing information with a domestic violence support service and with John's mental health team, actions can be taken to prevent or lessen a serious threat to XiaoMei's life or safety.
This is a difficult decision and one that is difficult to make considering the relationship between the worker and XiaoMei. But she considers the impact to XiaoMei's safety if she doesn't disclose the information. Ultimately, XiaoMei's safety is paramount and must guide decision-making.
The worker informs XiaoMei that there are serious threats to her life, health and safety – and possibly John's as well, and advises her that she will share information with John's case manager at the mental health unit and with the Women's Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service (WDVCAS), and that she must report the assault to the police. The worker assures XiaoMei that only information necessary to prevent the serious threat will be shared - this will allow police to seek an ADVO or take other appropriate action, and that the WDVCAS will provide her with support and safety planning.
She adds that John will not be informed that any information has been shared and that he has no right to access her file.