IBAC Insights (newsletter)

Commissioner's message

It has been a pleasure to return to lead the organisation and continue my longstanding professional involvement with Victoria’s integrity system.

I previously worked at IBAC in its early days as Victoria's newly created, independent anti-corruption commission and my role included establishing and leading the organisation’s then legal and compliance division.

As might be expected, a lot has changed for IBAC – and indeed for the Victorian community and the national integrity landscape – since that time. What has not changed is the organisation’s commitment to its core functions to prevent and expose public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria.

It’s a significant mandate and I feel privileged to now be its custodian. I’m acutely aware that the ongoing success of IBAC depends on whole-of-organisation support and effective engagement with the Victorian community, both of which I am committed to maintaining and enhancing.

In embracing what’s to come as IBAC Commissioner, I will draw on my experience and passion for integrity and law enforcement. This includes the seven years I recently spent as the Deputy Public Interest Monitor at the Office of the Public Interest Monitor, where part of my role was to assess the merits of court applications made by law enforcement and integrity agencies, such as IBAC, to determine if they were in the public interest.

Fortunately, I have the support of the organisation’s highly capable executive team and the expertise and dedication of IBAC’s workforce more generally.

Having already met with many of IBAC's key external stakeholders, I am buoyed by the number of collaborative relationships the organisation enjoys, including among fellow integrity agencies.

I look forward to engaging with many more of you over the coming months, as, together, we continue the fight against public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria.

Appointments of Victorian Ombudsman and NACC Deputy Commissioner

In recognising our skilled executive team, I wish to use this opportunity to congratulate our former CEO Marlo Baragwanath on her appointment as Victorian Ombudsman which she commenced on Tuesday 2 April. Marlo has been an instrumental and inspirational CEO at IBAC and Victorians are privileged to have her as their Ombudsman.

In addition, in February Kylie Kilgour became a Deputy Commissioner at the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC). Kylie had been IBAC Deputy Commissioner since January 2021. She significantly contributed to the success of IBAC, particularly through her dedication to, and focus on, all aspects of IBAC’s police jurisdiction.

I’m very pleased both will remain in such critical leadership roles within Australia’s integrity system.

Oversight of Victoria Police in 2023

IBAC plays an important and significant role in police oversight in Victoria. Broadly, IBAC’s oversight role includes receiving and assessing complaints about the conduct of police personnel, reviewing outcomes of Victoria Police internal investigations, conducting investigations into serious or systemic police misconduct, and overseeing Victoria Police’s compliance with five Acts of Parliament. 

Alongside our police oversight function, IBAC works with Victoria Police to build and maintain a strong integrity culture. 

Recently we released our annual snapshot of IBAC's police oversight work for the 2023 calendar year. Significantly, we assessed over 4000 allegations about Victoria Police in 2023, which represented 58 per cent of all complaints received by IBAC. We also commenced 23 preliminary inquiries and investigations and finalised a total of 15.

Focused Police Complaints Pilot

In recognising the intersection of vulnerable people and police, IBAC is piloting a dedicated team to assess and investigate single incident complaints about police misconduct from community members at a higher risk of police misconduct occurring. 

This group includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, the LGBTIQA+ community, culturally and linguistically diverse community members, people aged under 25 years, those experiencing mental illness or people living with disability. IBAC’s Focused Police Complaints team will ensure IBAC is responding effectively to complaints about police misconduct by vulnerable community members and will improve efficiencies around these complaints.

The types of single incident complaints that we’re assessing as part of the pilot include situations where: an officer uses force excessively on a person; an officer treats someone unfairly based on their race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or age; an officer covers up misconduct or charges a victim of police misconduct with an offence to divert attention from, or justify, the misconduct; or an officer on or off duty misuses their position to intimidate or exploit someone.

We know from consultations with members of these communities that the length of time it takes IBAC to conduct investigations, and sometimes the lack of communication felt by people who have made a complaint, were areas of concern. Those are the types of issues we’re trying to improve by undertaking this pilot.

IBAC will provide updates on the progress of the pilot as it continues.

Police use of capsicum (OC) spray

Yesterday, IBAC released a thematic review summary into Victoria Police’s use of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray, which assessed 15 investigations conducted by Victoria Police involving the use of OC spray between January 2020 and March 2022. IBAC identified issues with all 15 investigations – significantly nine were not of the expected standard. Following this review, we’ve made recommendations to Victoria Police including refresher training and updated policies to provide advice on psychological and physical injuries that OC spray can cause. IBAC continues to work with Victoria Police to oversight and monitor this important issue.

Preventing public sector corruption

We rely on all public sector employees to make good decisions, which are in the public interest, and to identify and prevent corruption risks as they arise. 

IBAC plays an important role in supporting the public sector to do so through our prevention, education, and engagement activities. 

While IBAC’s prevention and education work is lesser known than our investigations, it is a core part of what we do and shapes our approach to how we share information. We publish significant information about our operations and activities in annual reports, special reports, and our educational materials, and are continually looking for ways to provide more information to the public.

Our vision is a public sector and police that act with integrity for all Victorians. The more Victorians that know about corruption, understand how it impacts them personally and believe that institutions are responsible for preventing corrupt conduct, the closer we can get to this goal.

Sector profiles and learning resources

As part of our prevention work, in 2023, IBAC released five public sector profiles – police, local government, transport, education and human services – to specifically focus on our corruption prevention activities and inform sector leaders about the key corruption risks and main vulnerabilities.

These profiles were developed using data collected from allegations, investigations, and our corruption prevention work and we engaged with people within each sector to understand what information would help them respond better. These are the first of 15 government sectors to be covered in future prevention work.

In addition, we have released a series of online learning modules to raise awareness of key corruption risks in the public sector and how to identify them. These 20-minute interactive resources are aimed at Victorian public service and local government employees, as well as police personnel, and cover important themes including conflicts of interest and procurement, as well as information on IBAC and the Victorian integrity system.

Before I sign off, I wanted to take this opportunity to reaffirm my commitment to the Victorian community and the public sector. When I was sworn in as Commissioner of IBAC, I took an oath to perform the duties of Commissioner faithfully and impartially. This is a responsibility I take very seriously, and I will work tirelessly to ensure Victoria’s integrity is strengthened and the community can have faith in our institutions.

Victoria Elliott