The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (‘Ahpra’) and the National Health Practitioner Boards (‘the Boards’) administer the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (as in force in each State and territory) (‘the National Law’). Ahpra and the Boards perform important functions to protect the public, and the National Law requires them to do this in a transparent and accountable way. I wonder whether it would make sense to have this as the first paragraph, under the title “What is a public interest disclosure?”
A public interest disclosure (otherwise known as a ‘Whistleblower report’) is the disclosure of information about a person, public officer or public body which shows, or tends to show, improper conduct. Ahpra’s Whistleblower Policy is designed to encourage any person who has a serious concern about possible improper conduct or corruption in the administration of the National Law, to disclose that concern. Ahpra will handle all public interest disclosures in accordance with any relevant Whistleblower legislation that applies to Ahpra and its Whistleblower Policy.
Public interest disclosures can be made to:
Ahpra appreciates that people may prefer to make a public interest disclosure to an independent person, external to Ahpra rather than to a Public Interest Disclosure Officer. Ahpra has arranged for an external contractor, Deloitte, to operate an Independent Whistleblower Hotline to which public interest disclosures may be made. The Independent Whistleblower Hotline can be contacted in the following ways:
The Independent Whistleblower Hotline operator will use its best efforts to notify an Ahpra Public Interest Disclosure Officer of the details of any disclosure made within 48 hours of receiving the disclosure.
A discloser may choose to remain anonymous, in which case the Independent Whistleblower Hotline operator will not disclose the discloser’s identity when forwarding details of the public interest disclosure to Ahpra.
Ahpra and the National Boards are committed to supporting people who make legitimate public interest disclosures. Each State and territory has different laws for dealing with public interest disclosures, however not all of these Acts apply to Ahpra and the Boards. Even though Ahpra and the Boards are not subject to Public Interest Disclosure Acts in some States and territories, to the extent that we can, we will comply with those Acts. For further information about which State based Acts do not apply to Ahpra, please consult Ahpra’s Whistleblower Policy.
In some States and territories, public interest disclosures must be handled by official external bodies. Ahpra will redirect any reports it receives to the relevant external body where it receives a public interest disclosure in those States.
In some States and territories, Ahpra and the Boards are required by law to protect people who make public interest disclosures from detrimental action or reprisal for making those disclosures. Similar protection against detrimental action applies to people who co-operate with investigations regarding public interest disclosures. Even if Ahpra or the Boards are not legally required to provide this protection in a particular State or territory, they will do so as a matter of good practice to the extent permitted by law.
In States and territories where Public Interest Disclosure Acts apply to Ahpra and the Boards, those Acts also protect people who make public interest disclosures from certain criminal and civil liability in relation to making the disclosure. Importantly, in some States, the relevant Public Interest Disclosure Acts do not apply. In these States, protection from civil and criminal liability may not be available to people who make public interest disclosures.
For further information about protections available to Whistleblowers, or which State and territory Acts apply to Ahpra and the Boards, please review Ahpra’s Whistleblower Policy.
Any person may complain directly to Ahpra (either through a Public Interest Disclosure Officer or the Independent Whistleblower Hotline) about improper conduct, corrupt conduct, detrimental action or other misconduct by a person in the course of administering the National Law. As noted above, if the complaint could be a public interest disclosure that must be made to an independent government body (such as IBAC in Victoria), Ahpra will ordinarily redirect the public interest disclosure to that body.
If a public interest disclosure is made to an Ahpra Public Interest Disclosure Officer or through the Independent Whistleblower Hotline (and the disclosure is not required to be referred to an external body such as IBAC), the relevant Public Interest Disclosure Officer will make an initial assessment of whether:
If the above questions are all answered “yes”, then the Public Interest Disclosure Officer will proceed to investigate the disclosure.
The relevant Public Interest Disclosure Officer must take action where they form the opinion that a person may be, or has been, or may in the future be, involved in improper conduct. Action that may be taken includes:
Before taking any action, the person against whom the action is to be taken will be given an opportunity to make written or oral submissions.
Where a public interest disclosure is made, Ahpra will keep disclosers informed of the progress and the outcome of any investigation and action taken as a result, subject to any privacy or confidentiality obligations that may apply to Ahpra.
For further information, please see Ahpra’s Whistleblower Policy. Further information can also be found on our Independent Whistleblower Hotline: www.WhistleblowerHotline.deloitte.com.au