NSW Information Commissioner releases guideline on access to Out-of-Home Care Records


The NSW Information Commissioner launched today Information Access Guideline 8: Care Leavers’ access to their Out-of-Home Care Records.  

The statutory guideline highlights the public interest considerations in favour of government agencies releasing information to those who have experienced out of home care arrangements. It will aid public interest decision making by agencies. Additionally it will highlight factors that support a decision to release information and therefore enable applicants to identify and include relevant factors in support of their application to access these important records.

The term ‘Care Leaver’ refers to all people who have left out-of-home care in New South Wales. In particular, these guidelines are to assist care leavers, who as children, experienced institutional or out-of-home care in the previous century. This includes children who were placed in foster care, in government and privately-run orphanages and children’s homes, or who arrived in Australia as child migrants.

NSW Information Commissioner, Elizabeth Tydd said, “Strong moves have been taken in Australia in recent years to ensure that former care leavers have effective access to the historical records relating to their time in institutional care. Improved access, underpinned by clearer guidance, is widely supported within Australian governments and the community. This objective accords with the importance we place on transparency in government and the human services sector.

“The principal focus of this guideline is upon access to historical out-of-home care records. These are records relating to children or young people who were in some form of State care in the past, for example, they were wards of the State. However, the same considerations apply to access to contemporary records relating to children in out-of-home care.

“The Guideline is directed to the public interest considerations that support access being granted to institutional care records as fully and efficiently as possible.”

Government and non-government agencies in Australia hold records about an estimated 500,000 people who were in institutional care as children during the 20th century. Their experience – and their plight – was recognised in the Australian Government’s National Apology to Forgotten Australians and Former Child Migrants in 2009, in the Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2017 (the Royal Commission Report) and in numerous other Parliamentary, government and non-government studies and programs.

A number of NSW government agencies hold historical records relating to out-of-home care arrangements. Agencies with significant record holdings include the NSW Department of Communities and Justice, the NSW Trustee and Guardian, the NSW Police Force and the NSW Department of Education.

The personal information in a care leaver’s record can cover matters such as names (birth names and assigned names), date of birth, Aboriginality, health, family circumstances, conduct in care, and institutional care history and arrangements. The information may have come from many sources, including family, carers, service providers, and other care leavers. A care leaver’s record may also contain personal information relating to other people, such as family, carers, and care leavers. It may also contain health information.

Non-personal information that may be found in a care leaver’s record could include an institution’s care and governance arrangements and forward planning, communications between various institutions, and advice provided by a legal or medical practitioner or social worker regarding a care leaver’s circumstances.

This guideline is issued by the Information Commissioner under section 12(3) of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act). The Commissioner may issue guidelines for the assistance of NSW Government agencies about public interest considerations in favour of the disclosure of information.

The guideline is for NSW government agencies and can be downloaded from the agency resources page on the Information and Privacy Commission NSW website:  https://www.ipc.nsw.gov.au/


For more information please contact:

IPC media team on 0435 961 691 or email communications@ipc.nsw.gov.au

About the NSW Information Commissioner 
The NSW Information Commissioner’s statutory role includes promoting public awareness and understanding of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act); providing information, advice, assistance and training to agencies and the public; dealing with complaints about agencies; investigating agencies’ systems, policies and practices; and reporting on compliance with the GIPA Act.

About the Information and Privacy Commission NSW
The Information and Privacy Commission NSW (IPC) is a separate agency. It supports the functions of the Information Commissioner and the Privacy Commissioner in respect of privacy and information access laws in NSW. For further information about the IPC visit our website at www.ipc.nsw.gov.au