Introduction

From 1 January 2020, some entities in Australia, including companies limited by guarantee, are required to have a whistleblowing policy that complies with the new section 1317AI of the Corporations Act 2001. This requirement applies to GROW, and this Policy will ensure GROW is compliant.

 

Purpose

This Whistleblower Policy ensures that people can raise concerns regarding situations where they believe that GROW or anybody connected with GROW has acted in a way that constitutes serious wrongdoing, including unethical, illegal, corrupt or other inappropriate conduct, as set out below,

 

  1. encourage a person to report improper conduct in good faith if they know or have reasonable grounds to suspect such conduct
  2. provide a mechanism to report misconduct or dishonest or illegal activity that has occurred or is suspected within the organisation
  3. enable GROW to deal with reports from whistleblowers in a way that will protect the identity of the whistleblower and provide for secure storage of the information
  4. ensure that any Reportable Conduct is identified and dealt with appropriately
  5. ensure that individuals who disclose wrongdoing can do so safely, securely and with confidence that they will be protected and supported, and
  6. help to ensure that GROW maintains the highest standards of ethical behaviour and integrity.

 

Scope

This Policy applies to:

Employees

Directors

Officers

Contractors

Volunteers

Suppliers

Consultants

X

X

X

X

X

X

X

 

Within this Policy, all these people are represented by the term “Workers”.

 

Although they are under no obligation to do so, any associate, family member or dependant of any person in the above groups of people may also speak up. If they do choose to speak up in line with this Policy, we will extend to them the relevant rights and protections under this Policy.

 

Principles

  • Higher standard –. If anything in this Policy is inconsistent with any law imposed on GROW, that legal obligation or the “higher standard” will prevail over this Policy.
  • Speak up and report it – We encourage Workers at GROW to report any concerns in line with our policies and procedures.
  • Our expectations of Workers – GROW expects Workers to act honestly and ethically, and to make any report on reasonable grounds.
  • Our responsibility to Whistleblowers – Our obligations to Workers are spelled out in this Policy, in particular in the section titled ‘Protection’.
  • Confidentiality and consent – GROW will maintain the confidentiality of all reports and protect the identity of reporters to the fullest extent possible. While GROW encourages Whistleblowers to identify they may opt to report concerns anonymously.

 

Reportable Conduct

Who can make a report

A Whistleblower is a person who, whether anonymously or not, attempts to report misconduct or dishonest or illegal activity that has occurred in connection with GROW and wishes to avail themselves of protection against reprisal for having made the report.

A Whistleblower may be a current or former Worker with GROW.

What is Reportable Conduct

Reportable Conduct is any past, present or likely future activity, behaviour or state of affairs considered to be:

  1. dishonest
  2. corrupt (including soliciting, accepting or offering a bribe, or facilitating payments or other such benefits)
  3. fraudulent
  4. illegal (including theft, drug sale or use, violence or threatened violence, or property damage)
  5. in breach of regulation, internal Policy or code (such as our Code of Conduct)
  6. improper conduct relating to accounting, internal controls, compliance, actuarial, audit or other matters of concern to the whistleblower
  7. a serious impropriety or an improper state of affairs or circumstances
  8. endangering health or safety
  9. damaging or substantially risking damage to the environment
  10. serious mismanagement of GROW’s resources
  11. detrimental to GROW’s financial position or reputation
  12. maladministration (an act or omission of a serious nature that is negligent, unjust, oppressive, discriminatory or is based on improper motives)
  13. concealing reportable conduct.

What is not Reportable Conduct

 While everybody is encouraged to speak up and report any concerns to GROW, not all types of conduct are covered by this Policy or by the protections under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth).

This Policy does not apply to complaints by staff/volunteers/Growers/ Residents or personal work-related grievances unless the grievance includes victimisation due to whistleblowing.

Personal work-related grievances include grievances such as interpersonal conflicts, decisions about promotions, decisions that do not involve a breach of workplace laws or terms and conditions of employment. 

How to report

A report must be made to:

  1. National CEO, or
  2. Company Secretary, or
  3. The Board Chair

Information required for a protected report

To make a protected report, you must know of or have reasonable grounds to suspect the Reportable Conduct. A report must contain enough information to form a reasonable basis for investigation and include any known details about the events underlying the report, such as the:

  • date
  • time
  • location
  • name of the person(s) involved
  • possible witnesses to the circumstances, and
  • evidence of the events (e.g. documents, emails).

GROW will also protect individuals who have made a report in connection with GROW:

  1. To the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) or the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA) or another Commonwealth regulatory body prescribed in legislation
  2. To a legal practitioner to obtain legal advice or legal representation about whistleblower protections, or
  3. That qualifies as an emergency or public interest disclosure under the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth). You must understand the criteria for making a public interest or emergency disclosure, and you may wish to consult an independent legal adviser before making a public interest or emergency disclosure.

While GROW encourages you to identify yourself to the nominated role, you may opt to report your concerns anonymously such as by adopting a pseudonym.

 

Protection

If you have reasonable grounds to suspect Reportable Conduct, GROW will support and protect you and anyone else assisting in the investigation. This protection applies regardless of whether any concerns raised in a report are found to be accurate, provided that you are acting honestly and ethically and make the report on reasonable grounds.

GROW will not tolerate any detriment inflicted on you because you or somebody else has made, or might make, a report of Reportable Conduct. Examples of a detriment include:

  • retaliation, dismissal, suspension, demotion, or termination of your role
  • bullying, harassment, threats or intimidation
  • discrimination, subject to current or future bias, or derogatory treatment
  • harm or injury
  • damage or threats to your property, business, financial position or reputation
  • revealing your identity as a Whistleblower without your consent or contrary to law, or
  • threatening to carry out any of the above actions.

If you believe you have suffered a detriment in violation of this Policy, report this immediately to the NCEO or another nominated officer under this Policy.

You may also be entitled to the following legal protections for making a report:

  • protection from civil, criminal or administrative legal action
  • protection from having to give evidence in legal proceedings; and/or
  • compensation or another legal remedy.

 False reports or disclosures

Protected Disclosures must be made on reasonable grounds. Anyone who knowingly makes a false report/disclosure of Reportable Conduct may be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal.

The disciplinary action will depend on the severity, nature and circumstance of the false disclosure.

Investigating a disclosure

Upon receiving a Protected Disclosure, within a reasonable time frame, GROW will endeavour to assess the disclosure to determine whether:

  • It qualifies for protection, and
  • A formal, in-depth investigation is required.

GROW will endeavour to provide the discloser with regular updates.  GROW will handle and investigate Protected Disclosures following the Whistleblowing Procedure below.

 

Monitoring and assurance

  • This Policy will be distributed and available to all Workers via SharePoint in Policies and Procedures].
  • This Policy will be available on the GROW Website
  • To ensure effective protection under the Policy, the CEO will monitor and review this Policy bi

 

Legislation & Industrial Instruments

  • Corporations Act 2001 (Cth)
  • Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth)
  • Fair Work Regulations 2009 (Cth)
  • Insurance Act 1973
  • Life Insurance Act 1995
  • Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013
  • Superannuation Industry (Supervision) Act 1993
  • Taxation Administration Act 1953.

Procedures

 

Responsibilities

The Whistleblower Officers nominated in the Policy are responsible for:

  • Providing advice and support to reporters
  • Maintaining a secure and restricted record of all reports made under this Policy and Procedure
  • Arranging role-specific training as and when required.
  • Receiving whistleblower reports and protecting the interests of reporters
  • Determining whether the report falls within the scope of the Policy
  • Determining whether and how a report should be investigated
  • Appointing a Whistleblowing Investigator where an investigation is deemed appropriate
  • Ensuring investigations are conducted following this Policy
  • Ensuring any reports involving a Director or NCEO are reported to the Chair of the Board
  • Updating reporters on progress and details of outcomes to the fullest extent possible
  • Maintaining to the fullest extent possible confidentiality of the identity of and reports received by reporters
  • Immediately reporting concerns about detrimental conduct to the nominated officers, NCEO or Chair of the Board (provided that the concerns do not relate to them)
  • Determining the appropriate courses of action to remediate or act on the investigation
  • Reporting matters to relevant authorities
  • Making recommendations to prevent future instances of reportable misconduct
  • Seeking to ensure the integrity of the Whistleblower Program is maintained.

 

The NCEO is responsible for ensuring that:

  • Workers are made aware of their rights and responsibilities concerning whistleblowing at induction
  • Workers are regularly encouraged to speak up about concerns of Reportable Conduct.

 

Whistleblower Investigators are responsible for:

  • Investigating reports following this Policy and Procedure
  • Maintaining to the fullest extent possible confidentiality of the identity of and reports received by reporters
  • Gathering evidence and taking steps to protect or preserve evidence
  • Making findings based on a fair and objective assessment of the evidence gathered during the investigation, and formalising this in a report
  • Keeping comprehensive records about the investigation
  • Making recommendations to the Whistleblower Officer about how to implement the strategy concerning how reported misconduct can be stopped, prevented, or mitigated in future
  • Reporting back to the Whistleblower Officer on the progress of their investigation seven days after the report and every 14 days after that
  • Complying with the directions of the Whistleblower officer concerning any further follow-up, and reporting activities and requirements, including the implementation of any recommendations.

 

Workers are responsible for reporting misconduct or dishonest or illegal activity that has occurred or is suspected to GROW as quickly as possible, whether anonymously or otherwise.

 

Investigation

After receiving your report, GROW will:

  • assess the report of Reportable Conduct
  • consider whether there are any conflicts of interest before investigating
  • determine whether external authorities need to be notified
  • decide whether and how to investigate, and
  • appoint a Whistleblowing Investigator if appropriate.

 

If an investigation is deemed necessary, it will be conducted fairly, objectively, and promptly. The investigation process will vary depending on the nature of the Reportable Conduct and the amount of information provided.

 

Any individuals accused of misconduct will have an opportunity to respond to allegations before any adverse findings are made and before any disciplinary action.

 

GROW may need to speak with a Whistleblower as part of an investigation. If the identity of the Whistleblower is known, GROW will endeavour to keep them informed about the status of an investigation.

 

If there is insufficient information to warrant further investigation, or the initial investigation immediately identifies there is no case to answer, the individual who reported the Reportable Conduct will be notified at the earliest possible opportunity.

 

The outcome of an investigation

After the investigation, a report will be prepared to outline:

  1. a finding of all relevant facts
  2. a determination as to whether the allegation(s) have been substantiated or otherwise, and
  3. the action that will be taken, which may include disciplinary action and dismissal.

 

The disciplinary action will be dependent on the severity, nature, and circumstances of the Reportable Conduct.

 

Where possible and appropriate, having regard to GROW and confidentiality obligations, the Whistleblower will be informed of the outcome of any investigation into their concerns.

GROW is committed to operating legally, properly and ethically and will protect and respect the rights of Whistleblowers.

This form is the Whistleblower Form for the purpose of making a Misconduct Disclosure to GROW pursuant to the GROW Whistleblower Policy  and Procedure. Please refer to those documents for definitions and further information including. In contemplating the use of this form please consider whether your concerns relate to a work-related grievance and may be more appropriately raised under GROW’s Grievances or Complaints policies.

GROW will support and protect whistleblowers and anyone else assisting in the investigation. This protection applies regardless of whether any concerns raised in a report are found to be accurate, provided that you are acting honestly and ethically and make the report on reasonable grounds.

Protected Disclosures must be made on reasonable grounds. Anyone who knowingly makes a false report/disclosure of Reportable Conduct may be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal. The disciplinary action will depend on the severity, nature and circumstance of the false disclosure.

If you supplied your email address, we will send you a confirmation email including a copy of your report and your Reference Number. If you don’t provide an email address you will need to print this form before you submit if you wish to keep a copy. The report will then be sent automatically to GROWs Whistleblower Officer (the National Chief Executive Officer).

 

A GROW representative will contact you to discuss your report as soon as reasonably practicable after submission.

9. Your details
You do not have to provide a response to this question. Alternatively, you may respond with an alias and provide GROW with an email address or phone number that does not identify you. However, anonymous disclosures may affect the ability for the misconduct to be investigated fully and for you to receive appropriate protection and support. As such, it is recommended that you provide enough information to allow for two-way communication so that we can ask follow-up questions or provide feedback. Please see GROW’s Whistleblower Policy and Procedure for more information about anonymous disclosures.

By providing your information to us you consent to your information being disclosed or used for this purpose. We will take reasonable steps to ensure that such third parties deal with your information appropriately and only for the purposes relating to the investigation of the Misconduct Disclosure. Our Privacy Policy explains how you can contact us to access and correct your personal information or make a privacy complaint.

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