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Sharing personal information in the child protection context: Impediments in the Australian legal framework


Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Professionals, including social workers, in the child protection context are frequently required to make decisions on whether to share sensitive personal information about children, their families, and others with colleagues and across institutional and jurisdictional boundaries. Sharing information across agencies and organisations is essential to allow joined‐up service provision and to effectively protect and support children and their families. A legal framework that supports this decision making is a necessary, although not sufficient, condition for effective information sharing. This article examines the complex legal framework that governs information sharing across the Australian states and territories. It identifies a number of structural and regulatory elements that unnecessarily limit information sharing or have a tendency to create a culture that is risk averse, rather than proactive, in sharing information. The article suggests structural and regulatory reforms that would improve the legal framework for sharing information, while at the same time giving due recognition to the human rights that come into tension in this policy context: the right to privacy and the rights of the child.