Client Privacy and Confidentiality Policy
This policy governs all the programs within South West Community Legal Centre Inc. This Policy explains how we collect and use information that is provided to us through our website or otherwise in the usual course of our dealings with you as a client or potential client. This Policy applies to all information that we collect.
The Type of Information Collected
The type of information that we collect includes personal information concerning clients, potential clients who contact us, as well as suppliers, consultants, employees and applicants for employment, and volunteers.
The personal information we collect may include:
contact details including phone numbers, postal and/or residential addresses and email addresses; · dates of birth;
any facts or opinions that are connected to an enquiry that we are conducting on behalf of a client or potential client; and
information regarding assets and liabilities, or income
any other personal information that is provided through a website belonging to SWCLC or as otherwise requested by us or provided by you.
We may also need to collect sensitive information. Sensitive information refers to some types of personal information that are given a higher level of protection under the Australian Privacy Principles. Sensitive information may include but is not limited to:
information or opinion concerning racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, membership of a political association, religious beliefs or affiliations, philosophical beliefs, membership of a profession or trade association, membership of a trade union, sexual orientation and practice, and criminal records;
health information; and
The personal information (including sensitive information) collected will be referred to in this policy as “Information”.
If you do not provide us with the Information we request, we may not be able to fulfil the applicable purpose of collecting the Information, such as to supply services to you.
If we receive your Information from third parties, we will protect it as set out in this Policy and take reasonable steps to ensure you are aware that we have collected the information about you and the circumstances of the collection.
Purpose of Collection
We will not collect Information unless such information is reasonably necessary for the purposes of:
1. contacting and communicating with you;
2. assessing whether we are able to assist you;
3. providing legal services;
4. providing mediation services;
5. conducting the effective management of our business;
6. internal record keeping and analysis;
7. seeking consent in relation to publications of reviews and testimonials;
8. for research, reporting and business development;
9. to assist in a referral process to another service or organisation.
We may be required or authorised to disclose information by or under law for various legal purposes. For more detailed information regarding disclosure for legal clients and mediation clients please speak to the lawyer or mediator providing the service.
We may also contact you to voluntarily respond to questionnaires, surveys or to seek your opinion and feedback.
We collect Information from individuals at the pre-client stage when a legal enquiry is made so that we can identify and assess whether we are able to assist that individual. We cannot consider assisting any individual who does not properly identify themselves as this could lead to a conflict of interest developing between our clients in the future.
In some instances, we may also need to collect Information at the initial stage of an enquiry if it is directly relevant to the provision of the service being sought. For our internal business purposes, we retain and safely store the Information that is provided to us at the pre-client stage as this enables us to respond more efficiently and to inform such persons of our other legal services or developments that may be of interest to them at a later stage.
We also collect the Information provided to us by our clients who have commenced receiving a legal service or mediation service. We collect all Information that is necessary to effectively conduct legal or mediation matters. Such Information is securely stored on our computer systems and within paper based files as appropriate.
At the conclusion of legal or mediation matters, we are required to keep legal and mediation files for a minimum period of 7 years from the closure of a legal or mediation file unless we are instructed to the contrary. In some cases, we may be required to retain documents for a longer period of time (e.g. documents that inform the making of a Will).
Method of Collection
In most circumstances, we will collect Information through completed questionnaires and forms that have been provided to us, interviews and telephone conversations. Often, in the context of providing legal services or mediation services, we collect Information from external professional sources (i.e. health professionals, financial advisors, accountants, courts, other legal parties and their legal advisors). With the exception of Information obtained from opposing legal parties, this Information will, in the usual course, be obtained under our clients’ express authority and will be securely stored on their file.
Use of Cloud Computing Services
We may utilise cloud computing services for e-mail storage and to store Information that we collect. Confidentiality of Information is of a paramount concern to us, so we seek confirmation that such service providers comply with the Australian Privacy Principles or are subject to a binding law or scheme that offers substantially similar protection.
The Information that is provided to us is stored on computer and paper based files as appropriate. We endeavour to keep all Information safe by taking all reasonable precautions to protect Information from misuse, loss and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure.
How we handle Information
We believe that it is essential that all Information is kept confidential. We will not disclose Information to third parties, other than as set out in this Policy or without your consent, unless it becomes necessary to lessen or prevent a serious and imminent threat to life, health or safety or unless we are otherwise compelled or authorised by law or regulation.
Disclosure of Information
We may disclose the Information:
for the purpose of providing information or services to you
to third parties, including agents or sub-contractors, who assist us in providing information, products, or services;
We may also be compelled to disclose Information by law, for example, under court orders or statutory notices to produce documents under laws relating to social security, taxation, bankruptcy, anti-money laundering, counter terrorism and the management of incorporated entities. Where we disclose your personal information to third parties for these purposes, we will request that the third party follow this Policy regarding handling of your Information.
Information accessed within SWCLC and to other Third Party Service Providers
Information may be accessed by personnel within SWCLC. All personnel within SWCLC are bound by the same confidentiality laws and standards that govern the legal profession and mediation services within Australia. All staff and volunteers are required to sign confidentiality agreements on commencement of their employment or placement. Third party service providers may also come into contact with Information when we outsource certain functions, such as: company audits and information technology support. We have contractual arrangements in place with all of our third party service providers to protect Information from unauthorised use or disclosure.
Improving Client Services
Because we are continually looking for ways to improve the quality of our legal and mediation services, we may from time to time ask our clients to participate in a client feedback survey conducted by either our own team or by external consultants who are experts in their field. We obtain client consent prior to disclosing Information to external consultants engaged for this purpose and we will respect the wishes of those who do not wish to participate.
For statistical purposes we collect information on website activity (such as the number of users who visit our website, the date and time of visits, the number of pages viewed and location). We do not use this information to identify individuals but it does provide us with statistics that can be used to analyse and improve our website and services.
Information Quality, Access and Correction Processes
From time to time, we may take steps to verify Information by collecting Information from publicly available resources, for example, telephone directories or electoral rolls to improve the integrity of the Information that we hold.
We provide a transparent system of allowing individuals to access their Information and seek corrections to any inaccuracies. Requests for access and correction to Information for pre-clients (i.e. individuals who have made an enquiry but did not engage with our services further) should be made by contacting our Privacy Officer using the contact details at the end of this Policy.
In certain circumstances, we are permitted to deny the request for access, or limit the access that we provide. For example, we will give an explanation of a decision not to provide service, rather than direct access to the evaluative information connected to the final decision.
Links to other websites
Our SWCLC may contain links to other websites of interest. We do not have any control over those third party websites. We are not responsible for or liable for the protection and privacy of any Information which you provide whilst visiting such third party websites, and such third party websites are not governed by this Policy.
This Policy may be amended from time to time in our sole discretion and an updated version will be available at our offices.
Contact us about Privacy
SWCLC has a Privacy Complaints Handling Policy that sets out our approach to resolving any privacy complaints in a fair and timely manner. For existing clients, we recommend that privacy related complaints are made directly to your lawyer or mediator - often a telephone call is all that is needed to resolve concerns.
For all other complaints see our Complaints Handling Policy or contact our Privacy Officer by email at or by telephone on (08) 9791 3206. If you are dissatisfied with the response that you receive you may seek advice from the Federal Privacy Commissioner on 1300 363 992.