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Public Interest Disclosures and Whistleblower Protection

In December 2012 the Victorian Government established the Independent Broad Based Anti–Corruption Commission (IBAC) to combat corruption in Victorian public agencies.

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 creates a framework for the reporting of improper conduct by public officers or public bodies. The Act provides protection against detrimental action.

Additionally, in 2019 the Commonwealth Government amended the Corporations Act to provide additional protections for whistleblowers in the corporate sector. State Trustees is covered by both the state and federal regimes.

State Trustees is committed to encouraging and facilitating the making of disclosures of improper conduct or detrimental action taken by State Trustees employees, contractors or service providers.

If you want additional information on how to make a protected disclosure, contact the Independent Broad Based Anti-Corruption Commission.

Phone: 1300 735 135
Fax: (03) 8635 6444
Street address: Level 1, North Tower,
459 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Postal address: GPO Box 24234, Melbourne, VIC 3001 or
Website: http://www.ibac.vic.gov.au

Whistleblower Protection and Public Interest Disclosures Policy

Whistleblower Protection and Public Interest Disclosures Policy – Simple English


Whistleblower Protection and Public Interest Disclosures Policy

State Trustees has no tolerance for fraud or corruption. State Trustees promotes an environment where employees and external parties are encouraged to constructively raise problems and concerns without fear of retribution.

As far as the law allows, State Trustees aims for a ‘no wrong door’ approach where all those who disclose misconduct or corrupt conduct in good faith will have their confidentiality protected and their disclosure investigated.

Whistleblower-protection laws are an important safeguard to encourage the reporting of conduct that appears improper or corrupt.

Information About This Policy

Purpose: This policy outlines how State Trustees complies with Commonwealth and state laws to protect those who make disclosures of misconduct and corrupt conduct in the public interest and how State Trustees manages disclosures by or against its employees or directors.

Scope: This policy applies to both State Trustees Limited and STL Financial Services Limited (referred to collectively in this policy as ‘State Trustees’, ‘we’ and ‘us’). It applies to all people who make a disclosure of misconduct or corrupt conduct in good faith, either internally to State Trustees or to the Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).

Summary

What can I make a disclosure about?

  • Corrupt conduct, such as taking bribes or stealing corporate funds.
  • A criminal offence Serious professional misconduct.
  • Dishonest performance of public functions.
  • An intentional or reckless breach of public trust.
  • An intentional or reckless misuse of information.
  • Substantial mismanagement of public resources.
  • A substantial risk to health or safety of a person.
  • A substantial risk to the environment.
  • Conduct of any person that adversely affects the honest performance by a public officer of their functions.
  • Conduct of any person that is intended to adversely affect the effective performance by a public officer of their functions for the benefit of the other person.
    The protections under the law do not, however, cover trivial matters.

Who can I make a disclosure to?• The Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).
• A State Trustees director.
• A State Trustees manager.
• The company secretary.
• The Public Interest Disclosures Co-ordinator.
• The Client Feedback Manager.What protections will I get?• State Trustees will protect your confidentiality unless the law requires us to release it.
• You will be protected from detrimental action and victimisation. You will not be disadvantaged for making the disclosure, but if you are a State Trustees employee, you may still face consequences for your own misconduct or underperformance.
• State Trustees will manage your welfare.
• State Trustees will investigate your matter.
• You have the right to make a public interest disclosure to IBAC, an independent body.


Explanation

1. What whistleblower-protection laws apply to State Trustees?

State Trustees is subject to two whistleblower-protection regimes: a State regime and a Commonwealth regime.  The two regimes have some important differences, which are explained in more detail below.

The Victorian regime is established by the Public Interest Disclosures Act 2012 (Vic) (PID Act), formerly the Protected Disclosures Act 2012 (Vic).

The main provisions of the Commonwealth regime are found in Part 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cwth).

In this policy:

  • unless the context indicates otherwise:
    • Pt 9.4AAA means the provisions of the Commonwealth whistleblower regime (including but not limited to Pt 9.4AAA of the Corporations Act 2001);
    • disclosure means a disclosure attracting the protections of the PID Act and/or Pt 9.4AAA; and
  • The PID Act and Pt 9.4AAA are referred to, collectively, as the ‘Whistleblower Provisions’.

2. In what circumstances would I have the protection of the Whistleblower Provisions when disclosing improper conduct?

If you become aware of conduct that you believe is misconduct, corruption, or breaking of the law within State Trustees or among its contracted service providers, then you may report it:

  • Internally, to: a director, senior manager, the public interest disclosures co-ordinator, or the client complaints manager.
  • Externally, to the Victorian Independent Broad-Based Anti-Corruption Commission (IBAC).

IBAC Contact details

Phone: 1300 735 135

Fax: (03) 8635 6444

Post: IBAC, GPO Box 24234, Melbourne, VIC, 3000

Web: www.ibac.vic.gov.au

Regardless of whether you make the disclosure internally or externally, you will receive certain legal protections. State Trustees will be obliged to protect your confidentiality and protect you from retribution or victimisation for making the disclosure.

However, for your disclosure to be a public interest disclosure under Victorian law, you must make your disclosure to IBAC.

If you report corrupt conduct to State Trustees, State Trustees may be under a legal obligation to report it to IBAC.

Regardless of whether you make the disclosure internally or externally, you may choose to remain anonymous. However, this may make it harder to investigate your disclosure.

More information on making a public interest disclosure to IBAC, including the type of misconduct which can be disclosed, how a disclosure may be made, and how IBAC will handle a disclosure, may be found on the IBAC website.

3. What will happen if I make a disclosure of misconduct or an improper state of affairs to State Trustees?

State Trustees is committed to identifying and dealing with misconduct or an improper state of affairs within the organisation.

If you make a disclosure of improper conduct to State Trustees, we will advise you of your right to make a report to IBAC and receive the protections of the PID Act.

If you make a disclosure of misconduct or an improper state of affairs, the person to whom you make the disclosure may ask for your consent to on-disclose to one or more of parties who can assist in properly managing or dealing with the disclosure, such as:

  • Our Corporate Legal team, for advice
  • Our Audit, Risk and Compliance team, to investigate the matter
  • Our People and Culture team, to discuss how best to manage your welfare

State Trustees will investigate all allegations of improper conduct that are not frivolous or vexatious in accordance with its internal procedures and policies.

4. How will State Trustees protect my confidentiality if I make a disclosure?

 If you make a disclosure of misconduct or an improper state of affairs to State Trustees, we will only disclose your identity:

  • As you consent
  • For the purposes of seeking legal advice
  • To a regulator such as ASIC
  • In accordance with law

If you make a public interest disclosure to IBAC, and IBAC provides your identity to us, then we will not on-disclose it except as required by law.

If you make a public interest disclosure to IBAC, you must not publicly disclose that your disclosure has been assessed as a public interest disclosure, or that their disclosure is to be investigated by IBAC or referred to another investigating entity.

State Trustees aims to foster an environment where people have confidence in calling out, in good faith, suspected or actual improper or corrupt conduct, whether or not the protections of the Whistleblower Provisions apply in the given circumstances.

5. Will I be protected from detrimental action and victimisation if I make a disclosure?

People who make a disclosure, regardless of whether or not they are a director, employee, contractor, service provider or client of State Trustees, are protected from detrimental action and victimisation as a result of making a disclosure and may not be sued in defamation regarding the disclosure. Detrimental action or victimisation may itself be subject to a disclosure, and may be a criminal offence.

Detrimental action or victimisation may include:

  • Action causing injury, loss or damage.
  • Intimidation or harassment.
  • Discrimination, disadvantage or adverse treatment in relation to a person’s employment or career, including the taking of disciplinary action.
  • The demotion, transfer, or isolation in the workplace of an employee due to the making of a disclosure.
  • The direct or indirect abuse or harassment of the person making a disclosure or his or her family or friends.
  • Discrimination against the person making the disclosure or his or her family and friends in subsequent applications for jobs, permits or tenders.

Detrimental action or victimisation does not include legitimate management action, for example, disciplining an employee for misconduct or placing them on performance management due to their work performance.

State Trustees may report detrimental action to IBAC or to the Police if it is serious enough.

People who make disclosures about themselves are still liable for their own misconduct.

State Trustees will proactively manage the risk of detrimental action and document the measures it has taken.

6. How will State Trustees manage my welfare if I make a disclosure?

State Trustees management is responsible for ensuring that persons making a disclosure are protected from direct and indirect detrimental action, and maintaining a workplace culture that is supportive of disclosures of misconduct and improper conduct being made.

State Trustees may — with the consent of the person making a disclosure — appoint a Welfare Manager to monitor the needs of the person making a disclosure, regardless of whether they are internal or external to the organisation, and to provide advice and support. The Welfare Manager may also be required to manage the needs of friends, family or associates of the discloser, as well as witnesses and other people involved in an investigation as appropriate. A Welfare Manager will only be required where a public interest disclosure proceeds to investigation.

The Welfare Manager should be a person that:

  • In the event of a disclosure from a person within State Trustees, is close enough in the organisation to that person to be able to maintain supervision of their welfare needs.
  • Has sufficient authority within State Trustees to protect them and report any instances of detrimental action.
  • Is not the subject of the disclosure or otherwise involved in the investigation.
  • Is familiar with the legal regime and is able to advise the discloser on what is likely to happen.

The role of the State Trustees Welfare Manager is to:

  • Examine the immediate welfare and protection needs of a person making a disclosure and seek to foster a supportive work environment.
  • Advise the person making the disclosure of the legislative and administrative protections available to him or her.
  • Listen and respond to any concerns of harassment, intimidation or victimisation in reprisal for making the disclosure.
  • Keep a contemporaneous record of all aspects of the case management of the person making a public interest disclosure, including all contact and follow-up action.
  • Endeavour to ensure that the expectations of the person making the disclosure are realistic.

A State Trustees Welfare Manager must not divulge any details relating to the disclosed matter to any person other than the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator, the investigator, or the Chief Executive Officer. All meetings with the Welfare Manager and the person making the public interest disclosure must be conducted discreetly to protect the confidentiality of the person making a public interest disclosure.

STL may choose to engage an external welfare management organisation, such as Courtpsych.

7. How will State Trustees manage my welfare if someone makes a disclosure about me?

State Trustees recognises that employees against whom disclosures are made must also be supported during the handling and investigation of disclosures and will provide welfare support to them during the handling and investigation of a disclosure as the circumstances require.

State Trustees will only disclose information about the subject of a disclosure in accordance with the law.

Where the investigation does not substantiate the allegations made in a disclosure, the fact that the investigation has been carried out, the results of the investigation, and the identity of the person who is the subject of the disclosure will remain confidential.

A Welfare Manager may be appointed for the person against whom the disclosure is made in accordance with section 6 of this policy.

8. Collating and Publishing Statistics

State Trustees is required to include in its Annual Report information on this policy, and the  procedures that support it.

9. Offences 

It is a Criminal Offence to:

  • Take detrimental action against a person who makes a disclosure.
  • Breach the confidentiality of a person who makes a disclosure.
  • Victimise a person who makes a disclosure.
  • Knowingly provide false information with the intention that it be acted on as a public interest disclosure.

State Trustees may be found liable if its employees or officers take detrimental action or victimise a discloser.

It is an offence for the person making a public interest disclosure to IBAC to:

  • Make a false disclosure.
  • Provide false further information.
  • Falsely claim that a disclosure is protected.
  • Disclose that a matter has been notified to IBAC, has been determined to be a public interest disclosure, is being investigated by IBAC, or has been on-referred to another organisation.

10. Public interest disclosures and freedom of Information

Section 78 of the PID Act excludes the application of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 to any document that relates to a disclosure made under the Act. State Trustees should contact IBAC prior to allowing any document to be released which originates from IBAC or relates to a public interest disclosure.

11. Questions and Further Information

 Any questions regarding disclosures may be directed to the Public Interest Disclosures Coordinator or the Client Feedback Manager. The Public interest disclosures Coordinator is also responsible for maintaining this policy.

This policy is to be made available internally and externally.

People external to State Trustees may contact the Client Feedback Manager at (03) 9667 6200 or clientcomplaints@statetrustees.com.au.


Public Interest Disclosures and Whistleblowers Policy v2.8 December 2019

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