Teacher journal archive (2008-2011)

Article Title

Keeping students safe : photographs and privacy laws in Australia


What are the legal rights and protections available to students? In the first of a two-part series, the author explains the law in relation to unauthorised photographs. In 2005, Philip Ruddock, then Commonwealth Attorney-General, was considering new laws to prohibit voyeuristic photography of children. It is worth considering exactly how the current laws relate to unauthorised photography, as well as considering the proposed law reform and the approaches of other common law countries. The Attorneys-General note, in a discussion paper on the issue, that it would be inappropriate to amend Australian copyright laws since these protect the intellectual property in a creative endeavour and can only provide remedies for acts connected to infringements of intellectual property rights. As an alternative, the Attorneys-General suggest that, for example, a Commissioner for Children be given the role of protecting children's reasonable interests with regard to unauthorised photographs. In this article, the author first examines the legal aspects of the right to privacy and the right not to be photographed, then questions whether there is currently protection under the Privacy Act in relation to unauthorised photographs, and concludes there is not, nor is there under common law. He then outlines protection currently available under criminal law in Victoria and New South Wales, with reference also to the criminal codes in New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom, before discussing the proposals put forward by the Attorneys-General. [Author abstract, ed]