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Chapter 6: Communication and engagement


An important statutory function of the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC) is to promote awareness and understanding of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI Act) and the Privacy Act 1988.

The OAIC has established a dedicated Education Team in its Operations Branch, which works to develop educational material and deliver training, both internally and externally.

The OAIC maintained a strong public profile, buoyed by media interest in the establishment of the office, the commencement of information law reforms and a number of high-profile privacy incidents affecting Australians.

A key focus of the OAIC has been to increase opportunities for information professionals to meet, share expertise and collaborate. To align with the broad functions of the OAIC, the former Privacy Contact Officer Network was integrated into a new Information Contact Officer Network (ICON), which first met in March 2011. ICON is made up of privacy, freedom of information and information management professionals across the Australian and ACT Governments.

The OAIC has continued to build productive relationships with its counterparts in other jurisdictions through national and international forums such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities Forum and the Association of Information Access Commissioners.

In addition to running successful promotional events such as Privacy Awareness Week, the OAIC has used web 2.0 technologies to communicate educational messages more broadly and to collaborate and consult with organisations, agencies and the wider community. During 2010-11, the OAIC established a presence on a range of new communication platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, govdex and govspace.

The OAIC also released a range of informative guidance material to help individuals, businesses and government agencies better understand their information rights and responsibilities.

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International and regional engagement

Association of Information Access Commissioners

The Association of Information Access Commissioners (AIAC) was established in September 2010 by the statutory officers in each Australian jurisdiction responsible for freedom of information oversight and development of information policy. Specifically, the membership of the AIAC comprises Information Commissioners (Commonwealth, NSW, NT, Queensland and WA), the Commonwealth Freedom of Information Commissioner, the Queensland Right to Information Commissioner and the Ombudsman from other state jurisdictions.

The AIAC aims to exchange information and experience about the exercise of their oversight responsibilities, and promote best practice and consistency in information access policies and laws. AIAC members met in September 2010 and again in April 2011, and plan further meetings in 2011-12. Matters discussed at these meetings included current external review operations and practices, and advice and awareness activities across Australian jurisdictions.

Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities

The OAIC continues to be actively involved in the APPA Forum. Members met in New Zealand in December 2010 and in South Korea in June 2011. At these meetings, members resolved to broaden APPA membership criteria to include privacy enforcement authorities that have been approved to participate in the Global Privacy Enforcement Network. Mexico, Queensland and the United States were welcomed as new members at the December meeting. Members also discussed the potential for future joint enforcement activities and explored possibilities for mechanisms to enhance coordination between members conducting investigations into similar matters.

The OAIC provides secretariat services to APPA, including maintaining its webpage at

Portrait of representatives from Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities

Representatives of APPA jurisdictions at Jeju, South Korea, June 2011.

Privacy Authorities Australia

Privacy Authorities Australia (PAA) is a group of Australian privacy authorities that meets regularly to promote best practice and consistency of privacy policies and laws.

PAA membership includes privacy representatives from all states and territories, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the OAIC. PAA met in Adelaide in March 2011. Topics discussed included Privacy Awareness Week, information sharing in the child protection context and cooperation between PAA members.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Thirteen privacy enforcement authorities from around the world, including Australia, joined forces to launch the Global Privacy Enforcement Network (GPEN) in September 2010. GPEN is designed to facilitate cross-border cooperation in the enforcement of privacy laws. As at 30 June 2011, GPEN had 25 member authorities, including 20 nations, four subnational authorities, and the European Union.

GPEN builds on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Recommendation on Privacy Law Enforcement Co-operation (2007), which recognised the need for greater cooperation between privacy enforcement authorities in cross-border privacy matters. The Recommendation states that member countries should foster the establishment of an informal network of privacy enforcement authorities and other appropriate stakeholders to discuss the practical aspects of privacy law enforcement cooperation.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation

In 2007, Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) economies endorsed the APEC Data Privacy Pathfinder(the Pathfinder) to guide implementation of the APEC Privacy Framework.

One of the Pathfinder's aims is a system of cross-border privacy rules with a Cross-border Privacy Enforcement Arrangement (CPEA) that provides a framework for privacy regulators to cooperate and seek information and advice from each other on cross-border enforcement matters.

The CPEA came into force in July 2010. The OAIC is one of the CPEA's co-administrators, and is jointly responsible for conducting eligibility checks on privacy enforcement authorities that wish to participate in the CPEA.

32nd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners

The 32nd International Conference of Data Protection and Privacy Commissioners took place in Jerusalem, Israel, in October 2010. The theme of the conference was ‘Privacy: Generations'.

Resolutions were made at the Conference on matters including improving the Conference's practices and procedures and recognising ‘Privacy by Design' as an essential component of fundamental privacy protection.

While the OAIC was not in attendance, its views on the resolutions before the Conference were represented by the Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner.

For more information, see the Conference website at

Administrative Review Council

The Information Commissioner is appointed as an ex officio member of the Administrative Review Council, under s 49(1) of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975. Other ex officio members of the Council are the Commonwealth Ombudsman, President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and President of the Australian Law Reform Commission. The Government has announced that the President of the Australian Human Rights Commission will also be appointed as an ex officio Council member.

The Information Commissioner participated actively in meetings and projects of the Council during the reporting year. The main project of the Council was a review of the framework for Australian judicial review. The Commissioner was a member of the sub-committee conducting that project.

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Networks and Committees

Information Contact Officer Network

The OAIC manages the Information Contact Officer Network (ICON), a network for freedom of information, information publication scheme and privacy contact officers in Australian Government agencies, the Norfolk Island administration and, relating to privacy only, ACT Government agencies. ICON has replaced the former Privacy Contact Officer (PCO) Network.

ICON meetings are held quarterly and provide members with the opportunity to receive updates on the work of the OAIC, and to network and share knowledge with information professionals in other agencies.

The final PCO meeting and two ICON meetings were held during 2010-11. Attendance at the ICON meetings ranged from 160-200 people, while approximately 70 people attended the final PCO Network meeting.

The meetings included discussion on topics such as compliance with the Information Publication Scheme, privacy impact assessments, FOI extension of time provisions and Privacy Awareness Week. The agenda, related documents and the full audio from each meeting is available on the OAIC website:

Privacy Connections

The OAIC facilitates a network for privacy professionals in the private sector. Privacy Connections had 746 members as at 30 June 2011. Information about Privacy Connections is available at

Privacy and consumer advocates

The OAIC held a meeting with privacy and consumer advocates in November 2010. This meeting covered a range of matters including privacy law reform, high profile data breaches, complaint handling and compliance activities, public education resources, the OAIC's website and branding, codes of conduct and telecommunications.

Privacy Advisory Committee

The Privacy Advisory Committee (PAC) is established under s 82 of the Privacy Act. Members are appointed by the Governor-General. The PAC's function, as outlined in s 83 of the Privacy Act, is to advise the Information Commissioner on matters relevant to his functions and to engage in and promote protection of individual privacy in the private sector, government and the community.

The PAC maintains an active interest in the implementation of the OAIC's Strategic Plan and provides feedback and advice on the goals and activities of the office. During the reporting period, the PAC provided independent advice to the OAIC on privacy issues relating to personally controlled electronic health records and credit reporting. It was also actively involved in developing promotion strategies for Privacy Awareness Week.

In addition to the Information Commissioner, there were four members of the PAC as at 30 June 2011:

  • Robin Banks, Anti-Discrimination Commissioner of Tasmania
  • Michael Kidd AM, Executive Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences, Flinders University
  • Barbara Robertson, Chief Privacy Officer and Head of Notices, National Australia Bank Limited
  • Joan Sheedy, Assistant Secretary, Privacy and FOI Policy Branch, Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The terms of Assoc Professor John O'Brien and Dr Christine O'Keefe expired on 27 March 2011. During their time on the PAC, both provided valuable insight that assisted the OAIC in its consideration of a broad spectrum of privacy related issues.

Information Advisory Committee

The Australian Information Commissioner Act2010 establishes an Information Advisory Committee (IAC) to assist and advise the Information Commissioner in his performance of the Information Commissioner functions. These functions include reporting to the Minister on matters related to the collection, use, disclosure, management, administration or storage of, or accessibility to, information held by the Government and other functions conferred by the Australian Information Commissioner Act. The IAC will be chaired by the Information Commissioner and will comprise senior agency officers and other people with relevant qualifications and experience appointed by the Minister. No appointments were made prior to 30 June 2011.

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In 2010-11 the OAIC received 201 media enquiries. Of these, 96 were from print media, 36 from radio stations, 17 from television and 52 from news websites.

The enquiries concerned a range of privacy and FOI related issues, with the most common including updates on privacy investigations, privacy breaches by agencies and organisations and queries about the interplay between privacy law and emerging technology. Interviews were conducted on various radio stations and television programs.

The OAIC held a media briefing at Parliament House in Canberra in preparation for its launch on 1 November 2010. This briefing covered a range of topics, including the new FOI disclosure log provisions, and was well attended by Press Gallery journalists.

The OAIC prepared 20 media releases during 2010-11. These were distributed via OAICnet and to major metropolitan and regional newsrooms.

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The OAIC executive and senior staff delivered 76 speeches and presentations on a range of information policy issues including information, FOI and privacy law reform. Other topics addressed were information management and data security, e-health and service delivery reform, protecting online privacy and best-practice data breach handling.

A selection of speeches is available at A list of all speeches given by the Information Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner and Freedom of Information Commissioner is in appendix 7.

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Training for Australian Government agencies

The OAIC provided training on the OAIC and FOI reforms to Australian Government agencies.

Between October 2010 and March 2011, the OAIC provided 18 training sessions to 338 staff from 84 agencies.

The OAIC trained staff from all of the 12 agencies that received 80 or more FOI requests in 2009-10. It also trained staff from:

  • 16 agencies that received between 20 and 79 FOI requests in 2009-10
  • 32 agencies that received between 1 and 19 FOI requests in 2009-10
  • 24 agencies that did not receive any FOI requests in 2009-10.

The training provided an overview of changes to the FOI Act and the operation of the OAIC.

The OAIC's training materials are available at

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The OAIC and the former OPC released a number of new publications and other materials during 2010-11.

In October 2010, the former OPC published new frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the subject of healthcare identifiers. The FAQs provide key information about healthcare identifiers and how they might be handled in accordance with the Privacy Act.

The health FAQs were also updated with a new FAQ regarding the disclosure of health information when a patient lacks capacity to make decisions. Under National Privacy Principle (NPP) 2.4, if a patient is physically or legally incapable of giving consent, their healthcare provider can disclose their health information to a person who is responsible for them. The FAQs provide information about how NPP 2.4 might be applied in different situations, and are available online at:

In March 2011, Australian Doctor published an article written by the OAIC on the disclosure of health information when a patient lacks capacity to make decisions. Articles on the same subject were also published in newsletters of Alzheimer's Australia and the Australian Medical Association.

In May 2011, the OAIC released Privacy Fact Sheet 4, Online Behavioural Advertising: Know your options. The fact sheet describes how online advertisers can use information provided by individuals to target customers. The fact sheet sets out a number of options for controlling how information is collected and shared online.

The OAIC also developed a comprehensive suite of FOI publications, including the Guidelines issued by the Australian Information Commissioner under s 93A of the FOI Act, fact sheets and other guidance material. See Chapter 3 for more information about the OAIC's FOI publications.

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In anticipation of the establishment of the OAIC, a temporary public website was created in October 2010 ( to publish information about the new organisation including in relation to the new functions covering FOI and information policy.

The website of the former OPC ( is still being used to make available a comprehensive collection of materials about the OAIC's privacy functions.

Both websites will continue to be maintained until a new website incorporating all functions of the OAIC is developed. It is anticipated that this project will be completed during the next reporting period. The two websites reference each other where relevant and the majority of the OAIC's current corporate information is found on the OAIC website.

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Web 2.0 and other communication platforms

The OAIC currently uses the following social media platforms.

OAIC community on govdex (

Govdex is an Australian Government initiative designed to promote effective and efficient information sharing by providing governance, tools, methods and re-usable technical components across Australian Government agencies. Agencies can set up communities where documents can be shared and community members can communicate and interact.

The OAIC community on govdex provides a platform for sharing updates on the work of the OAIC and opportunities to network with colleagues. The community has over 600 invited members, encompassing OAIC staff (76), FOI officers with upload access (121) and other members of the Information Contact Officer Network (419).

The OAIC also recently sponsored the creation of a govdex space for use by APPA and created OAICengage, a forum for the use of the web 2.0 working group.

In 2010-11, the OAIC used govdex as a consultation tool for engaging with stakeholders across FOI and information policy. Govdex has proven to be a useful forum for discussing matters with a closed community of government users.

OAIC blog on govspace

Govspace is an online communications platform managed by the Department of Finance and Deregulation and used by the OAIC to host its public blog.

The OAIC uses the template policies provided by govspace for public-facing copyright, accessibility and terms of use notices on the site. Adjustments have been made to the privacy policy and a new, public-facing moderation policy was also created. The blog uses post-moderation.

The OAIC's govspace blog can be accessed at:


The OAIC trialled the use of a Facebook page as part of its efforts to promote Privacy Awareness Week (PAW). The goal of the trial was to encourage Facebook users to participate in the PAW online survey on social media and to view tips about privacy and social media.

The Facebook trial has been a success in terms of providing a new platform from which to share educational messages, raise awareness about PAW and promote the online survey. The OAIC intends to make greater use of this platform in future.

The OAIC's Facebook page can be accessed at


TheOAIC Twitter account was established in March 2011 and has been used to promote blog postings and media releases published on the OAIC website.


OAICnet has 3900 subscribers and is the OAIC external communication platform for distributing email messages to stakeholders, media and interested members of the public.

RSS feeds

The OAIC has three RSS feeds to ensure that interested users are alerted to new information posted on the OAIC website.

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Privacy Awareness Week

Privacy Awareness Week (PAW) is an annual promotion coordinated by the members of the Asia Pacific Privacy Authorities (APPA). The week provides an opportunity for organisations and agencies in APPA jurisdictions to promote awareness of privacy rights and responsibilities to staff, clients and the wider community. PAW 2011 was celebrated from 1-7 May 2011.

The 2011 theme was Privacy: It's all about you. In a series of talks and media interviews throughout the week, the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner reminded Australians to take the opportunity to think about the security of their personal information. A dedicated website promoted practical tips to help people to protect their personal information.

Business and government agencies were also reminded to protect their customers' personal information and to take their obligations under the Privacy Act seriously.

The OAIC again established partnerships with over 80 agencies and organisations committed to good privacy practice. Each partner agreed to promote the OAIC's privacy messages to their stakeholders. Partners were provided with promotional material for use on their websites, a refresher privacy training presentation and newsletter content. This approach allowed the OAIC to promote the week and its key messages broadly.

The OAIC also produced How private is your profile? This short, humorous animation formed the centrepiece of APPA members' promotional activities during PAW, and was translated into Chinese, Spanish and Korean. Hosted on the APPA YouTube channel, it highlighted some of the privacy pitfalls of using social media. The animation was viewed 9000 times across the four languages.

APPA members also designed an e-survey to learn more about individuals' concerns about privacy and social networking across the APPA region. The survey was open for the month of May and was available in English, Chinese, Spanish and Korean. Over 10,600 people completed the survey. Results will be published in the next reporting period.

PAW is an important annual campaign to increase awareness of privacy choices and obligations, assisting the OAIC to meet its strategic goals. It also provides the opportunity for the OAIC to develop robust relationships with Australian businesses, government agencies, non-government organisations and the wider community, while strengthening its links with APPA members. The OAIC continues to maintain APPA's PAW website at

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