OFFICE OF THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT SOLICITOR
The Victorian Government Solicitor's Office (VGSO) is the primary source of government legal services. The office provides strategic advice and practical legal solutions across diverse areas of law. The VGSO is committed to protecting the privacy and confidentiality of information it collects from clients, service providers and contractors. The 'office' of the Victorian Government Solicitor exists pursuant to the provisions of the Public Administration Act 2004 (PAA). It is an office created in the Department of Justice (DoJ) and is an Administrative office in relation to DoJ by virtue of an Order made under s 11 of the PAA.
In the conduct of legal practice, the VGSO is bound by the Victorian Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014 and the Health Records Act 2001. It therefore must comply with the Health Privacy Principles (HPPs), together with the Information Privacy Principles (IPPs) unless departure is permitted under the terms of a public interest determination (PID), a temporary public interest determination (TPID), or an approved information usage arrangement (IUA).
IPPs and HPPs govern the collection, use, handling and disclosure of personal and sensitive information and health information. Personal information is information that relates to an identifiable living person. Personal information may take a number of forms, including images and numbers. Health information is personal information concerning any identifiable individual's physical, mental or psychological health, disability or genetic makeup.
In acting for clients, lawyers of the VGSO also adhere to their fiduciary duties, duty of confidentiality and client legal privilege in all actions taken on their clients’ behalf.
In most circumstances, the VGSO collects information directly from clients, service providers and contractors. This may be through correspondence, email, in person or by telephone. Indicative information we may collect from clients includes the client’s name, contact details, personal details of client officers and any fact or opinion the client provides that is related to the matter on which the client is seeking advice or representation. The VGSO may also obtain information from third parties, such as past or present employees, banks and medical practitioners. In relation to individuals acting as its service providers, contractors or agents, the VGSO collects the name and contact details of the individual and relevant information concerning the individual’s dealings with the VGSO.
Purpose of collection
Information is collected from clients for the purposes of the primary function of the VGSO, namely to provide legal services to the Victorian Government. In the provision of such services, the VGSO may provide information to agents to take actions or make enquiries in relation to the conduct of a matter. For example, at the client’s instruction, a barrister may be briefed, expert advice sought, or a search firm engaged to conduct a title search in relation to the matter. The VGSO may also collect this information in order to send its clients information about its activities, or developments in law that the VGSO believes may be of interest to them. In relation to individuals acting as service providers, contractors or agents, the VGSO may collect information in order to access or use services provided by such individuals, either for a particular matter or generally in connection with the functions and administration of the office.
Use and Disclosure
The VGSO uses and may disclose personal and health information collected for the primary purpose for which it was provided. In addition to the use and disclosure of information outlined above, the VGSO also uses and discloses information for purposes ancillary and consequential to the primary purpose of collection, such as invoicing-related correspondence, accurate file management and the creation and maintenance of skills databases. To this end the VGSO may use the services of agents, service providers or contractors. All such third parties are required to comply with fiduciary and confidentiality duties in their handling and management of information. At the client’s instruction or according to legal requirements, the VGSO may also disclose personal and health information for secondary purposes. Specific disclosures may be made with consent or otherwise in accordance with the use and disclosure standards of the Privacy and Data Protection Act or the Health Records Act to organisations such as regulatory authorities, Government departments, courts and tribunals or other parties or advisers. Some de-identified personal or health information provided by clients may also be included in case notes, newsletters, client briefings and other communications for the purposes of client awareness and professional development in connection with our provision of legal services to the Victorian Government.
Data Quality and Security
The VGSO takes reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information it collects is accurate, complete and up-to-date at both the time of collection and when used or disclosed. The personal information clients and others provide to the VGSO is stored on computer and paper-based files as appropriate. Part 4 of the Privacy and Data Protection Act, which concerns Protective Data Security, applies to the VGSO.
In addition, all staff members with access to personal information are bound by duties of confidentiality. Generally, the VGSO aims to destroy or permanently de-identify information when it is no longer required. However, much of the information it holds is subject to the Public Records Act 1973 and must be disposed of in accordance with the Retention & Disposal Authority for Records of the Victorian Government Solicitor's Office Version 2010 (PROS) 10/03. This RDO covers information including legal advice and opinions, management of legal representation services to the Victorian Government, and native title claims management. Other information held by the VGSO is subject to the requirements of the General Retention & Disposal Authority for Records of Common Administrative Functions Version 2009 (PROS 07/01).
Access and Correction Clients, service providers, contractors or agents of the VGSO may request access to and correction of information about them held by the VGSO. The VGSO will take reasonable action to assist the individual to seek access or to address any reasons a client or other party may have to seek access. However, access may be restricted in accordance with the VGS’s discretion, duties and obligations under law including the Privacy and Data Protection Act and the Health Records Act. If access is denied, the VGSO will provide the client or other person with reasons in accordance with law. If access is provided, a reasonable fee may be charged for time and other costs incurred in providing access. Note that access to documents is also provided for by the Freedom of Information Act 1982, and generally fees and other charges apply. If any client, service provider, contractor or agent believes the VGSO’s records are not accurate, complete or up to date, they should contact the VGSO immediately and the VGSO will take reasonable steps to amend the information in accordance with the above criteria or alternatives as may be discussed. Any request for the correction of personal information should be in writing.
Transfer of Information outside Victoria
Because we provide legal services to the Victorian Government, generally the VGSO does not send individuals' personal or health information outside Victoria, either in hard copy or electronically. The VGSO's websites are hosted within Victoria. However occasionally it may be necessary, with your express or implied consent or otherwise as permitted by law, for the VGSO to transfer some personal or health information outside Victoria, for example in order to provide legal representation at a hearing in another jurisdiction.
Sensitive information as defined in the Privacy and Data Protection Act generally will not be collected by the VGSO, except as required by law or with the consent of the individual concerned.
If you have any queries concerning any aspect of this policy or the VGSO’s information privacy practices, or have a concern, please contact:
Sarah Buzza, Acting Human Resources Manager, Corporate Services Victorian Government Solicitor's Office Level 25, 121 Exhibition Street, Melbourne Vic 3000 t +61 3 9032 3005 f +61 3 9032 3049
Complaints against VGSO
If you wish to make a complaint against the VGSO for a breach of privacy:
- in relation to the Privacy and Data Protection Act, you should write to the Office of the Victorian Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection www.dataprotection.vic.gov.au
- in relation to the Health Records Act you should write to the Office of the Health Services Commissioner, www.health.vic.gov.au/hsc/
Policy dated: 22 September 2014