1800RESPECT Counselling Service

Legislative Council 
Tuesday 31st October 2017

1800RESPECT Counselling Service

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:14): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question without notice to the Minister for Health on the topic of the privacy of those people contacting and accessing the 1800RESPECT trauma counselling service.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: 1800RESPECT is a federal government initiative. It's delivered by Medibank Health Services (MHS), which provides a national sexual assault and domestic violence counselling service. Since its launch in October 2010, Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia have provided the service, but recently they have withdrawn over a renewal of contracts. In a statement made in August this year, they stated:

Accepting the sub-contract and the new MHS model would be inconsistent with the values, ethics, quality counselling practices and work-place relations that are foundational to our organisation and culture.

They have raised a range of concerns, but the ones I wish to draw the attention of the minister to are those around privacy and confidentiality. Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia have stated in a public statement that it is unacceptable to them that the handover of existing client file notes is now required under the new 1800RESPECT contract. They state that to hand over all client file notes resulting from the past six years of counselling for the 1800RESPECT service would, they believe, breach their client confidentiality and contradict Australian privacy legislation.

They also go on to say that they have great concern that, due to Medibank's position, they will not evoke communications privilege to protect client confidence, certainly in the case of being subpoenaed or matters going to court. They have also noted that the recording of client file notes on the Medibank system is now expected to be kept through the new Aladdin system of Medibank, rather than, as they have in the past, in the particular counsellor's personal file notes that are stored and protected in a way that protects that client's confidentiality. Indeed, they have noted that the recording of phone calls, which is now required under the new contract, would potentially lead those who access the service to experience not only the written documentation being provided to the courts, but also experience the release of their voice recording to the service. My questions to the minister are:

1. Is he aware of the privacy concerns raised by Rape and Domestic Violence Services Australia, who have now pulled out of the 1800RESPECT service?

2. What protections are available to South Australians accessing this service to ensure that their contact with 1800RESPECT is maintained at the highest levels of confidentiality and not shared with other agencies, not kept by a private insurance company in the case of a sale of Medibank and protected in the future?

The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Health, Minister for Mental Health and Substance Abuse) (15:18): I thank the honourable member for her extensive question. The concerns that are raised by the honourable member in her question are mainly news to me, so it would be best if I took her question on notice with a view to get a response back to her as soon as possible. I acknowledge her concern for the area in question.

Stay Connected

Sign Up to news and updates from Tammy.