Public Interest Disclosures - reporting serious wrongdoing

A public interest disclosure (PID) is a disclosure about serious wrongdoing in the public sector (including education), that serves the public interest. This is sometimes referred to as whistleblowing.

Charles Sturt University fosters and promotes a culture that encourages and supports staff to report serious wrongdoing. This is essential in maintaining the integrity of the University and the public sector. The official framework that protects this proactive culture is:

The Public Interest Disclosure Act 2022 provides multiple pathways to report serious wrongdoing. These includes speaking to a disclosure officer, your manager, and other agencies, such as integrity agencies.

Definition of serious wrongdoing

You are supported and encouraged to make a report when you have reasonable grounds to suspect serious wrongdoing in relation to the University.

Types of serious wrongdoing

Corrupt conduct involves deliberate or intentional wrongdoing involving (or affecting) a public official or agency in NSW. Corrupt conduct includes:

  • conduct of any person that adversely affects, or could adversely affect, either directly or indirectly, the honest or impartial exercise of official functions by any public official, any group or body of public officials, or any agency
  • any conduct of a public official that constitutes or involves the dishonest or partial exercise of any of their official functions
  • any conduct of a public official or former public official that constitutes or involves a breach of public trust
  • any conduct of a public official or former public official that involves the misuse of information or material that they acquired during their official functions, whether for their benefit or for the benefit of any other person.

Serious maladministration is conduct, other than conduct of a trivial nature, of an agency or a public official relating to matter of administration that is unlawful, unreasonable, unjust, oppressive or improperly discriminatory, or based wholly or partly on improper motives. Some examples of serious maladministration include:

  • an agency contravenes legal procurement processes when engaging contractors
  • senior staff fail to deal with multiple reports of toxic materials in government-owned properties over a period of time
  • an agency implements policies and procedures which are contrary to its governing legislation and result in misuse of powers
  • agency procedures are unfairly discriminatory.

A government information contravention is a failure, other than a trivial failure, by an agency or public official to exercise functions in accordance with the:

  • Government Information (Information Commissioner) Act 2009
  • Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act)), or
  • State Records Act 1998 (SR Act).

Examples include destroying, concealing or altering records, knowingly making decisions that are contrary to the GIPA Act, or directing another person to do so.

A privacy contravention is a failure, other than a trivial failure, by an agency or public official to exercise functions in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998 or the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002. 

It applies to a breach of privacy, when secure information or data is stolen, lost, collected, sold, used, or disclosed with authority.

A pecuniary interest is an interest that a person has in a matter because they have a reasonable likelihood, or expectation, of appreciable financial gain or loss to themselves or someone within their family.

A serious and substantial waste of public money includes any uneconomical, inefficient or ineffective use of resources, whether authorised or unauthorised, and which results in a loss of public funds or resources. Examples of waste include:

  • misappropriation or misuse of public property
  • the purchase of unnecessary or inappropriate goods and services
  • incurring costs which might otherwise have been avoided
  • programs not achieving their objectives and therefore the costs being clearly ineffective and inefficient
  • failure to maintain public property in a way that results in far greater expense being incurred in the future.

If a report does not fall in these categories, it may be submitted by another means such as a complaint or grievance. If you are unsure if a specific situation is a PID, you can contact a nominated disclosure officer or the University Ombudsman for advice.

Making a report

Prior to making a report, please ensure you read and understand the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Policy and supporting procedures and guidelines.

Reports will be managed by the appointed staff in accordance with policy and can be made anonymously.

  1. You can make a report via our online reporting system 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
  2. You can make a report directly to your manager or supervisor, or one of the University’s Nominated Disclosure Officers outlined in the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Policy and Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblowing) Procedure.

How to report serious wrongdoing

This video outlines how a public official can report serious wrongdoing and the protections available to them under the new PID Act.

This resource has been provided by the NSW Ombudsman.

Protections for whistleblowing

The PID Act contains special protections for people who make, or may make, a PIDs.

These include:

  • protection from detrimental action — such as bullying, harassment or dismissal
  • protection from civil and criminal liability for making a PID
  • protection from having information which may identify them disclosed.

The protections in the PID Act apply to public officials who make voluntary PIDs. A voluntary PID is when a public official voluntarily makes a report containing information they honestly and on reasonable grounds believe, shows, or tends to show, serious wrongdoing. It must be made to a suitable recipient such as your manager or a disclosure officer.

The PID Act also protects the following people from detrimental action and civil and criminal liability:

  • people who report serious wrongdoing because making that report is an ordinary aspect of their role or function
  • people who make a disclosure of serious wrongdoing because of a statutory or other legal obligation
  • people who disclose information as a witness, during the course of an investigation into serious wrongdoing.

The most effective means to protect someone who makes a PID is to maintain their confidentiality. This means that the person also plays a key role by not talking to anyone about the PID apart from their manager or disclosure officer. Once a disclosure has been assessed as meeting the criteria for a PID, further information will be given to the person including additional support and direction.

Protections in the PID Act

This video outlines special protections for people who make or may make a PID.

This resource has been provided by the NSW Ombudsman.

Requesting a review

If you make a report and believe that the University has made an error by not identifying that you have made a voluntary PID, you should raise this with a nominated disclosure officer or your contact officer for the report. If you are still not satisfied with this outcome, you can seek an internal review, or the University may seek to conciliate the matter. You may also contact the NSW Ombudsman.

Further information

Detailed information regarding Public Interest Disclosures can be found on the PID section of the NSW Ombudsman site.