Child protection privacy and information sharing

As a school staff member you are permitted to share certain information about a child who has been impacted by abuse. This page provides guidance on the specific information sharing requirements.

Sharing information to support child wellbeing and safety

The Victorian Government is progressing information sharing and family violence reforms to improve the wellbeing and safety of Victorian children and reduce family violence.

From Term 2 2021, the Child Information Sharing Scheme, the Family Violence Information Sharing Scheme and the Family violence Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management Framework expanded to include a range of Victorian education and care workforces.

Many organisations already work together to do this and many Victorian education and care workforces will become part of a system of sharing, requesting and using information about child wellbeing or safety.

It will allow professionals working with children to gain a complete view of the children they work with, making it easier to identify wellbeing or safety needs earlier, and to act on them sooner.

A range of resources are available to ensure that Victorian education and care workforces have the knowledge and information needed to work consistently and collaboratively to identify and respond to child wellbeing and safety needs.

Resources to support sharing information

The following resources are intended to help organisations prepare their workplaces for implementation and provide guidance on how to share information confidently, safely and appropriately under these new reforms to improve children’s wellbeing and safety. They have been designed for:

  • centre-based education and care services
  • government, Catholic and independent schools
  • system and statutory bodies
  • education health, wellbeing and inclusion workforces.

Information Sharing and Family Violence Reforms

These resources complement the delivery of 'Information Sharing and Family Violence Reforms' briefings and online modules for education and care workforces. They should be adapted and used as appropriate in alignment with existing organisational requirements and procedures.

For more information on training, resources and guidance, visit the Information Sharing and MARAM website

Information sharing with school staff

Privacy laws allow school staff to share a child’s personal and health information to enable other school staff to:

  • support the education of the student, plan for individual needs and address any barriers to learning
  • support the social and emotional wellbeing and health of the student
  • fulfil duty of care obligations to the student, other students, staff and visitors
  • make reasonable adjustments if the student has a disability, including a medical condition or mental illness
  • provide a safe and secure workplace.

Therefore as a school staff member you are permitted to share certain information about a child with other staff members, without the consent of a parent or guardian and without breaching privacy laws.

What kind of information can be shared?

The type of information that may be appropriate to share with other school staff about a child who is impacted, or suspected to be impacted by child abuse may include:

  • that the child is in a difficult situation
  • that the child should be monitored and may need support
  • the content of any Student Support Plan, including any signs or symptoms that the child may display when they are in need of support, and any strategies or support services that have been put in place to support the child while they are at school.

Information sharing with DFFH and Victoria Police

As a school staff member, privacy legislation permits you to disclose personal information about a child to Department Families Fairness and Housing (DFFH) Child Protection if:

  • it is authorised or permitted by law
  • or if it is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious and imminent risk to health, safety or welfare of any person.

Reporting suspected child abuse to DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police does not constitute a breach of Victorian privacy laws because these disclosures are specifically permitted under the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 and the Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014.

Disclosure of information to DFFH Child Protection in good faith does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics. This means that you cannot be successfully sued or suffer formal adverse consequences in your work.

If you've made a report or referral your identity will be protected, unless you consent to its disclosure or the disclosure is specifically authorised by a Court or Tribunal.

Request of information from DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police

If you receive a request from an officer from DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police for information relating to a child who has been impacted (or is suspected to have been impacted) by child abuse, you should:

  • obtain the request for information in writing
  • ensure that the written request includes the following information: 

    • the name of the officer, the organisation in which they work, and their contact details
    • description of the information and documents that are being sought
    • the reasons why the information and documents are being sought
    • what authority the person or their organisation believes that they have to access the requested information and documents.

In these cases, you may be permitted to share the requested information and documents but you are not compelled to do so.

For further information, refer to our policy on requests for information about students.

Information sharing with family services

Once Family Services (or other service agency) commences providing services to a child and their family, as a school staff member you can only share information with this agency with the consent of the child's parents (and the child if they are old enough to consent).

This is because service provision in these circumstances is by voluntary agreement between the family and the service provider.

Family Services are allowed to consult with DFFH Child Protection at any time, if necessary.

Information sharing with school community

Planning and care should be taken before providing any information about child abuse to the school community. You and your principal should be aware that that even confirming the existence of an allegation can lead to the identification of a victim.

Further guidance for principals

Principals who are uncertain about how to respond to a particular request for information and documentation can contact the following support services for guidance.

Government schools

Government school principals who are unsure when information can be shared can contact the department's Legal Division for advice and assistance on (03) 9637 3146.

Catholic schools

Catholic school principals can contact:

  • Archdiocese of Melbourne – Student Wellbeing Information Line: (03) 9267 0228
  • Diocese of Sale – Child Protection Officer: (03) 5622 6600
  • Diocese of Ballarat – Child Safety: (03) 5337 7135
  • Diocese of Sandhurst – Assistant to the Director of Legal, Industrial and Human Resources: (03) 5443 2377.

Policy on requests for information about students

Resources for identifying and responding to all forms of abuse in Victorian Schools

Watch the video: protecting children and young people from abuse is our responsibility(opens in a new window)

The information in this video has been taken from the PROTECT guide: Identifying and responding to all forms of abuse in Victorian Schools.

Download the PROTECT guide