Reports of serious wrongdoing

A quick guide to public interest disclosures for Local Aboriginal Land Councils

The Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (PID Act) sets in place a system to encourage public officials to report serious wrongdoing. All Local Aboriginal Land Councils (LALCs) are public authorities under the Act. Staff, Board members and voting members of LALCs are all public officials. This means that they can make a public interest disclosure (PID) or have a PID made about their conduct.

When is a report of wrongdoing a public interest disclosure?

  1. A report of wrongdoing is a PID if it is about one of the following categories of serious wrongdoing:
    1. corrupt conduct
    2. maladministration
    3. serious and substantial waste of public money
    4. breach of the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009
  2. The person making the disclosure must honestly believe on reasonable grounds that the information shows or tends to show wrongdoing.
  3. The report must be made to either:
    1. the Chief Executive Officer or, for reports about the Chief Executive Officer, to the Chairperson of the Board; or,
    2. any other person nominated to receive a report of wrongdoing (as stated in your internal reporting policy); or
    3. an investigating authority (as shown in your internal reporting and also at the end of this document); or
    4. in limited circumstances, to a Member of Parliament or journalist (for more information refer to your internal reporting policy or contact the NSW Ombudsman).

Reports by staff are NOT public interest disclosures if they:

  • mostly question the merits of government policy, or
  • are made with the sole or substantial motive of avoiding dismissal or other disciplinary action.

What are the LALC Chief Executive Officer’s responsibilities?

  1. Create a culture that encourages staff, Board members and voting members to report wrongdoing and support them when they do.
  2. Make sure that the LALC has an internal reporting policy. You can use the NSW Ombudsman’s Model Internal Reporting Policy for LALCs.
  3. Tell the staff, Board members and voting members about the policy and the protections in the PID Act so they are aware.
  4. Make sure that the LALC complies with the policy and its obligations under the PID Act.
  5. Receive and assess reports of wrongdoing to see if they are public interest disclosures.
  6. Deal with all reports of wrongdoing and public interest disclosures professionally, fairly and impartially.
  7. Keep the identity of the reporter and anyone who is the subject of a report confidential, where this is practical and appropriate. This is a requirement of the PID Act.
  8. Take steps to prevent reporters being subjected to any reprisals such as bullying or harassment for having made reports of wrongdoing or public interest disclosures.
  9. Report matters to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) if you suspect on reasonable grounds that it concerns or may concern corrupt conduct. This is a requirement of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988, section 11.
  10. Give information to the NSW Ombudsman about public interest disclosures every six months. Reports are required every six months even if no public interest disclosures are received. Contact the NSW Ombudsman on 02 9286 1000 or email pid@ombo.nsw.gov.au for an online login password or paper report.

Steps to follow if you receive a report of wrongdoing

  1. Thank the staff, Board or voting member for making the report.
  2. Assess whether the report of wrongdoing is a public interest disclosure in consultation with the Chairperson of the Board, if appropriate. Use the NSW Ombudsman’s Assessment of an internal report against the criteria in the PID Act Template.
  3. If it is assessed as being a public interest disclosure, send an acknowledgement letter and a copy of the LALC’s internal reporting policy within 45 days (or sooner) of receiving the report to the reporter. This is a requirement of the PID Act. Use the NSW Ombudsman’s Acknowledgement Letter Template.
  4. Decide whether the report of wrongdoing needs to be investigated, and if so, whether it is best done by the LALC or by referral to another entity. For example, this might include the NSW Aboriginal Land Council or the Registrar of the Aboriginal Land Rights Act 1983.
  5. Assess the risk of reprisals or other conflict in consultation with the reporter. Use the NSW Ombudsman’s PID Risk Assessment guide.
  6. Ask the reporter to keep the matter confidential. This is one way to protect the reporter from reprisal.
  7. Ask the reporter if they are worried about detrimental action being taken against them for having made a report. Ask the reporter who else knows they made a report.
  8. Tell the reporter that the LALC will keep their identity confidential where possible. Refer to the NSW Ombudsman’s Fact Sheet Confidentiality and its practical alternatives. Anyone involved in the investigation or handling of a report is also required to maintain confidentiality. This is a requirement of the PID Act.
  9. Make a plan with the reporter to support and protect them from any reprisals or other conflict.
  10. Tell the reporter within six months what action your LALC will take or has taken in response to their report. This is a requirement of the PID Act.
  11. Report the matter to the ICAC if you suspect on reasonable grounds that it concerns or may concern corrupt conduct. The internal reporting policy has the contact details for the NSW Ombudsman if it is about maladministration and the NSW Audit Office if it is about serious and substantial waste of public money.
  12. Once the matter has been finalised, give some feedback to the reporter about what action was taken and the outcome so they know the report was properly handled.
  13. Keep full and accurate records.

What is the NSW Ombudsman responsible for?

The NSW Ombudsman is responsible for promoting public awareness and understanding of the PID Act and monitoring its operation.

How can the NSW Ombudsman help LALCs?

The NSW Ombudsman can provide advice and guidance to LALC public officials, including staff, Board or voting members, who are thinking about reporting serious wrongdoing.

The NSW Ombudsman can also provide assistance, guidance, resources and free training to LALCs about how to deal with public interest disclosures.

Contact the NSW Ombudsman

For more information about how to receive, handle or report public interest disclosures contact the NSW Ombudsman’s Public Interest Disclosure Unit on 02 9286 1000 or email pid@ombo.nsw.gov.au.

Investigating Authorities

  • For disclosures about corrupt conduct:
    Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)
    Level 7, 255 Elizabeth Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    Phone: 02 8281 5999 or 1800 463 909 (toll free)
    Tel. typewriter (TTY): 02 8281 5773
    Facsimile: 02 9264 5364
    Email: icac@icac.nsw.gov.au
    Web: www.icac.nsw.gov.au
  • For disclosures about maladministration:
    NSW Ombudsman
    Level 24, 580 George Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    Phone: 02 9286 1000 or 1800 451 524 (toll free)
    Tel. typewriter (TTY): 02 9264 8050
    Facsimile: 02 9283 2911 
    Email: pid@ombo.nsw.gov.au
    Web: www.ombo.nsw.gov.au
  • For disclosures about serious and substantial waste:
    Auditor-General of the NSW Audit Office
    Level 15, 1 Margaret Street
    Sydney NSW 2000
    Phone: 02 9275 7100
    Facsimile: 02 9275 7200
    Email: mail@audit.nsw.gov.au
    Web: www.audit.nsw.gov.au
  • For disclosures about breaches of the GIPA Act:
    Information Commissioner
    Level 11, 1 Castlereagh Street
    Sydney NSW 2000 
    Toll free: 1800 472 679
    Facsimile: 02 8114 3756 
    Email: ipcinfo@ipc.nsw.gov.au
    Web: www.ipc.nsw.gov.au

Contact us for more information

Level 24,
580 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Toll free (outside Sydney metro) 1800 451 524
Email pid@ombo.nsw.gov.au
Web www.ombo.nsw.gov.au

Telephone Interpreter Service (TIS) 131 450
We can arrange an interpreter through TIS or you can contact TIS yourself before speaking to us.

© Crown Copyright, NSW Ombudsman
This publication is released under a Creative Commons license CC BY 4.0.

Publication metadata

ISBN 978-1-925061-51-2
Category Fact sheets
Publication Date 10 April 2019