The best source of information concerning inappropriate conduct within a public body is often people who work for or have dealings with the body. Disclosures perform an important role in maintaining an effective and honest Victorian government service. Disclosers are uniquely placed to expose serious problems within the management and operations of public bodies and other persons.

Protected Disclosure Act 2012

The Protected Disclosure Act came into operation on 10 February 2013. The purposes of the Act are:

  • encourage and facilitate disclosures of 
      (i)   improper conduct by public officers, public bodies and other persons, and 
      (ii)  detrimental action taken in reprisal for a person making a disclosure under the Protected Disclosure Act. 
  •  provide protection for 
      (i)   persons who make those disclosures and 
      (ii)  persons who may suffer detrimental action in reprisal for those disclosures.
  •  provide for the confidentiality of the content of those disclosures and the identity of persons who make those disclosures.

The Protected Disclosure Act, subject to some specific exceptions, only applies to Victorian public bodies and public officers.

Public bodies and officers can include:

  • government departments and agencies
  • statutory authorities
  • councillors
  • officers of municipal councils
  • government-appointed boards and committees
  • government-owned companies
  • universities
  • TAFE colleges
  • public hospitals
  • state-funded residential care services
  • health services contractors
  • correctional services contractors.

The Act makes it a criminal offence punishable by a fine and/or up to two years imprisonment to take detrimental action against a person for making a protected disclosure. See the section 'Protections' for further information about protections.

The role of the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission

The main functions of the IBAC under the Protected Disclosure Act are:

  • to receive, whether directly or by notification from other entities, assessable disclosures
  • to assess those disclosures
  • to determine whether those disclosures are protected disclosure complaints
  • to issue guidelines for procedures to facilitate the making and handling of disclosures and for the protection of disclosers
  • to issue guidelines for the management of the welfare of persons who make, or are otherwise affected by, protected disclosures
  • to provide advice to the public sector on any matter included in the guidelines
  • to review the procedures established by the public sector
  • to provide information and education about the protected disclosure scheme
  • to assist the public sector to increase its capacity to comply with the protected disclosure scheme
  • to provide information to, consult with and make recommendations to the public sector on matters relevant to the operation of the protected disclosure scheme
  • to undertake research and collect, analyse and report on data and statistics relating to the protected disclosure scheme.

See the IBAC website for further information.

The role of the Ombudsman

The Ombudsman's role in handling disclosures under the Protected Disclosure Act and the  Ombudsman Act includes:
  • receiving disclosures under sections 13 and 16 of the Protected Disclosure Act.   
  • notifying IBAC within 28 days if the Ombudsman considers that an assessable disclosure he received may be a protected disclosure under section 21(2) of the Protected Disclosure Act
  • where a protected disclosure complaint has been referred to the Ombudsman by the IBAC, determining whether the disclosure warrants investigation under the provisions of section 15D and 15E of the Ombudsman Act and, where appropriate, investigating the disclosure
  • reporting to Parliament on a protected disclosure complaint investigation under section 25(2) of the Ombudsman Act
  • collating and publishing statistics about the number of protected disclosure complaints investigated by the Ombudsman and the number of protected disclosure complaints the Ombudsman notified IBAC about under section 69 of the Protected Disclosure Act.

Fact sheet

For further information see Fact Sheet 16.