Corporate information and resources
Consular Privacy Collection Statement
About this statement
Providing consular assistance to Australians overseas is a core function of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). The privacy of consular clients and their families is a fundamental aspect of managing consular cases.
How and when DFAT collects personal information in consular matters
We collect your personal information to perform our consular functions and activities.
In most consular matters we will collect your personal information, including sensitive information, directly from you or your authorised representative. Sensitive information will only be collected if you give your consent when we collect the information from you, unless an exception in the Privacy Act applies.
One exception is when we reasonably believe it is necessary for us to collect your information without your consent to perform our consular functions or activities. In some instances this means we may need to collect your personal information from a third party or a publicly available source. Where it is necessary for us to seek your personal information from a third party, we will always ask for your consent first, if practicable.
Similarly, in many consular cases it is a third party (such as a family member) that raises concerns about your welfare with us. In such cases we will try to contact you to see if you need consular assistance and, where practicable, we will tell you that we have collected your personal information from a third party. We may also be required or authorised by or under an Australian law, or court or tribunal order, to collect your personal information from a third party.
We may also collect your personal information for quality assurance and training purposes.
If you choose not to provide us with your personal information, we may be unable to provide you with consular assistance or our consular assistance may be limited.
How DFAT uses and discloses personal information in consular matters
We will not use or disclose your personal information further if you decline consular assistance, unless we are permitted to do so under the Privacy Act. In all dealings with you, we will do our best to respect your privacy and will always try to obtain your informed consent to use or disclose your personal information. If you have declined consular assistance you can always request it at a later date.
You can also consent to us disclosing your personal details and information about your situation to a nominated next of kin or representative. It is up to you how much or how little information may be disclosed. We do not provide any information to your nominated next of kin or representative without your consent, unless authorised under the Privacy Act.
We may also use and disclose your personal information to:
- Seek your feedback on our consular services.
- For quality assurance and training purposes.
- Evaluate and improve the services offered by DFAT, including consular services. This may involve providing you personal information, including sensitive information, to contractors engaged by DFAT to assist with program evaluation and improvement.
- Where it is otherwise authorised under the Privacy Act, including where the use or disclosure:
- is required by an Australian law or court/tribunal order; or
- is reasonably necessary for one or more enforcement related activities conducted by, or on behalf of, an enforcement body.
What happens when there is an emergency?
In some instances it may be necessary for us to use or disclose your personal information in order to provide you with help where you have refused consent or we can't obtain your consent. This may arise in emergency situations, where you have been reported missing, or when your capacity to provide informed consent is under question due to a physical, psychiatric or substance-induced incapacity. Decisions to use or disclose personal information without your consent are not taken lightly, and are made by senior officers in Canberra in discussion with case officers.
Examples of situations where this may occur include:
- If you become seriously ill overseas and either can't consent or refuse to consent while in an impaired mental state, we may tell your family or nominated contact if we consider it essential for your interests, or for theirs.
- If you are arrested or imprisoned overseas and don't consent to disclosing your personal information, we may confirm, clarify and correct information already available in the media in response to inquiries from your family or other contacts.
- If your family or nominated contact asks about your welfare and whereabouts overseas and you do not wish to tell them, we may tell your family or nominated contact that we have made contact with you but that you don't consent to the release of further information.
- Where a collection, use or disclosure of your personal information is reasonably necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to your life, health or safety, or to public health or safety.
Disclosure of personal information to overseas recipients in consular cases
How we store and protect personal information
DFAT takes steps to protect the personal information we hold against misuse, interference and loss, as well as unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. Any personal information you provide us is held securely.
You can contact DFAT to make a privacy complaint by email at email@example.com or via post to the following address:
Director, Privacy Law, Legislation and Assurance Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
BARTON ACT 0221
If you have other concerns relating to consular services delivered by DFAT, you may wish to raise your concern directly with the Consular Operations Branch. This may allow for an informal and direct resolution of your non-privacy related complaint. Please submit your enquiry through the Smartraveller Contact Us webform.
From time to time, we will review and revise this privacy collection statement. We reserve the right to amend this statement at any time.