Victoria's integrity system received a significant boost following reforms to public interest disclosure (whistleblower) legislation which came into effect in January. It's now easier and safer to disclose wrongdoing and misconduct in public office.
Under the new system the term ‘protected disclosures’ has been replaced by 'public interest disclosures' (PIDs). The change in terminology aligns Victoria with other states and territories and supports the reporting of wrongdoing.
People who make genuine public interest disclosures will receive improved protections, in addition to the existing protections, to keep their identity confidential and safeguard them against bullying, harassment or legal action.
There is now a broader definition of improper conduct, including serious professional misconduct, meaning that a wider range of conduct can now be reported as a public interest disclosure.
Public interest disclosures can be made by anyone, including members of the public, state and local government employees, police officers or consultants and contractors employed by the public sector. However, disclosures must be made to an organisation that is authorised to receive them, such as a local council or government body.
A new feature of the scheme is a ‘no wrong’ door approach. This means that if a complaint is made to an agency that is not responsible for handling that particular public interest disclosure, the complaint will be referred to the appropriate agency without the process having to start again. In these cases, the disclosure’s identity will also be protected.
Most government agencies have an appointed representative, known as a PID Coordinator, trained to provide information and support for persons making a public interest disclosure. People wishing to disclose improper conduct can contact the relevant government agency’s PID Coordinator, or IBAC.
In recent months, IBAC has provided information seminars to help public sector agencies understand the changes and put in place appropriate PID policies. New and updated information resources are available on the public interest disclosure page of IBAC's website, including information for PID Coordinators, fact sheets for the public, along with a list of public sector organisations who can receive PIDs.