Public Interest Disclosures

Guidelines for disclosers (whistleblowers)

Murrindindi Shire Council commits to a culture of integrity, transparency and accountability for our staff and our community. Council will implement and promote the recent changes in legislation that will aid the process of receiving and managing Public Interest Disclosures.

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 requires Council to maintain internal processes that facilitate disclosures, effectively manage the receipt of information (a disclosure) and provide protection for all parties who may be involved.

This quick reference guide has been developed to give you an overview of what constitutes a Public Interest Disclosure, how to report an act of improper conduct (e.g. corruption) or detrimental action (e.g. reprisal for making a disclosure) and how we can protect you for providing such information.

Click here(PDF, 70KB) to view our current Public Interest Disclosure Policy.

What is a ‘Public Interest Disclosure?

A Public Interest Disclosure (previously known as protected disclosure or whistleblowing) is the provision of information made confidentially and to an authorised agency by someone who believes an act of improper conduct or detrimental action may have occurred, is occurring or is likely to occur.

Public Interest Disclosures may relate to improper conduct or detrimental action by Council as an organisation or Council representatives, including Councillors.

A Public Interest Disclosure is NOT:

  • disclosing information that you know is false or misleading; or
  • making a public comment on social media, TV, radio such as “I know Officer X is corrupt”

How does Council treat 'Public Interest Disclosures'?

Council does not tolerate any act of improper conduct by the organisation and Council representatives nor the taking of detrimental action (reprisals) against those who come forward to disclose such conduct.

Council representatives and members of the public are encouraged to report known or suspected incidences of this nature to ensure such conduct never becomes part of the organisation’s culture.

Council will take all reasonable steps to protect people who make such disclosures from any detrimental action (reprisal) for making the disclosure. We will also afford natural justice to the person or entity who is the subject of the disclosure.

Who can make a disclosure?

  • Any person or group of persons (but not businesses) can make a disclosure.
  • Public Interest Disclosures may also be made by Council representatives.

How do I make a 'Public Interest Disclosure'?

In order to receive protection under the Act, you need to ensure you make the disclosure to an authorised agency and person.

Murrindindi Shire Council is an authorised agency to receive public interest disclosures about Council representatives. However, disclosures about  Councillors should be made directly to IBAC or the Victorian Ombudsman.

The Act provides that a person may make a disclosure:

  • in person or by phone;
  • in writing;
  • electronically; or
  • anonymously (please note Council would not be able to protect a person under the Act if the disclosure is made anonymously) 

Any disclosures sent by email or letter should be marked ‘Confidential – for addressee eyes only’.

Disclosures not related to Murrindindi Shire Council will be redirected to the appropriate agency on your behalf.

Who do I contact?

Murrindindi Shire Council

Disclosures can be made confidentially addressed to the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator:

  • Michael Chesworth, Director Corporate & Shared Services

    By post: PO Box 138, Alexandra Victoria 3714

    By email: disclosures@murrindindi.vic.gov.au

    Direct phone: (03) 5772 0335

    Mobile: 0408 576 588

    In-person: 28 Perkins Street Alexandra 3714

    If the allegation is about the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator or they are not available at the time of reporting, the disclosure may be made to the Public Interest Disclosure Officer:

  • Tara Carter, Manager Governance & Risk

     By post: PO Box 138, Alexandra Victoria 3714         

     By email: tcarter@murrindindi.vic.gov.au    

     Direct phone: (03) 5772 0396    

     Mobile: 0429 878 041

     In-person: 28 Perkins Street Alexandra 3714

Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC)

Online: IBAC online complaint form

Address: IBAC, GP Box 24234, Melbourne Victoria 3000

Internet: www.ibac.vic.gov.au

Phone: 1300 735 135

All disclosures about Councillors should be made directly to IBAC for investigation.

Victorian Ombudsman (VO)

Address: Level 9, North Tower - 459 Collins Street, Melbourne Victoria 3000

Telephone: 03 9613 6222

For regional calls: 1800 806 314

Email: ombudvic@ombudsman.vic.gov.au

What happens next?

If the disclosure is deemed a Public Interest Disclosure:

Council will assess the matter and notify IBAC within 28 days of receiving the disclosure providing them with all the relevant information and documents for the investigation. You will be kept informed of the progress of your disclosure, and the time frames that may apply for the investigation.

We will also discuss with you the welfare support that Council will provide, for example appointing a welfare manager in line with the IBAC guidelines for public interest disclosure welfare management. Council will also take all reasonable steps to protect you from reprisal against you for making the disclosure.

If the disclosure is NOT a Public Interest Disclosure:

We will notify you of this decision in writing within 28 days of receiving the disclosure (providing we have your contact details). Council may investigate the matter internally and take action in line with the appropriate legislative instrument, Code of Conduct and internal policies and procedures relevant to the allegation made.

Whilst Council will treat all disclosures and allegations very seriously, it is important to note that the malicious and intentional disclosure of false information is an offence under the Act and substantial penalties may apply. 

What are my protections if I come forward to make a disclosure?

The Act has strong provisions in place to ensure disclosers are protected from:

  • being fired, disciplined or bullied for making a disclosure;
  • being subject to any civil or criminal liability for making a disclosure;
  • committing an offence against the Constitution Act 1975 or any other Act that imposes obligations of confidentiality or any other restriction on the disclosure of information;
  • breaching any other obligation (made by oath, rule of law or practice) requiring him or her to maintain confidentiality or otherwise restrict confidentiality; and
  • being held liable for defamation in relation to information included in a public interest disclosure.

Your responsibilities

You must not take detrimental action against another person in reprisal for a public interest disclosure and, if you have been involved in the improper conduct or detrimental action which is the subject of your disclosure, you will still be held liable for your own involvement. Making a disclosure does not provide you with immunity for your own wrongdoing.

You must not divulge the content of your disclosure to anyone unless they are authorised under the Act. Failing to maintain the confidentiality of your disclosure can jeopardise your protections under the Act.

What if a Public Interest Disclosure is against me?

Council will afford you natural justice and will offer you the welfare and support that may be necessary during the investigation.

Whether the investigation was undertaken as a Public Interest Disclosure or not, Council will follow the provisions in the Act and any relevant legislation, policy or procedure to protect your identity and confidentiality.

IBAC Guidelines

For further information and resources on the updated scheme, including guides and videos on the process, protections and confidentiality requirements for those making a Public Interest Disclosure can be found here.