In 1994 a small group of local Aboriginal people formed with the vision of providing a meeting place for the Aboriginal Community and promoting visibility for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who live in the Blue Mountains. From that movement the Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre (ACRC) was created. In 1996 ACRC was incorporated and has since been an important part in the lives of many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. ACRC is seen as the generalist Aboriginal Service, a place for all Aboriginal people who call the Blue Mountains Home.
The Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture & Resource Centre provides services and support to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People who permanently or temporarily reside within the Blue Mountains Local Government Area.
The Centre offers services that are culturally appropriate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People or gives culturally supportive referrals to mainstream services.
The Centre also provides outlets and opportunities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People and non-Aboriginal People to learn about Aboriginal culture, history as well as current and past issues that affect our community.
Objectives and Purposes (Section A, Policy 1)
Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre (ACRC) is formed for the following purpose:
- To strengthen, give recognition to and support the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area.
ACRC has the following objectives:
- To acknowledge, appreciate and respect the Gundungarra and Darug People as the Traditional Owners / Custodians of the land, and their respective cultures.
- To provide all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander residents of the Blue Mountains Local Government Area with:
- Access and equity in the provision of services
- Support and assist in overcoming physical and cultural isolation
- A place to share, learn and develop Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, arts, history and heritage.
- To create opportunities for and empower the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community through economic development.
- To build cultural relations between the non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal Community.
- To be proactive in addressing racism and discrimination.
Privacy, Dignity and Confidentiality (Section A, Policy 2)
All Board of Management members, staff, volunteers and students must adhere to the National Privacy Principles, as set out by the Commonwealth Office of the Privacy Commissioner (www.privacy.org.au), and any other relevant legislation to ensure the rights of all participants in the service to privacy and confidentiality are respected. In addition, as health information of clients is collected by individual ACRC services, the NSW Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002* also applies. While there is much consistency between this Act and the National Privacy Principles, where inconsistencies exist, the Commonwealth Act will prevail to the extent of the inconsistency. Please note, the NSW Act is also dealt with in ACRC’s Information and Data Management Policy*.
ACRC’s adherence to some key aspects of both the National and NSW legislation include:
- Privacy and Confidentiality of Clients: (NB: these principles also apply to personal information collected for all people involved with ACRC eg. staff, volunteers, students and Board of Management members):
- ACRC will respect the right of clients, their families, guardians, advocates and friends to privacy and confidentiality.
- ACRC will inform clients and seek their consent before collecting any personal or health information about them. Clients will be advised how this information will be used by ACRC and who else will access it, including requirements under law or specific funding agreements.
- Clients will be informed about their privacy rights and rights of access at or before the time of collection of their personal or health information.
- ACRC will only collect personal and health information for a lawful purpose and by lawful and fair means and not in an unreasonably intrusive way. If it is reasonable and practicable to do so, ACRC will collect personal and health information about a client only from that client. Where not possible, ACRC will take reasonable steps to inform the client about what has been collected, from whom and their rights of access to that information.
- ACRC will only hold information about a client that is necessary to assess the need for assistance and to provide that assistance.
- Where lawful and practicable, clients should be given the option of interacting with ACRC anonymously.
- ACRC must inform clients and groups fully about the limits of confidentiality in any given situation.
- Information held by ACRC on clients must be up-to-date, relevant, non-intrusive and objective, with all reasonable steps taken to correct inaccurate, incomplete or out-of-date information on a regular basis.
- Clients have the right to request and gain access to their personal and health information held by ACRC. ACRC will provide access to this information promptly with costs related to access to the information borne by ACRC.
- When a client requests access to their personal and/or health information, relevant staff will offer to assist the client access this information, explaining terminology, if required, and organising for copies to be made if requested and where appropriate.
- The privacy of other people such as staff, volunteers and other clients must be protected when providing clients with access to their own personal and health information.
- Clients have the right to withhold information for privacy reasons. Clients must be advised of the consequences (if any) for them if all or part of the requested information is not provided.
- Client issues will not be discussed with staff members other than those who need information to ensure that effective support is provided in the execution of their duties. When a staff member utilises external supervision, however, it is acceptable to confidentially discuss details of the case, without identifying the client by name or any other personal information that may reveal the client’s identity.
- Where ACRC clients access more than one ACRC service, staff members will not share personal or health information about clients with other ACRC services, without the client’s consent, except when compelling moral or ethical reasons exist or there is a legal requirement to do so.
- No personal or health information about the client may be given to a third party, including family members or another service, without the client’s consent, except:
- where legislative requirements apply such as subpoena,
- There is an obligation not to conceal a completed or intended crime,
- Duty of care responsibilities and/or legislation require information to be released (e.g. Mandatory reporting on child protection issues),
- Disclosure may be required when in the person’s best interests (e.g: where the person may be at risk of self-harm),
- There may a duty toward a third party who may be in danger,
- A written request is received under the Freedom of Information Act.Service and Staff Information:
- Board of Management members, staff, volunteers and students will respect the confidentiality of all information obtained in the course of service provision or any meetings, and not discuss this information with people outside the service.
- Board of Management members, staff, volunteers and students will not engage in conversation about work related issues outside the working environment.
- The personal details, including address and telephone numbers of Board of Management members, staff, volunteers and students will not be given out to anyone without prior consent being given by the individual concerned.
2.3 Information Management (please also refer to ACRC’s Information and Data Management Policy* for more details).
- ACRC data collection will be conducted in a manner that does not identify the client by name and adheres to the recommended Data Protection Principles of the NSW Privacy Committee and other specific funding requirements. The primary National HACC data collection tool, the Minimum Data Set (MDA) Version 2, has been designed to ensure that it fulfils the relevant legislative requirements.
- All personal and health information (where applicable) about clients, volunteers, students and staff that is held by ACRC will be recorded and made available in ways that respect their rights to privacy, dignity and confidentiality.
- All manual client files are to be kept in a lockable filing cabinet when not in use and electronic files should be secured by password protection.
- Client files (both electronic and manual) may only be accessed by authorised staff members. Volunteers will only be provided with relevant client information that is required for them to provide the agreed service to the client.
- All personal and health information will be protected from unauthorised access, use or disclosure.
- All of ACRC’s staff, volunteer and student records (manual and electronic) will be kept secure, without restricting each worker’s access to his/her particular file or restricting access by the staff that maintain these files.
- Files may leave the office for a genuine work related purpose. The files must be carried in a secure fashion, never left unattended and must be in a non-identifiable format.
- Client files will be maintained as ‘active’ while the client is assisted by ACRC.
- Upon termination of a service, client, staff, volunteer and student files will be securely archived for a period of seven years and then archived.
Limitations and Definitions
This policy refers to complaints received by Aboriginal Culture & Resource Centre (ACRC) from users of the service. It may refer to services provided by ACRC staff, use of facilities and resources or matters concerning the Board of Management. Where complaints, grievances or disputes arise that are initiated by staff or Board of Management members or volunteers, this is dealt with separately in ACRC’s Employment Policies (see Grievance/ Conflict Mediation Policy*).
For the purposes of this policy, the person making the complaint will be referred to as ‘the complainant’.
Please note this policy does not cover situations where a complaint involves abuse or is of a criminal nature. In these situations, the relevant authorities are to be notified immediately. The relevant authority is responsible for investigation and ACRC staff will follow directions as indicated by them. For further information see ACRC’s Child Protection Policy*, Investigating Child protection Allegations Against an Employee or Board of Management Member Policy* and individual service policies.
ACRC is committed to encouraging Aboriginal people to speak up when they have a concern or complaint and respecting their right to make a complaint without fear of retribution. All complainants can expect to have their complaint dealt with by the service in a prompt, fair and equitable manner. Accordingly, when a complaint has been made, all efforts will be made to resolve the issue in a manner that:-
- Is timely, with it being dealt with at the time it arises, or as soon as possible thereafter. ACRC will aim to resolve complaints within a six week time frame, as far as possible, with review time frames included in any agreements reached,
- Is clear, so that complainants have access to and understand how the process works,
- Is flexible, with informal and formal, internal and external options of resolution offered,
- Is accessible. Some complainants may need support, such as advocacy, to help them assert their rights. They have the right to access this support,
- Acknowledges the rights of complainants to access external complaints’ mechanisms. Complainants will be provided with information on the NSW Ombudsman and other relevant agencies,
- Ensures that the views of all involved are seen as having equal validity, unless proven otherwise,
- Ensures the process is non-discriminatory,
- Ensures the complainant feels comfortable to continue to access the service after making a complaint,
- Respects the confidentiality of the complainant and all involved parties, other members of staff, management and other relevant parties,
- Acknowledges that the outcome of resolving a complaint is the improvement of service systems, and relationships between people and thus an improvement in the service. Where re-occurring issues are identified through the complaints process, strategies can be developed to resolve them.
In order for the above to occur, ACRC will ensure relevant staff receive conflict resolution training and are provided with appropriate support in dealing with complaints effectively.
- Provision of information to clients about making a complaint
1.1 Clients are made aware of their right to make a complaint and how to do so by:-
- Clients are given information on the complaints process at the time of entry to the service or within two weeks of entry,
- Written information is provided directly to clients (eg included in Client Handbook) and displayed at ACRC (see Complaints Resolution Flow Chart at Attachment 1),
- Ongoing contact and reviews with clients includes encouragement of feedback about the service including complaints,
- Clients are advised of their rights to have an advocate and that advocates can provide support to the client if they wish to make a complaint (see Client Advocacy Policy*),
- A hard copy of this policy and attached flow chart is available to the client and any other interested party at any time.
- Implementing the Complaints Resolution Procedure
Step 1 Informal procedure relating to facilities or resources – If the complaint relates to maintenance of facilities or resources, details of the complaint are taken by the staff member receiving it using the Complaints Resolution Check List (see Attachment 2), resolved immediately or referred to the Manager for follow-up action.
Step 2 Informal procedure for other easily resolvable matters – Where a complaint is seen to be able to be resolved quickly and informally by discussion between the client and relevant staff member, then this is to be done in the first instance. Where the complaint involves other parties, the staff member will arrange discussions with these people promptly (at the latest within one week of receiving the complaint). If there is no breach of duty of care or breaches of ACRC policies, the staff member will explore options for resolution of the complaint with the client. This could involve provision of information, changes in service routines or procedures, mediation, or other options, depending on the nature of the complaint. Details of the complaint and its resolution are to be noted by the client and the staff member on the Complaints Resolution Check List (see Attachment 2) and filed in the ACRC Complaints File, with a copy placed in the client’s file.
If the complaint involves a member of staff, the person concerned is to continue to work in their normal position, at the discretion of the Manager and depending on the nature of the complaint, whilst the resolution procedure is followed. Where a breach of duty of care is established directly involving staff, this is to be immediately referred to the Disciplinary Action Policy* (complaints directly involving staff).
Step 3 Formal Procedure – If the complaint is not resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned in Step 1 or 2 or the complainant requests to go directly to making a formal complaint, the complainant will be encouraged to write down and sign the complaint. They will also be given a copy of this policy and the Complaints Process Flow Chart, if this has not already been done.
The complainant will be advised they can either write a letter or use the Sample Complaints Record Form (see Attachment 3). They should be advised to seal the complaint in an envelope, mark it as confidential and address it to:-
Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture and Resource Centre,
PO Box 334
If it appears that the complainant will have difficulty in putting the complaint in writing, they shall be assisted to find an appropriate advocate (see Client Advocacy Policy*). Complainants will also be informed that in any of the following procedures, they are entitled to access an advocate or other support person of their choice. They should also be advised of alternative external complaints services such as the NSW Ombudsman.
Step 4 All complaints in the first instance will be referred to the Manager (and/or Board of Management if the complaint refers to the Manager). All complaints will be acknowledged in writing. On receiving the complaint, the Manager (or delegated Board of Management member if Manager is directly involved in complaint) will:-
- Clarify the complaint,
- Identify what the client wants,
- Investigate the information received,
- Interview and confidentially discuss the information with relevant staff,
- Develop strategies for action,
- Ensure regular communication is maintained with the client.
- All agreements reached should be written down on, or attached to the Complaints Record Form. This should include a plan of action and review process with time frames. All parties are requested to sign the agreement, to acknowledge their participation and acceptance.
Step 5 If it does not appear that the complaint can be resolved through discussion between the Manager and people involved with the complaint, the matter should be referred to the Board of Management.The Board of Management may establish a Complaints Sub-Committee which will convene a meeting within fourteen days with the complainant and/or their representative and all other parties involved in the complaint. All members must agree to confidentiality. A copy of the written complaint must be circulated to all parties at least twenty-four hours before the meeting.
Step 6 The Complaints Sub-Committee will work towards a mutually-acceptable resolution of the problem. The Sub-Committee may decide to:
- Schedule more than one meeting to resolve the matter,
- Employ a mediator to assist in the resolution of the matter,
- Refer the matter to the full Board of Management Meeting for resolution,
- Seek legal advice if appropriate. The Board of Management will be consulted before any legal action is taken.
- All meetings of the Complaints Sub-Committee must be minuted and these minutes must be tabled at the following Board of Management meeting. The minutes must list the names of all present, the purpose of the meeting and the outcome. All proceedings of the meeting must be kept confidential unless agreed otherwise by those attending the meeting.
Step 7 If a person on any ACRC Board of Management and/or sub-committee puts in a formal complaint regarding ACRC, they will stand down from that committee until the complaint has been finalised.
Step 8 If no resolution to the satisfaction of all parties has been reached, the complainant will be provided with information on how to access external complaints mechanisms (see contact details of the NSW Ombudsman in the Complaints Resolution Flow Chart).
Step 9 All details of the complaint are to remain confidential, unless a breach of duty of care is involved. The complainant’s permission should be obtained prior to any information being given to other parties, including those people whose involvement may be desirable in order to resolve the complaint.
Step 10 All documentation relating to the complaint (including the Complaints Record Form and minutes of any meetings) must be filed in a locked cabinet to ensure confidentiality is maintained. Copies of the documentation will also be held securely in the client’s file.
Blue Mountains Aboriginal Culture & Resource Centre (ACRC) is committed to providing accurate and relevant information to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and to the whole Blue Mountains community. ACRC is also committed to ensuring that all contact with the media is consistent with its Purpose and Objectives, Code of Ethics, Access and Equity, and funding objectives.
In order to achieve this, the following applies:
- The Board of Management assumes responsibility for all general media contact, unless specifically delegated to the Manager or another representative,
- The Manager is required to read and approve all promotional material, letters and any material to be published (including electronic information), prior to it being distributed or displayed,
- The Board of Management must be consulted and approve any written material which is deemed by the Manager to be controversial.
- In order to ensure ACRC fulfils its Access and Equity obligations, ACRC will undertake the following:
1.1 ACRC will promote activities that are culturally and socially sensitive and relevant to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community.
1.2 ACRC services, events and resources will be promoted as widely as possible within the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community and more broadly using member lists, media avenues (eg. print and electronic media), and Aboriginal and other service networks.
1.3 All ongoing promotional material will be reviewed and updated at least every year or when changes occur to ensure it is current and accurate.
1.4 Information will be provided in a manner that is culturally sensitive, easily understood and in plain English.
For more information, see ACRC’s Access and Equity Policy*.
- The Chairperson of the Board of Management is the media spokesperson for ACRC (unless this role is specifically delegated to the Manager or another representative). Other committee members and staff may only communicate with the media on behalf of ACRC with the authorisations of the Board of Management.
- If committee members or workers at ACRC wish to communicate with the media (eg letters to the editor, media phone conversations) as a private citizen, they are not to use the name of the organisation.
- ACRC letterhead is not to be used except for correspondence on behalf of the organisation. No staff or Board of Management members are to use the letterhead for any other purpose without explicit permission from the Board of Management directly, or via the Manager, or without first submitting a copy of the correspondence to the Board of Management for approval.
- All requests made by the media are to be referred to the Manager who will brief the Board of Management.
- The production of any film, video, audio, print or other media material relating to ACRC and its activities must have the Board of Management’s written approval before it can proceed.
- Standard media releases conducted by ACRC will be conducted by the Manager, but any significant variation to normal media releases are to be drafted and presented to the Board of Management for approval.
- A register of media requests, press releases and media items that refer to ACRC is to be kept by the Manager, noting the media organisation, contact person/reporter, date, issue and context.
- All positions vacant must be advertised as per ACRC’s Staff Recruitment, Selection and Appointment Policy.
- All media work is to be done in writing as a press release, where possible.
- All media releases and promotional material must meet funding requirements (eg acknowledgement of funding body).
- Written permission must also be obtained to use photos or video images depicting individuals or work done (eg. art, stories etc) by people associated with ACRC in any ACRC promotional material (see Attachment 1 for Sample Permission Form).
- Controversial issues must be reported to the Board of Management immediately.