Integrity@WERQ is supported by the Australian Research Council and 23 partner and supporter organisations across Australia and New Zealand. It is the world’s leading current research into public interest whistleblowing.
Whistling While They Work 2: Improving managerial responses to whistleblowing in public and private sector organisations is supported by an Australian Research Council funded Linkage Project (LP150100386)*.
Led by Professor A J Brown of the Centre for Governance and Public Policy at Griffith University, the project has a 10-person research team drawn from four universities and five of our partner organisations across Australia and New Zealand. It is a three-year, AUD$1.6 million project, funded approximately 60 per cent by the participating universities (32%) and the Australian Research Council (28%), and 40 per cent by 15 partner and supporter organisations (13% direct support, 27% in kind support).
Whistleblowing is when employees or other members of organisations speak up about wrongdoing within or by the organisation, to people who can – or should – do something about it. Whistleblowing can be internal, including via externally contracted service providers (e.g. hotlines); regulatory, e.g. to independent integrity, regulatory or law enforcement agencies; or public, such as to civil society groups or the media.
While whistleblowing can be about any kind of wrongdoing, our focus is on ‘public interest’ whistleblowing — encouraging and protecting organisation members who are prepared to speak up about issues that affect the integrity of the whole organisation, or impact on customers, consumers, citizens and society. Examples including criminal and serious misconduct, corruption, theft, fraud, waste, conflicts of interest, serious defective administration, unrectified mistakes, unsafe products or services, or dangers to public health, safety or the environment.
Where wrongdoing involves only the personal or individual interests of the reporter(s) or only workplace or personnel issues then other processes and protections should be in place. However, public interest whistleblowing can also be internal, or kept confidential even if it involves external regulatory agencies — it doesn’t always have to be public.
Over the last 30 years, research into public interest whistleblowing has revealed much about the incidence and significance of whistleblowing, and the experience of whistleblowers. The project builds on its predecessor Australian Research Council project (Whistling While They Work 1) by extending systematic research to also focus on the next crucial issue: adequacy of organisational responses to whistleblowing.
By comparing employee and managerial experience in multiple organisations, in Australia and New Zealand, the project is identifying the factors that influence good and bad responses to whistleblowing across a wide range of institutions, providing a clearer basis for evaluation and improvement in organisational procedures, better public policy, and more informed approaches to the reform or introduction of whistleblower protection laws.
It is also the first research project to systematically compare the levels, responses and outcomes of whistleblowing in multiple organisations:
- Across the public, private and not-for-profit sectors; and
- Across international boundaries.
* Australian Research Council Linkage Project LP150100386: ‘Protecting While They Prosper? Organisational Responses to Whistleblowing’.