Accessibility and validation
The Office of the Public Advocate is committed to ensuring that our online information is widely accessible. The Office of the Public Advocate is taking a staged approach to ensure accessibility compliance across all our websites.
Our website is designed to be accessed by all device types including tablets and smart phones.
Unless stated otherwise, Copyright for this website (including content and design) is owned by the Office of the Public Advocate or used under licence.
You may make limited copies of the content contained within this website in accordance with the Copyright Act 1968, including copies for research, study, criticism, review or news reporting. You may not reproduce, adapt, modify, communicate to the public, reproduce or otherwise use any part of this website (in particular for commercial purposes) without written permission from the Office of the Public Advocate.
Contact OPA regarding enquiries and requests for permission.
The material on this website is provided for general information only. The material does not constitute advice and has been prepared for distribution over the internet, without taking into account individuals particular needs or objectives. The use of the material or any site linked to this website is solely at the user’s own risk.
The Office of the Public Advocate has taken reasonable care to ensure that the material is correct and current at the time of publication but makes no warranty, either express or implied, concerning the suitability, reliability, availability, timeliness or accuracy of the material or any linked site for any purpose. We recommend that you obtain your own independent advice before acting on any material.
The internet is not a secure medium and communications to and from this website may be intercepted or altered in transit. To the extent permitted by law, the Office of the Public Advocate makes no representation or warranty, either express or implied, that this website or any linked site, will be free from anything which may damage any device used to access this website.
The Office of the Public Advocate reserves the right to amend, delete, add to, or otherwise revise any information or materials contained on this website at any time.
Visitors are advised that this website may contain images, or references to people who are deceased.
To the extent permitted by law, the Office of the Public Advocate and its employees and agents are not liable (whether based on contract, tort, negligence, strict liability or otherwise) for any direct, indirect, punitive, incidental or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever including, without limitation:
- damages for loss of use of data, loss of data, loss of profits, loss of revenue, indirect or consequential loss or damage, incurred by or awarded against you or any other person arising out of or in any way connected with the use or performance of the material, this website or any linked site
- any cost, loss, liability or expense arising from death, personal injury or damage to property (including damage to your software, hardware or data) resulting directly or indirectly from your access to or use of the material on, this website or any linked site
This website may be accessed throughout Australia and overseas. The Office of Public Advocate makes no representation that the content of this website complies with the laws (including intellectual property laws) of any country outside Australia. If you access this website from outside Australia, you do so at your own risk and you are responsible for ensuring compliance with all laws in the place where you are located.
The linked sites are not under the control of the Office of the Public Advocate and the Office of the Public Advocate is not responsible for the contents of any linked site. The Office of the Public Advocate does not endorse any material on a linked site or endorse any associated organisation, product or service.
By accessing a linked site, you agree to any terms of access or use imposed by that linked site. You acknowledge that the Office of Public Advocate cannot and does not grant any permission, licence or authority to you in respect of the intellectual property rights in a linked site.
The Office of the Public Advocate allows you to download particular material from this website. By downloading material from this website, you agree to:
- comply with the terms of our Copyright statement.
- on downloading material, conduct such virus scanning and other checks as may be necessary to ensure that the downloaded material will not corrupt or damage your property (including damage to software, hardware or data) or that of any other person
You can access the Office of the Public Advocate’s website home page, browse the site and download documents without disclosing personal information.
If you are seeking a service from the Office of the Public Advocate, you may be asked to provide personal information, such as your name, email address, telephone number and other contact or identification details. If you choose not to provide this information, the Office of the Public Advocate may not be able to provide the requested service to you.
The types of personal information that the Office of the Public Advocate may collect through its website include:
- personal information you have provided, such as your contact details
- the content of any online application, enquiry, submission, subscription, survey or complaint that you submit
- the content of any other solicited or unsolicited electronic communication that you send
- any registration information that you provide
- any other information that you provide to, or make available on, the website
- metadata relating to any electronic communications that you send (examples of metadata include your electronic address, time and date sent, time and date received, unique message identification, message type, message length, etc.)
The Office of the Public Advocate relies upon you to ensure that any personal information that you provide to, or make available on, its website is accurate, current, complete and relevant.
Collection of personal information about other persons
At or before the time that you provide to, or make available on, the Office of the Public Advocate’s website any personal information about another person the Office of the Public Advocate relies upon you to take reasonable steps to ensure that the person is aware:
- that such information will or has been provided to the Office of the Public Advocate
- how the person can access his or her information
- the purposes for which the information was provided to the Office of the Public Advocate
- to whom the Office of the Public Advocate usually discloses information of that kind
- any law that requires the information to be provided to the Office of the Public Advocate
- the main consequences (if any) for the person if all or part of the information is not provided to the Office of the Public Advocate
You are not required to make a person aware of the above matters where doing so would pose a serious threat to the life or health of any person or would involve the disclosure of information given in confidence.
Use and disclosure of personal information
The Office of the Public Advocate may disclose personal information collected through its website in order to perform its duties under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986.
The Office of the Public Advocate complies with the Health Records Act 2001 and Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Accordingly the Office of the Public Advocate will not use or disclose any personal information that it collects through its website unless the use or disclosure is:
- for the primary purpose for which the information was collected
- for a secondary purpose related or directly related to the primary purpose for which the information was collected and which the person would reasonably expect
- required or authorised by law
- for any other purpose permitted under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic) or Health Records Act 2001 (Vic).
The Office of the Public Advocate will not use any of your personal information that it collects through its website to add you to a mailing list without your consent.
The Office of Public Advocate has implemented technology and security policies to protect the personal information which it collects through its website. When accessing or using any of the Office of Public Advocate’s website you should be aware that there are risks in transmitting information across the Internet. While the Office of Public Advocate strives to protect such information, it cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information transmitted over the Internet and you do so at your own risk. If you are concerned about providing sensitive information to the Office of Public Advocate over the Internet, you might prefer to contact the Office of Public Advocate by telephone or mail. The Office of Public Advocate uses SSL encryption where necessary to protect personal information which is provided to its website.
The Office of Public Advocate takes reasonable steps to protect personal information collected through its website from misuse and loss and from unauthorised access, modification and disclosure. The Office of Public Advocate will also take reasonable steps to remove personal information from its system where it is no longer required for the purpose for which it was collected or any other purpose (including archiving) which is permitted in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic).
Web statistics data collection
The Office of the Public Advocate uses web analytics software to collect usage statistics for its website. This information is not used by the Office of the Public Advocate to identify you or match your identity with any of your personal information.
The following non-personal information may be automatically recorded by the web server of the Office of the Public Advocate’s website for statistical and system administration purposes:
- your server address
- your top-level domain name (e.g. .com, .au, .gov)
- the date and the time of your visit to the site
- the pages you accessed and downloaded
- the address of the last site you visited
- your operating system
- the type of browser you are using.
To the extent that any clickstream data could make you identifiable, the Office of the Public Advocate will not attempt to identify you from such clickstream data unless necessary for the investigation of unlawful activity or otherwise permitted under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 (Vic).
The Office of the Public Advocate may use web beacons to record usage statistics for its website. Web beacons are not used by the Office of the Public Advocate to identify you or record any of your personal information.
Contacting us about privacy
The Office of the Public Advocate
Level 1, 204 Lygon Street
Carlton Victoria 3053
Phone: 1300 309 337
Fax: 1300 787 510
TTY: 1300 305 612
Policy: Your personal and health information
The Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) is committed to protecting your personal and health information. This is reflected in the oath of confidentiality which the Public Advocate must swear on taking office.
People with a disability have a right to privacy as do all members of the community. To assist in achieving this, OPA will comply with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Health Records Act 2001.
This document outlines how OPA handles your personal and health information. It will explain what sort of information OPA collects and why, how we use, disclose and store the information and how you can access your information.
What is OPA?
OPA is a statutory office created under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986. The Public Advocate, currently Colleen Pearce, is appointed by the Governor in Council and is independent of government. The Public Advocate delegates her powers and duties to staff in her office. OPA promotes the rights and independence of people with disabilities and, where necessary, seeks to protect them from harm, abuse or neglect. An important part of this is contributing to the protection of an individual's personal, health and other sensitive information.
Staff at OPA take on a range of roles. They provide advice through our advice service. They may act as a guardian for a person with a disability where the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has made an order appointing the Public Advocate as guardian. They may prepare investigatory reports for VCAT on an application that is before that body or act as an advocate for a person with a disability. They may also support volunteers in raising and enquiring into issues with service providers.
OPA volunteers may be community visitors, independent third persons or community guardians. Community Visitors inquire into the care that people with disabilities are receiving in a residential setting or disability service. Independent Third Persons support people with a disability who are being interviewed by police as a suspect of, victim in, or witness to, a crime. Corrections Independent Support Officers (CISO) are volunteer Independent Third Persons (ITPs) and OPA staff who provide assistance and support to prisoners with a diagnosed intellectual disability during disciplinary hearings, at all adult prisons in Victoria. Community guardians make decisions for a person with a disability about lifestyle issues, such as where they live and the medical treatment they receive, under power delegated to them from the Public Advocate.
What personal and health information does OPA collect?
OPA collects personal and health information which is necessary for its investigation, advocacy, guardianship, community visitor, independent third person and advice service functions and activities.
Much of the work of OPA is linked to VCAT. Where VCAT refers a matter to OPA for investigation, or appoints the Public Advocate as guardian for an individual, OPA is required by law to collect information to assist in investigating applications or to enable a guardian to make informed decisions for a person with a disability.
The Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 empowers the Public Advocate to require information from individuals or organisations when investigating financial, emotional, physical or sexual abuse, or neglect in relation to a person with a disability and there is a need for guardianship.
What OPA does with your personal and health information
OPA only provides your information to other organisations or individuals in order to fulfil the primary purpose for which the information was collected.
In cases where OPA is your guardian or person responsible, disclosure of information must accord with OPA’s obligations to act in your best interests under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986 and with regard to rights and obligations under the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Health Records Act 2001.
Sometimes, the law may require OPA to disclose your information without your consent, for example, where a person with a disability is at risk of serious abuse or neglect or where we are acting under an order of, or referral from, VCAT.
How does OPA keep and protect your personal and health information?
OPA uses a case management system to store your information safely. Each OPA file has a number (a unique identifier) which OPA does not share with other organisations. OPA does not adopt the unique identifier of other agencies as its own.
Client and facility files are held securely. Where OPA volunteers have personal or health information, they are required to store this information securely. This means that your information should not be misused or lost or accessed by an inappropriate person.
OPA’s telephone advice service collects and records information provided by callers electronically, in order to assist with your enquiry. This information can only be accessed by OPA staff. You can, of course, use our telephone advice service and remain anonymous.
Can you access your personal and health information from OPA?
OPA is exempt from the operation of the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
Nonetheless, if you wish to access your information OPA will consider your request carefully having regard to our obligations under the Guardianship and Administration Act 1986, the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Health Records Act 2001.
If you wish to access your information, or if you are concerned about the way in which your information is being handled by OPA, please contact the OPA Legal Unit using the contact details listed below.
How do you contact OPA?
You can telephone OPA on 1300 309 337 (24 hour emergency service). Contact is also available by using the following:
TTY: 9603 9529
or ACE 133 677 (03) 9603 9500
Fax: 1300 787 510
Who else protects privacy?
While the Public Advocate is committed to protecting your privacy, the State Government has given specific bodies this responsibility. The Health Services Commissioner protects the privacy of health information in accordance with the Health Records Act 2001. The Privacy and Data Protection Commissioner protects the privacy of personal information in accordance with the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014. Their contact details are as follows:
- Office of the Health Complaints Commissioner – 1300 582 113
- Office of the Victorian Privacy & Data Protection Commissioner – 1300 666 444
The Commissioners can receive complaints from you if you are concerned about the way in which your health and personal information is being handled by an organisation.
How can OPA help you?
OPA’s Advice Service team can answer questions and provide information, advice and assistance on a diverse range of matters that affect people with disability.
OPA advocaces for the rights of people with disability in all its work. OPA also provides direct advocacy services through its advocacy and guardianship program, and through its advice service.
Download or order printed copies of OPA’s informative publications on topics such as decision-making, medical consent, powers of attorney, guardianship, administration and OPA volunteer programs.