Bulletin 41 - The use of closed circuit cameras (CCTV)

Legal Issues Bulletin 41 - The use of closed circuit television (CCTV)

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The role of CCTV

Schools, institutes and offices generally use CCTV in one of three ways, all of which are considered overt surveillance:

  • monitoring premises for after-hours security
  • monitoring premises during the course of the working day for added security
  • monitoring sick bays and student time-out rooms or other specific areas in schools.

Responsibility for arranging CCTV

After-hours surveillance of schools is the responsibility of the School Security Unit at Blacktown. Recently built schools have CCTV in clinics and secondary libraries consistent with School Facilities Standards. Any other surveillance of school, institute or DET office premises is generally the responsibility of the principal, institute manager or relevant director.

The use of CCTV systems

The use of CCTV in the workplace is covered by the Workplace Surveillance ("the Surveillance") Act 2005. The Surveillance Act recognises two broad types of surveillance of the workplace - covert and non-covert (i.e. overt). "Workplace" means any part of a place where people work. The Surveillance Act applies not only to the employee's usual worksite but also to any other place at which they might work.

If covert surveillance is to be carried out, an authority must be obtained from a Local Court Magistrate.

Overt CCTV surveillance?

For surveillance to be considered over, the Surveillance Act provides that:

  • cameras or other equipment that indicate the presence of a video camera must be clearly visible
  • signs notifying people that they may be under video surveillance must be clearly displayed at each entrance to the worksite
  • if the surveillance is not directed to the activities of employees (for example, where the surveillance is directed to the activity of students or visitors), agreement needs to be reached with employees regarding the nature of the surveillance and any subsequent surveillance needs to be in accordance with that agreement and
  • employees at a workplace are taken to have agreed to the surveillance if a body representing a substantial number of the employees has agreed on their behalf.

If an employer:

  • carries out covert video surveillance solely for the purpose of ensuring the security of the workplace or persons in it and
  • there is a real and significant likelihood of the security of the workplace or persons being jeopardised if the surveillance is not carried out

it will not be a breach of the Surveillance Act if employees are surveilled incidentally to that purpose. The employer is obliged to notify employees at the workplace (or a body representing a substantial number of the employees) in writing of both the intended video surveillance and the purpose of the surveillance.

CCTV in toilets and showers

Surveillance of change rooms, locker rooms, toilets, showers and other bathing facilities located in workplaces is prohibited under the Surveillance Act.

Legal obligations under the Surveillance Act

If principals, institute managers or office managers believe that overt video surveillance of a school, institute or office is necessary during the course of the working day for security reasons, the Surveillance Act requires the following action to be taken:

  • Employees and students should be advised of the details of the surveillance. This includes information concerning the how the surveillance will be carried out, areas to be watched, when the surveillance will commence, whether it will be continuous or intermittent and how long it will continue.
  • At least fourteen (14) days notice must be given to employees before any surveillance commences unless a shorter period is agreed to. If new employees are to be engaged after surveillance has commenced, they must be advised of the surveillance before they commence working at the site
  • An agreement should be obtained from the employees or a body representing a substantial number of them before any surveillance starts. Any agreement reached with employees should be in writing.
  • While not an obligation under the Surveillance Act, in relation to schools parents should be advised of the details of the surveillance. This would include advising the school's Parents and Citizens Association and School Council. While the involvement of parent representative bodies should be encouraged and supported, the ultimate responsibility for decisions affecting the safety and security of the school rests with the principal.
  • Appropriate arrangements are to be made for the secure storage of any recorded images made, including how long such images are kept.

Required action before installing overt CCTV

Principals should contact the Department’s School Security Unit to seek expert advice on the installation and use of CCTV surveillance. If surveillance of specific areas within schools, institutes or offices is to occur during the course of the working day, principals, institute managers and directors should seek approval from their relevant school education director or institute director.

If after-hours surveillance is considered necessary for school grounds, principals should contact the Department's School Security Unit for further advice. Institute managers should discuss the issue with their institute director. Managers of corporate units within the Department should discuss it with their director or general manager.

Principals wishing to obtain further information and advice regarding time out rooms or areas, including their establishment and/or surveillance by CCTV, should visit the department's Safety and Security directorate website or contact them on 9672 2000.

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