Ethics legislation and regulations


Swinburne researchers accessing, collecting, retaining, using or disclosing data pertaining to individuals will in some way be covered by various Commonwealth or Victorian legislation or guidelines on privacy of people or their information. The terms “personal information”, “health  information” and “sensitive information” have particular definitions in the legislation and associated Principles.

Also significant is clear language and meaning needed regarding “identifiable”, “re-identifiable”, "potentially identifiable", “non-identifiable” or “de-identified” information or data, eg, “de-identified” can mean temporary removal of names and substitution with codes that permit later rematching of data. Researchers should also take care with “anonymity” (literally no name) and “confidentiality”, eg, the information collected or used may not use names but may still permit someone’s identity to be worked out. At the planning stage, researchers should give due consideration both to the legal and ethical issues involved.

Some guidance is provided within Swinburne’s Privacy guidelines and standards.

As regards applicable legislation or standards, this depends on where the information is being collected or held and in what form, whether held by a Commonwealth agency, a Victorian Public Sector Organisation, a Health Service Provider or a Private Sector body. Some information and links are given here.

  1. Privacy & Related Legislation in Australia
    • Please be alert to applicable privacy and health records legislation nationally and state by state. Further information on the Federal and Victorian contexts below.
  2. Australian Privacy Law - Office of the Australian Information Commissioner
  3. Victorian Privacy Law

Clinical trials

Clinical Trials / Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)

For any research involving Clinical Trials or Innovative Therapy or Intervention, see Chapter 3.3 of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct In Human Research (2007) (2018)

See also the following documents:

Clinical Trials Registration (Australia/International)

Swinburne researchers are obliged to register all clinical trials with a recognised clinical trials registry promoting accessing to information about clinical trials. Registration needs to occur prior to commencement of a trial. The leading registry in Australia is:

Research in schools

Research in Schools (Primary, Secondary, and Special)

To undertake research in recognised schools, researchers have first to establish what prior authority is required to approach or involve schools.

In the case of Victorian Government schools, prior ‘in principle’ Departmental approval is required before Principals can be approached to involve any staff or students.

A not dissimilar arrangement pertains to Melbourne Catholic Diocesan schools with prior approval from the Director of the Catholic Education Office.

Please note: There are some exceptions to procedures for Government and Catholic schools, eg, whether a student researcher is also a staff member of a particular school. However, the required proper procedure should be established early when planning to undertake research in schools.

In the case of independent schools, researchers usually can seek approval in the first instance from the head of school.

Indigenous peoples

Research Involving Indigenous Peoples

Proposals for research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples should be developed in respectful consultation with leaders and/or members of the communities concerned and in light of the following guidelines (as applicable):

  1. Health and Other Research:
  2. NHMRC Health Research:
  3. Social and Cultural Research:
  4. Australia Council for the Arts:

NB Please contact the Research Ethics Officer (+61 3 9214 3845 or as soon as practicable if you are considering or proposing research involving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (or other Indigenous) Peoples in case additional requirements have to be met. All proposals significantly involving Indigenous Australians require ethical review by SUHREC, with extra-Committee confidential advice obtained as appropriate.

Proposals for research involving overseas Indigenous or First Nations Peoples should take note of applicable guidelines issued within the relevant jurisdiction.