Who we are
The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) was created under the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Act 1987External link, opens in a new window.[http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Series/C2004A03450] (AIHW Act). We are an independent statutory authority, governed by a Board and accountable to the Australian Parliament through the Minister for Health. We aim to improve the health and wellbeing of Australians through providing, supporting the development of, and publishing high quality health and welfare information and statistics.
For more information about the AIHW, see the ‘AboutExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/about/]’ page on our website.
About this policy
If you would like a printed copy of this policy, please contact our Privacy Officer (details at the end of this policy) and we will provide it free of charge.
The Privacy Act 1988
The AIHW Act
The personal information we hold is protected by the Privacy Act.
Additionally, section 29 of the AIHW Act requires us to ensure that certain information is kept confidential. It is a criminal offence for AIHW staff, or anyone working with, or receiving information from, the AIHW to disclose ‘information concerning a person’ except as permitted by a few strict exceptions listed in the Act.
‘Information concerning a person’ is similar to personal information but is broader: it includes identifiable information about bodies corporate and people who have died, whereas the Privacy Act protects only information about living people.
Further information on privacy at AIHW, including links to our two brochures Safeguarding your privacy and Privacy at the AIHW, can be found on the ‘Privacy of dataExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/privacy-of-data/]’ page on our website.
Our personal information handling practices
We collect, hold, use and disclose personal information in order to carry out our functions, which are described in section 5 of the AIHW Act. In summary, we:
- collect, analyse, report on and publish health-related and welfare-related information and statistics to support informed, evidence-based decision making about how to improve the health and welfare of Australians and what services they may need
- develop, maintain and promote, together with our stakeholders, classifications standards for health, community services and housing assistance information
- release data to other bodies or persons for research purposes, as permitted under the Privacy Act and AIHW Act and as approved by the AIHW Ethics Committee.
Why we collect personal information
At all times we try to collect only the personal information we need to carry out a particular function or activity as required or permitted by law. We collect personal information for both statistical and non-statistical reasons.
We collect personal information for the statistical purposes described in our functions. These include:
- conducting health and welfare surveys
- maintaining health and welfare data sets
- maintaining national registers such as the National Death Index, National Mortality Database and National Cancer Database
- undertaking data linkageExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/data-linking/] activities for medical and health research.
More information on the types of data and information held by AIHW is available on the DataExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/data/] page of our website.
We collect personal information for non-statistical purposes such as:
maintaining contact details of:
- subscribers to our notification services
- members of committees in which we participate, or for which we provide secretariat services
- people who have consented (and signed releases) to take part in photographic, video or audio sessions about our work and publications
- responding to queries and complaints
- responding to requests under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
- maintaining employee, contractor and sale/purchase records.
How we collect personal information
In performing our functions, we collect personal information either:
- directly from the public (for example via surveys or online forms) either by ourselves or through an authorised contractor, or
- indirectly, from Commonwealth agencies, state or territory government bodies or other organisations.
Importantly, while we collect most of our information indirectly, the majority of it is not personal information, as it has been de-identified before being provided to us for statistical purposes.
We use a variety of methods to collect this information, including:
- paper based and electronic forms (surveys, online forms)
- electronic data files
- in person or over the telephone
- audio, photographic and digital recording devices
- our website and social media sites.
Any emails attaching or containing data are encrypted and sent via a secure messaging system.
Types of personal information we hold
We collect personal information of the following types when performing our functions:
- name, address and contact details (e.g. phone/fax numbers, email addresses)
- demographics (e.g. dates of birth, sex, marital status, employment status and histories, educational qualifications, accommodation, health and welfare services accessed)
- photographs, video and audio recordings
- staff records
- financial information (e.g. for staff, consultants, contractors and online purchasers of our publications).
We also collect and hold some sensitive information, most commonly:
- health information (including physical and mental health, disability records) and
- racial or ethnic origin.
Securing personal information
We collect and store personal information securely. Electronic and paper records containing your personal information are stored and protected in accordance with the Australian Government Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) and managed in accordance with Australian Government records management requirements.
These broader requirements are supported by many internal policies and procedures regarding:
- information security and privacy (technical, physical and personnel aspects)
- data custody
- activities undertaken by our ethics committee
- submissions to our ethics committee for projects involving personal information
- data linkage (we follow strict protocols when data held in two or more data sets is linked)
- confidentialising data (removing parts of information that may identify people so that the remaining anonymous data is available for publishing statistics and information)
- release of statistical information
All our staff and contractors are required to sign confidentiality deeds before being granted access to the data we hold. We only grant our staff with access to a particular data collection-whether it contains personal information or not-when they need access to it to perform their duties.
Use and disclosure of personal information
We only use personal information for the purposes for which it was given to us - that is, for purposes related to our functions in the AIHW Act. We must comply with both the Privacy Act and the AIHW Act when considering whether to use or disclose information which might reasonably allow a person to be identified.
We do not generally send or disclose any personal information-particularly information in our data collections-overseas. However, there are limited circumstances where overseas companies are involved in activities conducted on our website. For more information, see the ‘Our Website’ section of this policy.
We may disclose your personal information where:
- you have consented
- you would reasonably expect, or have been told, that we usually disclose information to in particular circumstances or to a particular party or
- disclosure is required or authorised by law.
Law permits us to release personal information in certain circumstances:
- Section 95 of the Privacy Act permits agencies to release personal information, without consent, for the purposes of medical research, as long as guidelines issued by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) are followed. One of our important functions in the AIHW Act is to make data available for medical research purposes. Accordingly, we release personal information for specific medical research projects where approval has been granted by the AIHW Ethics Committee. The Committee follows the NHMRC guidelines when making its decisions.
- Section 29 of the AIHW Act permits us to release ‘information concerning a person’ where approval has been granted by the AIHW Ethics Committee. This can only happen if releasing the information is permitted under our arrangements with the organisation or agency that provided us with the data. In this case, information is not released to the public at large, but rather in specific circumstances for specific approved purposes or projects.
As it plays an important part in both exceptions, an explanation of our Ethics Committee’s role is provided below.
AIHW Ethics Committee
Section 16 of the AIHW Act requires us to appoint and maintain an AIHW Ethics Committee. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Ethics Committee Regulations 1989 establish our Ethics Committee’s membership and functions. One of these functions is to determine, on ethical grounds, whether identifiable data-data that contains personal information or ‘information concerning a person’-should be released for a specific purpose. The committee can impose any conditions or restrictions on release of the data that it considers appropriate.
The Committee considers applications:
- by external researchers for access to identifiable data held by the AIHW which they wish to link with their own data to conduct specific medical research projects
- by our units and collaborating centres when they seek to start a new data collection or change the scope of content of an existing data collection
- when AIHW proposes to link data sets for analysis
- for data linkage activities proposed to be undertaken on behalf of other government agencies in our role as an accredited Integrating Authority (for more information on this role, see the Integrating AuthorityExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/data-linking/integrating-authority/] page of our website).
The Ethics Committee considers a range of issues in deciding applications. These include compliance with section 95 of the Privacy Act and the AIHW Act (in particular section 29). The Committee also has regard to the Guidelines under s. 95 of the Privacy Act and the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, both issued by the NHMRC.
More information on our ethics committee is available on the AIHW Ethics CommitteeExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.aihw.gov.au/ethics/] page on our website.
We monitor use of our website to improve it and to deliver better services to you.
When you browse our website, we will collect the following information about your visit for statistical purposes:
- your server or IP address (the name or number which uniquely identifies the computer through which you are connected to the internet)
- the date and time of your visit
- the pages you accessed and the documents you downloaded
- the search terms you used
- the previous site you visited
- your top level domain name, e.g. .com, .gov, .au, .uk
- the type of browser you used.
We will only use your browsing information to improve our website, products and services for your use.
- whether you have visited our website before
- how much time you have spent on our website during your visit
- the text size you have chosen to view the site with
- the publications you have chosen to purchase.
We use Google Analytics, a US-based service, to analyse browsing information and produce reports on how visitors use our website. Google may transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google’s behalf. Google stores information across multiple countries. For further information see Google Data CentresExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.google.com.au/about/datacenters/gallery/#/] and Google LocationsExternal link, opens in a new window.[http://www.google.com.au/about/company/facts/locations/].
Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.
We use PayPal, a US-based service, to collect payments for our products and services via our website.
We use SurveyMonkey, a US-based service, to conduct feedback surveys and polls on our products, services and website.
Note that when you use a social media forum to make contact with us, the social media provider and its partners may collect and hold personal information overseas.
Want to contact us? You can remain anonymous.
We understand that the freedom to remain anonymous (not give your name) or use a pseudonym (another name or nickname) is an important part of privacy. Generally, you can contact and interact with us anonymously or using a pseudonym if you choose. This applies particularly when you a making a general inquiry, but may also be possible in other circumstances.
However, in some circumstances this may not be possible or practical. For example, we may need your name, contact details and enough information about a particular matter in order to fairly and efficiently handle and respond to your request, complaint or application, or to act on your report. If this is the case, we will inform you and explain why.
How to access – or ask us to correct – your personal information
You have the right to request access to personal information we hold about you. If that personal information is incorrect or outdated, you can request that it be corrected.
Please contact our Privacy Officer (details below) to request access to your personal information, or to request its correction.
How to complain if we breach your privacy
We are committed to protecting your privacy. We consider any accidental or unauthorised disclosure of personal information to be a serious matter and will deal with it promptly.
If you consider that we may have breached your privacy or our privacy obligations, you may either contact us in the first instance, or you may choose to contact the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner.
Contact us directly
If you have a privacy complaint, you should contact our Privacy Officer in the first instance (see contact details at the end of this policy).
We will respond to your complaint or request promptly if you provide your contact details. We are committed to quick and fair resolution of any complaints and will ensure your complaint is taken seriously. If the matter is complex and the investigation takes longer than expected, we will keep you informed regarding when you will receive a response.
Contact the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner
You also have the option of contacting the Commonwealth Privacy Commissioner if you believe we have breached your privacy. You may do this either:
- in the first instance, or
- if you contacted us in the first instance and you are not happy with our response to your complaint or its outcome.
However, if you make a complaint directly to the Privacy Commissioner rather than to us, the Privacy Commissioner may recommend that you try to resolve the complaint with us first.
How to contact us about privacy
Please contact us if you wish to:
- query how your personal information is collected, held, used or disclosed
- obtain access to your personal information or have it corrected.
AIHW privacy officer
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
GPO Box 570
Canberra, ACT 2601
Phone: 02 6244 1000