Ethics, confidentiality and disclosure​

You'll need policies in place to handle participants' confidentiality, gain their consent to participate, and handle any disclosures that may occur.

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  • Collecting personal information 

    If you’re collecting personal information from participants, you'll need to follow principles in the Privacy Act. Always try to minimise collecting identifying information.

    Overview of the Privacy Act principles

    Publishing evaluations and reports

    If you're producing an evaluation or report about your activity, make sure you:

    • collect data anonymously whenever you can
    • remove and destroy information that identifies participants as soon as possible
    • keep your data in a secure place and only give access to those who need it.

    Evaluations and reports shouldn't contain any information that could be used to identify an individual.

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    Consent to participate

  • Before your activity starts, you need to check that participants have consented to take part (or that parents, caregivers or another trusted adult have been asked for consent) on either an opt-in or opt-out basis.

    When working with people from Māori communities and other cultural groups with group and family-based organisational structures, you might also want to seek consent from wider communities and whānau.

    Opt-in consent

    Opt-in consent involves asking participants to participate in an activity.

    Pros of 'opt-in' consent

    • Aligns with the principle that consent should be freely given.
    • Ethical consent can be easier to obtain.

    Cons of 'opt-in' consent

    • Lower participation rates.
    • More participants with fewer 'problems' and lower levels of disadvantage — at-risk people may not opt in.

    Opt-out consent

    Opt-out consent means participants are only excluded if they specifically indicate they're unwilling to take part.

    Pros of opt-out consent

    • Higher participation rates.

    Cons of opt-out consent

    Opt-out approaches are usually more closely scrutinised by ethics committees, so:

    • it's important to justify your method in any grant applications
    • the ethics review process will take longer than for opt-in approaches.
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    Dealing with disclosure

  • You should have a policy in place to deal with any disclosure of sexual abuse that occurs during activity implementation or evaluation.

    The policy should provide evaluators and facilitators with:

    • training on types of disclosure and how to identify when a disclosure is made
    • clear procedures on how to deal with disclosure, including:
      • when specific agencies or people will be used
      • the types of support provided
      • how key parties will be informed, eg schools and family members
    • guidelines for providing ongoing support to participants, family members, and programme staff
    • help to create an atmosphere where people feel free to disclose.


Programmes must be able to adequately deal with any disclosures that occur through the delivery of the programmes (Adair 2006; Wolfe et al., 2006, both cited in Russell, 2008)