The information in this section applies if a client is assessed to be at a serious threat of domestic violence as distinct from a threat of domestic violence.
Sharing information to reduce or prevent a serious domestic violence threat
- Purpose of sharing information must be to reduce or prevent a serious threat of domestic violence against any person
- Share information necessary to reduce or prevent the serious threat, with any agency of service, and with the Local Coordination Point for access to a Safety Action Meeting
- Information of the victim and perpetrator, and any other person as required may be shared
- Sharing is timely, accurate, relevant and secure
- Victim’s consent should be sought, unless unreasonable or impractical to obtain
- Refusal of consent (or withdrawn) may be overridden where the service believes actions could be taken that are necessary to prevent or lessen a serious threat to the life, health or safety, that of any children or any other persons.
- Perpetrators consent is not required
Do I need consent to share information when I have assessed my client to be at serious threat of domestic violence?
You should 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:
- there is a serious threat to their life, health or safety, or to children or other persons, and
- it is unreasonable or impractical to seek consent (For example, if your client is unconscious or in a coma; or has not answered their phone after repeated attempts to contact them; or where there is a need to provide an urgent response and there is no time to contact them; or where there is a history of the perpetrator extracting information from your client), or
- 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.
What is unreasonable or impractical depends on the situation and may include situations where for example:
- Your client is unconscious or in a coma
- Your client has not answered their telephone despite repeated attempts to contact them each day over several days or a week
- Your client cannot be contacted independently of the perpetrator and do not have regular appointments with a service
- The need to provide support requires an urgent response and there is either no time or they cannot be contacted; and/or
- There is a history of the perpetrator extracting information from them about what they do and who they talk to.
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.
You do not need the perpetrator's consent to share their information.
For more guidance refer to the consent case examples.
For what purpose and with whom can I share information when I have assessed my client to be at serious threat of domestic violence?
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 have identified that your client is at serious threat, and there are actions you can take 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 are responsible for decisions about the agencies with whom you share information as reasonably necessary to reduce or prevent a serious threat to any person.
When disclosing information, you should consider:
- Who you should share information with?
- Will sharing the information increase safety and reduce the serious threat?
- What information should you share?
- Can the person receiving the information manage the situation in a way that protects your client's safety without breaching their privacy?
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.
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 can/should I do if I have assessed my client to be at serious threat of domestic violence, but they do not want my assistance?
When considering how to respond to domestic violence, you may need to balance your client's right to privacy and autonomy with 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.
Informing your client of your decision to override their refusal of consent
You should inform your client at the earliest opportunity and, where possible, before the information is shared. The only exceptions are where telling your client may actually increase the serious threat, or you cannot contact them after repeated attempts.
You should inform your client that:
- there are serious concerns for their life, health and/or safety (or that of children or other persons);
- information will be/was shared without their consent;
- only information necessary to prevent or lessen the serious threat will be/was shared, and advise them what information will be/was shared; and
- the perpetrator will not be informed that information will be/was shared.
- 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 (PDF, 41.9 KB)and give it to your client.
What information can I share if I have assessed my client to be at serious threat of domestic violence?
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:
- name, date of birth, gender, address and contact details of your client, the perpetrator, or any other person at threat;
- relationship to the perpetrator and whether your client or the other person at threat is living with the perpetrator;
- whether your client, the perpetrator or the other person at threat has or is thought to have any mental illness, disability or drug and alcohol issues,
- injuries resulting from an act of violence;
- Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background or another cultural background and any cultural needs to facilitate service engagement, such as whether an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander identified person is required to make contact with your client;
- whether your client has any particular requirements to facilitate engagement (e.g. a language interpreter, an Auslan interpreter or a disability support worker);
- a safe method and time to contact your client or the other person at threat;
- the names of any children normally present in your client, the perpetrator, or the other person at threat's home, their ages and particular needs;
- whether any children have sustained any injuries resulting from an act of violence, and the risk of harm to any children as a result of domestic violence (the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 applies in these circumstances. For more information and guidance refer to the Domestic Violence and Child Protection Guidelines);
- any recognised risk factors for domestic violence, including copies of any completed risk assessment tools; and
- support services currently of previously provided to your client, the perpetrator or the other person at threat, any actions taken in relation to threat factors and date of last contact.
Where there are domestic violence proceedings underway, you may also share:
- administrative details, including date of the domestic violence incident, court file number, court date, and conditions of any ADVO sought or in existence;
- the grounds of any ADVO applications;
- any previous domestic violence incidents involving either your client, the perpetrator (including where your client was previously a perpetrator and the perpetrator a victim) or the other person at threat, whether the perpetrator has at any time breached an ADVO, community-based order or bail; and whether the perpetrator is or at any time was in custody; and/orany police event number, the officer in charge and Local Area Command, nature of any charges, and conditions of any bail conditions sought or in existence.