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Review of confidentiality protections in the Royal Commissions Act − Terms of Reference

Royal Commission
Publication date

Background and context for the review

  1. The Royal Commissions Amendment (Protection of Information) Act 2021 (the amending Act), which commenced on 10 September 2021, applies new limitations on the use and disclosure of information given by individuals to the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability about their experiences, where that information was given for purposes other than a private session and the information was treated as confidential by the Commission at all times. It also establishes protections for accounts of systemic violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation of people with disability, and protections for information given on behalf of another person.
  2. During debate in the Parliament the Government undertook to review the effectiveness of measures in the amending Act, and other provisions within the Royal Commissions Act 1902 (the Act) for the protection of information and identities. 

Objectives

  1. The key objectives of the review are to:
    1. identify impediments in the amended Act that would prevent or discourage a person from coming forward and sharing information with a royal commission, and
    2. make recommendations about any policy or legislative options to address these impediments and facilitate greater public engagement with royal commissions, while maintaining their ability to report transparent findings and recommendations.

Matters to be examined

  1. The review will examine issues or impediments to people coming forward and sharing information with royal commissions. In particular, it will look at:
    1. the effectiveness of mechanisms in the amended Act for safeguarding the identities of people making confidential disclosures to royal commissions
    2. the effectiveness of other protections for witnesses providing evidence to royal commissions, and
    3. any gaps or deficiencies in legislative protections, which could potentially lead to detriment, or an unwillingness to engage with royal commissions.
  2. The review will consider:
    1. remedies available in other Commonwealth legislation and equivalent state and territory royal commissions and inquiries legislation, to a person who has suffered a detriment following a disclosure they have made to a royal commission or inquiry
    2. findings and recommendations of previous reviews and inquiries which have examined relevant matters in these terms of reference, and
    3. previous requests made by third parties for protected information, including instances known to the department or brought to its attention in the course of the review.
  3. The review will examine circumstances raised in the course of the review, where:
    1. a person has provided sensitive information to a royal commission and then experienced detriment, or
    2. a person's willingness or ability to engage with a royal commission was affected by existing confidentiality provisions or the absence of adequate protection.

Consultation arrangements

  1. The Attorney‑General's Department will conduct a targeted public consultation process to inform the review.
  2. Views will be sought from the Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability, disability representative organisations and other interested stakeholders.
  3. Public consultation will be conducted via the Attorney-General's Department website, and consultation materials will be presented in accessible formats.

Timeframes

  1. The Attorney-General's Department is required to report by 22 February 2022.