The Australian Government made an emergency declaration under the Privacy Act 1988 in January 2020 in response to the bushfires across Australia. The declaration expired on 20 January 2021.

While the declaration was in force, if an Australian Government agency or private sector organisation covered by the Privacy Act believed that you had been impacted by the bushfires, they were permitted to handle your personal information for several purposes that may not otherwise have been allowed.

These purposes must have directly related to the Commonwealth’s response to the bushfire emergency, such as:

  • identifying individuals who were or may be injured, missing or deceased as a result of the bushfire emergency, or were otherwise involved in the emergency
  • assisting impacted individuals to obtain services such as medical treatment, health services, financial assistance or other humanitarian services
  • assisting law enforcement with the bushfire emergency
  • coordinating or managing the emergency
  • ensuring that a person who was responsible for an individual involved in the emergency was appropriately informed about the individual and the emergency response to the individual.

Agencies and organisations were limited in who they could disclose personal information to under these provisions. If you think that your personal information was mishandled under the declaration you can make a privacy complaint.

More information is available in our advice for agencies and organisations or through our enquiries team.