Reporting improper conduct

Reporting improper conduct

Victoria Legal Aid takes transparency and accountability very seriously. We do not tolerate improper conduct, or reprisals against anyone who discloses such conduct.

We encourage anyone who observes improper conduct at Victoria Legal Aid to disclose it to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC).

You can use IBAC’s online complainant form, call 1300 735 135 or write to IBAC, GPO Box 24234, Melbourne VIC 3001.

To find out more about improper conduct and how we protect people who disclose it read our protected disclosure procedures or contact:

Complaints and Statutory Compliance
Phone: (03) 9280 3789
Email: complaints@vla.vic.gov.au.

Protected disclosure procedures

You can report improper or corrupt conduct by a public officer or public body. People who come forward with such information are sometimes known as ‘whistleblowers’.

They are protected by the Protected Disclosure Act 2012. This Act enables people to make disclosures about improper conduct in the public sector without fear of reprisal. These disclosures are called ‘protected disclosures’.

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission has responsibility for receiving and investigating disclosures.

Our procedures cover:

Improper conduct at Victoria Legal Aid

Anyone can make a protected disclosure about Victoria Legal Aid. This includes employees, clients, service providers and members of the public.

We take accountability in the public sector very seriously and have developed procedures about how to make a protected disclosure about Victoria Legal Aid to IBAC and how we protect people who make them.

Making protected disclosures

You can make a protected disclosure if you think someone at Victoria Legal Aid has engaged in ‘improper conduct’ in the course of their work or has taken ‘detrimental action’ against you or anyone else.

Improper conduct

‘Improper conduct’ means behaviour that is corrupt or improper for other reasons, such as:

  • a substantial mismanagement of public resources
  • a substantial risk to public health or safety
  • a substantial risk to the environment.

Examples of improper conduct are:

  • a Victoria Legal Aid officer granting legal assistance to family members who do not meet funding guidelines
  • a Victoria Legal Aid lawyer using client information to direct market their home business
  • a Victoria Legal Aid manager accepting a bribe in exchange for awarding a contract to a particular service provider.

Detrimental action

Detrimental action means treating you badly, or threatening to, based on the belief you have:

  • made, or will make, a protected disclosure, or
  • co-operated, or will co-operate, with the investigation of a protected disclosure.

A complaint of detrimental action is itself grounds for a protected disclosure.

Examples of detrimental action are:

  • a Victoria Legal Aid staff member threatening, abusing or carrying out other forms of harassment against a client because they believe that client made a protected disclosure
  • a Victoria Legal Aid manager deciding not to shortlist someone for an internal position due to the fact they co-operated with investigating a protected disclosure
  • Victoria Legal Aid officer refusing a lawyer’s application to join a Victoria Legal Aid practitioner panel as they believe that lawyer may make a protected disclosure.

How to make a protected disclosure

Disclosures about Victoria Legal Aid or any of its employees can be made to IBAC.

You can use IBAC’s online complaint form or phone 1300 735 135.

Welfare management

The welfare of those who make or co-operate with protected disclosures is essential to the effective implementation of the Protected Disclosure Act.

As we cannot receive protected disclosures, we may not be aware someone has made a protected disclosure about Victoria Legal Aid. IBAC will only notify us of a protected disclosure made about Victoria Legal Aid if it decides it is necessary. Such notifications are confidential.

If IBAC does notify us of the identity of a discloser, or someone co-operating with an investigation, Victoria Legal Aid is responsible for providing that person with reasonable welfare support.

The level of welfare support depends on the individual’s needs, but may include:

  • advising the person of their rights under the Protected Disclosure Act
  • taking proactive steps to avoid detrimental action
  • receiving and responding to any concerns they may raise
  • in the case of an employee, fostering a supportive work environment
  • ensuring the person has reasonable expectations of what can be achieved from the welfare support.

In some cases, a specific person, called a welfare manager, may be appointed to support the protected person. Whether a welfare manager is appointed depends on an assessment of the person’s circumstances. In particular, Victoria Legal Aid will assess whether there are real risks of detrimental action.

It is important to remember that the making of a protected disclosure does not protect a person from the consequences of their own conduct. Victoria Legal Aid’s ability to take usual disciplinary action will not be affected by the fact that a person has made a protected disclosure, or is co-operating with the investigation of a protected disclosure. However, the making of the protected disclosure itself cannot be the basis for this action.

Protection from detrimental action

We do not tolerate detrimental action against those who make, or co-operate with, protected disclosures about Victoria Legal Aid.

Precautions against detrimental action at Victoria Legal Aid

Victoria Legal Aid takes precautions to prevent detrimental action in reprisal for protected disclosures.

We have policies that apply to the making of decisions that affect staff, clients and service providers. These policies are drafted in line with our legal obligations and include the requirement that staff document the reasons for making decisions. They do not allow staff to use the fact a person may have made a protected disclosure, or co-operated with a protected disclosure, to affect how they treat that person.

All Victoria Legal Aid staff are subject to the Victorian Public Sector Code of Conduct. This includes Part 3, which requires that staff:

  • use their powers responsibly
  • report improper conduct
  • strive to earn and sustain public trust of a high level.

Anyone found to have committed detrimental action at Victoria Legal Aid will face disciplinary action under our existing employment policies.

In serious cases, if Victoria Legal Aid is notified of detrimental action, we may bring it to IBAC’s attention ourselves, or contact the police.

Not all actual or threatened adverse treatment will be considered detrimental action. The protected disclosure must be a ‘substantial’ reason for the treatment.

If you feel you have been treated adversely

If you feel you have been the target of detrimental action you can contact IBAC and make a fresh protected disclosure.

If you feel you have been treated adversely by Victoria Legal Aid or a Victoria Legal Aid staff member, you can also contact us directly through our complaints process.

Although you cannot make a protected disclosure to Victoria Legal Aid, we will listen to your concerns and investigate them. If you appear to be making a complaint about detrimental action, we will advise you of your right to make a protected disclosure to IBAC.

Co-operation with IBAC

Victoria Legal Aid co-operates with IBAC. This includes:

  • facilitating any review of these procedures by IBAC
  • responding, if required, to recommendations made by IBAC
  • providing assistance to IBAC or other external investigations.

Reporting

Victoria Legal Aid must provide information about how to access these procedures in its annual report.

Review of these procedures

These procedures are reviewed regularly to ensure they meet the objectives of the Protected Disclosure Act and are consistent with IBAC’s guidelines.

Where to go for more information

For more information, please contact:

You can also read the following: