On 9 March 2023, a Whistleblower Disclosure and its supporting documents were tabled in the Australian Federal Parliament (the ‘Disclosure’).
Hillsong Church Australia and Hillsong International (‘Hillsong’) have made enquiries with the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (the ‘OAIC’). We have advised the OAIC of our intention to notify individuals if their personal information is contained within the Disclosure.
Since the initial Disclosure, Hillsong has informed the congregation of the Disclosure on Sunday 12 March 2023, 30 March 2023 and where contact information was available, has sent notices to individuals whose personal information was included within the Disclosure.
If you know, or suspect, your personal information was contained within the Disclosure and have not yet been contacted directly, please read the following for further information or assistance.
On 9 March 2023, Mr Andrew Wilkie MP, a Member of the House of Representatives for the seat of Clarke, tabled papers titled ‘Whistleblower Disclosure – the Hillsong Church Australia Group – October 2022’ by leave of the Federation Chamber. By tabling the Disclosure, documents included in the Disclosure are deemed to be documents on the public record and the tabling of the Disclosure is protected by parliamentary privilege.
On 16 March 2023, the Disclosure was made available to the public on the Parliament of Australia, Tabled Papers webpage. The Disclosure comprised of 11,090 pages, most of which containing confidential information of Hillsong’s and personal information of individuals.
We are truly sorry that this has happened, and we recognise the distress this may have caused.
What is Parliamentary Privilege?
Parliamentary privilege refers to special legal rights and immunities which apply to each House of the Parliament, its committees and members. Parliamentary privilege enables members to raise matters they would not otherwise be able to bring forward without fear of legal prosecution. Meaning that debates and proceedings in parliament cannot be subject to any challenge in court or place outside of parliament. This also extends to documents tabled during debates and proceedings in parliament.
Actions taken by Hillsong in response to the Disclosure
Since becoming aware of Mr Wilkie’s speech on 9 March 2023, Hillsong has taken the following action to reduce the risk of personal information disclosed and the impact on individuals, including:
- Contacting the Table Office department, raising concerns about the type of personal information included within the Disclosure and enquired as to steps the Table Office were taking to de-identify personal information within the Disclosure.
- Upon publication, Hillsong reviewed the Disclosure, identifying the extent to which personal information had been disclosed.
- On 21 March 2023, days after the Disclosure became available, a legal representative of Hillsong presented to Mr Wilkie’s office the extent of personal information disclosed with the intention to reach an agreement for information to be redacted. Mr Wilkie agreed in part to redacting some types of personal information.
- On 23 March 2023 in the House of Representatives, Mr Wilkie was granted leave to withdraw in part, documents tabled on 9 March 2023 and table a revised version containing redactions. This redaction took place within seven days of the Disclosure being made available.
Further steps taken by Hillsong
Hillsong understands the importance of your personal information and is regretful that personal information has formed part of the Disclosure.
Hillsong will continue to conduct a comprehensive review of the Disclosure and will notify you if there are any significant developments. Hillsong has already implemented significant security controls to protect personal information from unauthorised access. As a result of this incident, a review will be conducted of each of those controls, and enhancements made where necessary. As previously mentioned, Hillsong has also notified the OAIC, and we will continue to adhere to any requirements specified by them.
Steps You Can Take Now
Important steps can be taken to help minimise the risk to your personal information, such as:
- Use strong, unique passwords (passphrases) for each online account.
- Be aware of emails and telephone calls from people requesting your personal details especially personal information used to verify your identity.
- Keep your devices updated with the latest software, including antivirus software. Installing software updates will give you the latest security.
- Regularly check your account statements including credit cards, bank statements, telephone and internet bills for possible fraudulent activity.
What to do if you think your identity has been stolen
If you suspect any fraudulent use of your identity, there are some steps you should take:
- Immediately report it to your bank, local police, social media account’s website or other online account that you may be concerned has been hacked into (these sites usually have a ‘Help’ section where you can report fraudulent activity to and seek help).
- Lodge a report with the Australian Cyber Security Centre’s ReportCyber (cyber.gov.au/).
- Change the passwords on your accounts and close any unauthorised accounts.
- Request a credit report from a reputable credit reference bureau. A credit reporting body must give you access to your consumer credit report for free, once every 3 months.
Government advice for you
The Australian Government has provided relevant information and further steps you can take to protect your personal information at www.cyber.gov.au/. There you will find helpful direction on matters such as:
- Common cyber threats
- How to protect yourself and your family
- How to respond if you think you’re a victim of cybercrime.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or distressed, please ask for help. Please call 1300 535 353 or email [email protected] for more details.
You can also contact your GP for a mental health plan or public support services, such as:
- Beyond Blue – call 1300 224 636 or see beyondblue.org.au for more details.
- Lifeline – call 13 11 14 or see lifeline.org.au for more details.
If you require further information or assistance regarding this notification, please contact [email protected].