Whistleblower Policy

Under the Corporations Act 2001, public companies and large proprietary companies including St Agnes’ Parish, must have a published Whistleblower Policy from 1 January 2020. The policy includes information about legal protections available to whistleblowers, and how a company will investigate whistleblower disclosures and protect whistleblowers from detriment.

Policy Statement

The Parish is committed to the protection of individuals who disclose information about illegal or improper conduct (wrong doing) occurring within the Parish. This policy has been adopted to provide a safe and confidential environment where such concerns can be raised by whistleblowers without fear of reprisal or detrimental treatment.

Policy Purpose

The objective of this policy is to encourage reporting of wrongdoing that is of legitimate concern by providing a convenient and safe reporting mechanism, and protection for people who make serious wrongdoing disclosures. The policy aims to encourage whistleblowers to report an issue if they reasonably believe someone has engaged in serious wrongdoing.

Whilst it is generally expected that these issues will be raised through the normal channels of line management, reporting by other avenues may be appropriate or necessary in certain situations.

This policy sets out:

  • who is entitled to protection as a whistleblower under this policy and the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth);
  • the protections whistleblowers are entitled to under this policy and under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth); and
  • how disclosures made by whistleblowers in accordance with this policy and under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) will be handled by St Agnes’ Parish.

All officers, employees and contractors of St Agnes’ Parish must comply with this policy.

This policy is available to all officers and employees via the Parish Pulse (our intranet) under ‘Digital Resource Centre’ in the Policies and Procedures Library.

Scope

This policy applies to whistleblowers, which means anyone who is, or has been, any of the following:

(Under Corporations law, those noted below can be eligible for whistleblower protection)

  • A Director of St Agnes’ Assist or St Agnes’ Care & Lifestyle;
  • An officer of St Agnes’ Parish;
  • An employee of St Agnes’ Parish;
  • A contractor or supplier of goods and services (paid and unpaid) to St Agnes’ Parish, or their current and former employees;
  • An associate of St Agnes’ Parish (i.e. a company, bank, life insurer or super fund); or
  • A relative, spouse or a dependant of an individual mentioned above.

This policy applies if any eligible person knows of information and has reasonable grounds to suspect the information concerns misconduct, or an improper state of affairs or circumstances, in relation to the Parish or a related body corporate.

A disclosure of information by an individual concerning a personal work-related grievance is not covered under this Policy and should be reported to your line manager in accordance with the St Agnes’ Parish Grievance Management Policy. Disclosure of information by an individual concerning a personal work-related grievance does not qualify for protection (except where the grievance is about a breach of the whistleblowing protections).

In particular, a grievance about any matter in relation to the discloser’s employment, or former employment, having (or tending to have) implications for the discloser personally will not qualify where it does not have significant implications for the Parish.

Examples are:

  • an interpersonal conflict between the discloser and another employee;
  • a decision relating to the engagement, transfer or promotion of the discloser;
  • a decision relating to the terms and conditions of engagement of the discloser; or
  • a decision to suspend or terminate the engagement of the discloser, or otherwise to discipline the discloser.

There is no requirement for a discloser to identify him or herself for a disclosure to qualify for protection.

A disclosure of information by an individual qualifies for protection if the disclosure is made to a legal practitioner for the purpose of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in relation to the operation of these laws. A disclosure concerning a personal work‑related grievance that is made to a legal practitioner may qualify for protection.

Definitions

Whistleblowing

Disclosure by (or for) a witness of actual or suspected wrongdoing.

Whistleblower

A whistleblower is a person related to the Parish who reports information that might show wrongdoing that has occurred within the Parish.

Wrong doing

  • dishonest behaviour
  • fraudulent activity
  • unlawful, corrupt or irregular use of company funds or practices
  • illegal activities (including theft, dealing in or use of illicit drugs, violence or threatened violence and criminal damage against property)
  • unethical behaviour, including anything that would breach the Parish Code of Conduct
  • improper or misleading accounting or financial reporting practices
  • a breach of any legislation relating to the Parish’ operations or activities, including the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth), the Insurance Act 1973 (Cth) and the Life Insurance Act 1995 (Cth)
  • behaviour that is oppressive, discriminatory or grossly negligent
  • an unsafe work-practice
  • any behaviour that poses a serious risk to the health and safety of any person at the workplace
  • a serious risk to public health, public safety or the environment
  • any other conduct which may cause loss to the Parish or be otherwise detrimental to the interests of the Parish

 Officer

An officer under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) is an employee who makes or participates in making decisions that affect the whole or a substantial part of the organisation’s business, or who has the capacity to significantly affect the organisation’s financial standing. At St Agnes’ Parish this means: Company Director, Company Secretary, CEO, CFO and GM.

ASIC

The Australian Securities and Investment Commission.

APRA

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

Associate

Any individual within the meaning of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

Corporations Act

The Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

Personal work-related grievance

As defined in section 1317AADA of the Corporations Act, and may include the following grievances:

  • an interpersonal conflict between the discloser and another employee;
  • a decision relating to the engagement, transfer or promotion of the discloser;
  • a decision relating to the terms and conditions of engagement of the discloser; and
  • a decision to suspend or terminate the engagement of the discloser, or otherwise to discipline the discloser.

Relative

The same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

Spouse

The same meaning as in the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

Policy Statements

Who is entitled to protection

To be treated as a whistleblower under this policy the person must:

  • be one of the individuals set out in section 5.1.1;
  • disclose information regarding the type of matters set out in section 5.1.2; and
  • disclose that information to one of the persons or bodies set out in section 5.1.3.

5.1.1       Disclosures can be made by a current or former:

  1. officer or employee of St Agnes’ Parish;
  2. contractor or supplier of goods and services to St Agnes’ Parish or their current and former employees;
  3. associate of St Agnes’ Parish; or
  4. a relative, spouse or a dependant of an individual mentioned above.

5.1.2 Disclosures can be made about unlawful conduct or conduct that endangers the public or financial system which you suspect on reasonable grounds has occurred or is occurring within St Agnes’ Parish, including conduct by an officer or an employee of St Agnes’ Parish. However, disclosures which are solely about a Personal Work-Related Grievance (as defined) will not be protected under this policy. Such matters may be appropriately dealt with in accordance with the St Agnes’ Parish Grievance Management Policy and Procedure.

5.1.3       A person may make a disclosure to the following people or bodies:

  1. your supervisor or manager (if you are an employee of St Agnes’ Parish;
  2. St Agnes’ Parish Director or Officer
  3. St Agnes’ Parish Whistleblower Protection Officer;
  4. an auditor of St Agnes’ Parish;
  5. ASIC;
  6. APRA; or
  7. a lawyer in order to obtain advice or representation about the Corporations Act.

If the circumstances described in section 1317AAD of the Corporations Act exist, then a whistleblower may make a public interest or emergency disclosure to the following persons:

  1. a member of a Commonwealth or State parliament or Territory legislature; or
  2. a journalist.

Making a disclosure

When a person makes a disclosure:

  • Their identity must remain confidential according to their wishes;
  • They will be protected from reprisal, discrimination, harassment or victimisation for making the disclosure;
  • An independent internal inquiry or investigation will be conducted;
  • Issues identified from the inquiry/investigation will be resolved and/or rectified;
  • They will be informed about the outcome; and
  • Any retaliation for having made the disclosure will be treated as serious wrongdoing under this policy.

A disclosure can be made in person, by telephone or in writing to one of the people or bodies identified in 5.1.3 above. The external persons and bodies in sections 5.1.3 d)-i) above, may have other means by which you may make a disclosure. It is important to note that a whistleblower does not have to reveal their identity when making a disclosure.

Investigating a disclosure

5.3.1       The person who receives the disclosure will promptly forward it to the General Manager Risk, Compliance & Operations who will determine whether it requires formal investigation.

5.3.2       Any formal investigation of a disclosure will be undertaken by an impartial senior person, or an external investigator.

5.3.3       St Agnes’ Parish will ensure that the investigation:

  1. is conducted promptly;
  2. is sufficiently resourced;
  3. is conducted in a fair and objective manner;
  4. is conducted in strict confidence;
  5. protects the identity of the person who made the disclosure; and
  6. gives the opportunity to any person who is adversely mentioned in the disclosure an opportunity to respond prior to any findings being made

5.3.4      At the conclusion of the investigation, the investigator will provide the General Manager Risk, Compliance & Operations with a report that will summarise how the investigation was conducted, the evidence collected and contain findings in relation to the allegations in the disclosure and recommend any action required.

5.3.5      Following receipt of the investigation report, the General Manager Risk, Compliance & Operations will take appropriate action, which may include:

  1. implementing the recommendations of the investigator;
  2. requesting further investigation;
  3. recommending disciplinary action; and/or
  4. notifying regulatory or law enforcement bodies.

5.3.6       The whistleblower will be informed of the results of the investigation following the General Manager Risk, Compliance & Operations taking the steps in 5.3.5 above. However, some circumstances may limit the information provided to the person, such as confidentiality or other legal constraints.

Protection for whistleblowers

5.4.1     A whistleblower is entitled to protection of their identity, or information that is likely to lead to their identity becoming known. The whistleblower’s identity or information that is likely to lead to their identity becoming known, can only be disclosed where it is made to:

  1.  an in-house or external lawyer for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or legal representation;
  2. ASIC;
  3. APRA;
  4. A Commonwealth, State or Territory Authority for the purposes of assisting them in the performance of their duties;
  5. The Australian Federal Police; or
  6. A Court or Tribunal, in circumstances where it is considered necessary in the interests of justice;

or is otherwise made with the consent of the whistleblower.

A whistleblower’s identity may be disclosed to others as part of the investigation process, but only if necessary and St Agnes’ Parish will take all reasonable steps to avoid the identification of the whistleblower.

5.4.2       Other protections provided to whistleblowers are:

  1. a) St Agnes’ Parish will not cause any detriment to the whistleblower because of the disclosure;
  2. b) anyone who causes or threatens to cause detriment to a whistleblower or another person in the belief or suspicion that a report has been made, or may have been made, proposes to or could be made, may be guilty of an offence under the Corporations Act and may be liable for damages;
  3. c) the whistleblower has immunity from any civil, criminal or administrative legal action (including disciplinary action) as a result of making the disclosure; and
  4. d) no contractual or other remedies may be enforced and no contractual or other right may be exercised, against the whistleblower for making the disclosure.

Responsibilities

 Parish Leadership Team and Managers

  • Ensure employees and contractors have open access to the Whistleblower policy and have read and understood the contents;
  • Ensure whistleblowers feel comfortable in reporting wrong doing; and
  • Apply this policy when contacted by a whistleblower.

General Manager, Risk, Compliance & Operations

  • Provide advice and support to the Parish Leadership Team, managers and employees in relation to the implementation and enactment of the Whistleblower policy;
  • Act as the organisations Whistleblower Protection Officer under the Act; and
  • Determine whether formal investigation is required and if so arrange suitable impartial senior person or external investigator.

Parish Employees

All employees must ensure they are familiar with this policy and are required to remain informed about changes to this policy.