Confidentiality & disclosure of information

We are mindful that the information you provide to us as health professionals is personal and private.

The collection, storage and release of information by the Counselling and Health Centres, as part of The Australian National University, are covered by the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth). In general, this means that no personal information about you, including the fact that you have visited the Health or Counselling Centre, will be released to anyone outside the Centres without your consent.

However, you should be aware that information relevant to your care and well-being may be shared between health professionals within the Centres, so the health professionals can work together to provide you with the best possible care.

In addition, legally and ethically, the University may be required to release information in the following circumstances:

  • if it is necessary to protect you or someone else from imminent danger;
  • in response to a subpoena, summons or written demand from an administrative body, organisation or Commonwealth authority with the power to request the information;
  • where a law requires your personal information to be disclosed, such as for the enforcement of criminal law or if you have a health condition which must be notified; or
  • where you are involved in proceedings against the University.

Accessing your counselling file notes

Under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI 1982), you have the right to:

  • see what information government and other services (including the Counselling Centre) hold about you, and
  • to seek correction of that information if you consider it wrong or misleading.

The Counselling Centre is happy to accommodate any request by you for the release of a copy of your information or file notes directly to you. In some cases, it may be recommended that you view this information only in the presence of a relevant health professional.

You can submit your request in writing to the Counselling Centre. Please note that verification of your identity may be required in order to protect your confidential material, and only a hard copy of your information will be released.

Alternatively, a more formal process is to lodge a formal freedom of information application.

Seeking a psychological report

Unfortunately, the Counselling Centre is generally not able to provide you with a detailed written psychological report. This is because we allocate the majority of our time and resources to providing face-to-face support and assistance to students and are not a diagnostic centre. We recommend that you see a private psychologist to request a report if one is needed, but please note that fees may apply.

Information for concerned family, friends, or third parties

Family and friends will often be aware that a student is struggling and it is natural for them to want to be engaged in their support. They may want to be informed or share valuable information with those who are assisting the student. In this context, it is important to be aware of what is possible given the therapeutic and legal issues involved.

Many students prefer to keep their counselling completely private, and such privacy is typically important for successful counselling. The Counselling Centre staff adhere to the ethical standards of their respective professions and the legal requirements of confidentiality and privacy. These standards and laws prevent us from speaking directly with concerned family, friends and others about a student's contact with the centre, unless we have the student's written permission. Otherwise, we are unable to acknowledge whether the student has been seen at the centre or to discuss their progress in counselling. Exceptions only occure if:

  • the student is under 18yrs of age
  • we are concerned a student is clearly or imminently at risk of suicide
  • we learn of ongoing child abuse
  • we are ordered by a court of law to release confidential information. 

Where a student is clearly or imminently at risk of suicide, next of kin may be informed, if possible, irrespective of the student's level of consent provided. 

However, even where a student does not give consent for their counsellor to provide information to you, you may choose to contact a counsellor to share your concerns. Please note, however, that the counsellor will not be able to acknowledge an existing counselling relationship with the student, and that the counsellor may also want to discuss the information you provide with the student directly. This information will also be noted on the student's counselling file, if one exists.

With the student's (typically written) consent, and where appropriate, concerned family members and/or friends can be part of the therapeutic process, or attend a counselling session with the student (e.g. as a support person, to provide valuable feedback to the student, or to support a relationship which may have been affected by the difficulties the student faces).