Privacy Law and Policy Reporter
The complainant, who had been convicted of sexually violating his stepdaughter, was refused access, by the Department, to notes made by social workers or counsellors concerning his stepdaughter. The Commissioner decided that most of the information was not personal information about the complainant, but rather personal information about the stepdaughter and others, and any rights of access by the complainant could only arise under the Official Information Act (to be dealt with by the Ombudsman).
However, the Commissioner held that the allegations made by the stepdaughter were personal information about him under the Privacy Act, and he ''had the right to ensure that his side of the story was represented in the context of any personal information about him'. The Commissioner rejected the Department's reliance on s29(1)(a) access exemption (where ''the disclosure of the information would involve the unwarranted disclosure of the affairs of another individual'), because the allegations had already been disclosed to the complainant in the course of the department's investigations and were not, therefore, ''unwarranted disclosures' of the stepdaughter's affairs.s29(1)(a), however, provided a good defence to any disclosure of the stepdaughter's reactions or observations by the professionals involved regarding the stepdaughter. The department followed the Commissioner's recommendation.