The Australian Consular Service and your Privacy
If you need assistance from Australian consular officials overseas, your rights to privacy as an Australian citizen remain protected by the Privacy Act 1988.
Without your consent (obtained where possible in writing) consular officers will not disclose personal information about you, for example, to your family or to others who may have a valid interest in your wellbeing, unless there are very important reasons for them to do so.
Those important reasons might include the requirements of Australian laws or where your life or health, or the life or health of another person, may be threatened.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been granted a limited waiver from the provisions of the Privacy Act to disclose certain information to family or a nominated contact about a person who is the subject of consular attention where that person's consent cannot be obtained(for example physical or psychiatric incapacity).
Disclosure of that kind occurs rarely and only where there are compelling health or humanitarian grounds, or where it becomes necessary to confirm the arrest and imprisonment of a person overseas.
For example, if you became seriously ill overseas and either were not capable of giving your consent or refused consent while not being in a rational state of mind, the department may inform your family or nominated contact if it considers it essential to do so, in your interests or those of your family or nominated contact.
Another example is that where an Australian is arrested or imprisoned overseas and does not consent to disclosure, the department, in response to inquiries from family or other contacts, may confirm, clarify and correct information already published in the news media.
Also, if your family or nominated contact asks the department about your welfare and whereabouts overseas and you don't wish to tell them, the department may disclose to them that it has made contact with but that you don't wish any more information passed on.
In all their dealings with you, the consular officers of the department will do their utmost to respect your privacy and will always try to obtain your informed consent to disclosure.
The full text of the Privacy Commissioner's limited waiver affecting consular work (Public Interest Determination No. 7 under the Privacy Act) can be found at the Privacy Commissioner's website.