Public Interest Disclosures
The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 (the Act) ensures that people who report improper conduct and corruption in the Victorian public sector (whistleblowers) can do so in the knowledge that they will be protected.
Protections include keeping the identity of the person reporting improper conduct confidential and protecting them from reprisals including bullying, harassment or legal action.
What is a Public Interest Disclosure?
The Act enables anyone to make a disclosure about ‘improper conduct’ or ‘detrimental action’ by a public officer or public body.
Improper conduct must be either criminal conduct or conduct serious enough to result in a person’s dismissal.
Detrimental action is an offence under the Act and includes harassment or discrimination, or other adverse action taken against the discloser in reprisal for having reported the alleged improper conduct.
People seeking protection under the Act should carefully consider whether their complaint meets these basic thresholds before reporting.
All Victorian state government departments, administrative offices and local councils have a Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator who is responsible for receiving and handling reports of improper conduct from employees or members of the public and ensuring that support and welfare protection is provided to them.
A Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator must keep all potential public disclosure complaints confidential and refer them to IBAC for assessment.
If a person makes a disclosure about corruption or improper conduct to a Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator (PIDC), the discloser’s identity must be kept confidential. The discloser could also be entitled to other protections such as immunity from liability in legal proceedings, or protection from reprisals should their identity become known.
How do I make a Public Interest Disclosure?
Any person whether an employee or member of the public who has reasonable grounds for believing that improper or corrupt conduct has occurred may make a Public Interest Disclosure.
Public Interest Disclosures relating to Council employees
Public Interest Disclosures may be submitted:
- In writing
Public Interest Disclosures regarding City of Ballarat employees should be addressed confidentially to the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator:
In the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator's absence please contact one of the Public Interest Disclosure Officers:
Public Interest Disclosures relating to Councillors
Public Interest Disclosures in relation to Councillors need to be made directly to the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC):
Protection once a Public Interest Disclosure is made
Council will take all reasonable steps to protect a person who makes a public interest disclosure.
All correspondence, phone calls and emails from persons making a public interest disclosure are referred to the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator or a Public Interest Disclosure Officer.
The Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator or Officer will take all necessary steps to ensure that the identity of the person making a public interest disclosure and the person who is subject of the disclosure are kept confidential. Where necessary, the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator or Officer will arrange for appropriate welfare support for the person making a public interest disclosure.
If the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator or Public Interest Disclosure Officer determines that the complaint is a Public Interest Disclosure, Council will notify the IBAC within 28 days of receiving the complaint for IBAC assessment. The person making the complaint will be kept informed of action taken in relation to their disclosure, and the time frames that apply.
Public Interest Disclosure process
The Council will:
- Promptly provide an acknowledgement of the public interest disclosure
- Make any initial inquiries deemed necessary
- Make a determination whether the complaint is covered by the provisions of the Act.
If the information is determined to be a Public Interest Disclosure, or if the complainant requests protection, or the Public Interest Disclosure Coordinator considers they should have protection, the complainant is entitled to the protection provided by the Act.
The matter will be referred to the IBAC for consideration of the evidence and will confirm whether the allegation represents a Public Interest Disclosure.
The IBAC will also determine who will undertake the investigation of the allegation(s) made. If the information is determined not to be a public interest disclosure the complainant will be advised.
For further information, read our Public Interest Disclosure Procedure.