Whistleblowing and suppression of dissent
Contacts: advice and support Australia
This information is located on
BrianMartin's website on suppression of dissent
Contacts: advice and support
It is a sad truth that whistleblowers and dissidents often seekhelp but seldom find it. Below are some avenues to seek support orofficial action. Official channels are unlikely to be helpful andwhistleblowers should undertake a careful assessment of officialbodies before using them. Therefore, these bodies (of which there area multitude) are only described in general terms. The most usefulthing that most whistleblowers can do is to talk to otherwhistleblowers and to gain publicity. Media contacts change quickly.Hence the emphasis in the following listing is on organisations andnetworks that help put whistleblowers in touch with each other.
No organisation listed here is guaranteed to be helpful. The factis that some of the most worthwhile organisations are seriouslyoverloaded and cannot respond effectively to every request. This isall the more reason to learn everything possible to tackle issuesdirectly, without depending on someone else to save the day.
I thank all the organisations that provided information andespecially thank Linda Jones, Susan Marais-Steinman, ChristopherMerrett and Kate Schroder for valuable help and advice. This listingis adapted from Brian Martin, TheWhistleblower's Handbook: How to Be an Effective Resister(Charlbury: Jon Carpenter, 1999).
*** Australia ***
Whistleblowers Australia (WBA) is a national organisation whose members are whistleblowers and their supporters. It encourages self-help and mutual help among whistleblowers and supports campaigns on specific issues such as free speech for employees and whistleblower legislation. It does not undertake formal advocacy on behalf of individuals. WBA has branches or contacts in all states. Membership is open to anyone who supports its aims. It publishes a newsletter, The Whistle. This entry includes information about the organisation, contacts, copies of newsletters and current actions.
Address: PO Box U129, Wollongong NSW 2500
Phone: (02) 9810 9468
Dissent Network Australia: a list of people who are potentially willing to comment or take action against suppression of dissent.
Free Speech Committee
PO Box 55-s, Bexley South NSW 2207
Tony Katsigiannis (02) 502 4806 ah
Roger Crofts (02) 399 8069
PO Box K365, Haymarket NSW 2000
phone: (02) 281 5100
fax: (02) 281 5303
Justice Action was formerly known as the Campaign Exposing Frame-ups and Targeting Abuses of Authority. It focusses on police corruption and miscarriages of justice. It produces a quarterly newsmagazine titled Framed.
There is whistleblower legislation in most states, but not federally. However, there is no known case of a whistleblower being helped by any of the whistleblower acts now on the books. An ombudsman is found in all states and federally. They vary in effectiveness, but all of them are heavily overloaded with far more complaints than they can investigate. Anticorruption bodies exist in several states, including the Independent Commission Against Corruption in New South Wales and the Criminal Justice Commission in Queensland. Many whistleblowers have reported dissatisfaction with these bodies and recommend against using them. Freedom of information legislation exists throughout the country. It can be expensive and time-consuming but sometimes is useful for obtaining documents and as a record of which documents about a case existed at a particular time, to counter attempts at fabrication. Auditor-general units and antidiscrimination bodies, which are found in every state and federally, sometimes can be helpful in cases falling under their jurisdiction. There are also some specialised bodies, such as the Police Integrity Commission which deals with corruption in the NSW Police.
*** Britain ***
Freedom to Care(FtC) is a national organisation founded by whistleblowers and run bythem and their supporters. It "promotes the right and duty ofemployees to raise workplace concerns in the public interest and theright of all citizens to open, honest and accountable treatment fromlarge organisations, public or private." It holds self-help meetings,provides support to whistleblowers, campaigns on relevant issues, andpublishes a bi-annual bulletin, The Whistle. Membership isopen to anyone who supports its aims.
Address: PO Box 125, West Molesey, Surrey KT8 1YE
Phone/fax: 020-8224 1022
Public Concern at Work is a legal advice centre providingfree advice to workers who are unsure whether or how to blow thewhistle. It also advises on the scope and application of the UK'sPublic Interest Disclosure Act. It earns an increasing amount ofits income from the training services and toolkits it providesto employers, unions and community groups on creating opencultures.
Address: Suite 306, 16 Baldwins Garden, London EC1N 7RJ
Phone: 020-7404 6609
PoliceEthics Network is a network for police officers includingthose interested in police whistleblowing.
Address: c/o Dr G Hunt and Mr Chris Taylor, EIHMS, University ofSurrey, Stag Hill, Guildford GU2 5XH
There is whistleblower legislation in the form of the Public InterestDisclosure Act. However, it has so many holes that whistleblowers aregiven little protection. For example, the onus of proof is onwhistleblowers to show that they have acted in good faith, and thereis no official whistleblower agency. Other legislation that might beused by whistleblowers has similar problems. There is no ombudsman.There is no freedom of information legislation. A proposed bill has avery large number of exemptions, ensuring that it has limitedeffectiveness. The European Convention on Human Rights is about to beincorporated into British law. Auditor-general units andantidiscrimination bodies could conceivably be helpful in casesfalling under their jurisdiction, but they have little experiencewith whistleblower cases. There are a few specialist anticorruptionbodies, such as parliamentary select committees; none is known forbeing effective.
*** Canada ***
Canadian Civil LibertiesAssociation
Address: 229 Yonge Street, Suite 403, Toronto Ont M5B 1N9
Phone: (416) 363 0321
Fax: (416) 861 1291
There is no broad whistleblower legislation, though some specificlegislation (such as occupational health and safety) has provisionsagainst retaliation. An ombudsman is found in all provinces andfederally. Also available are federal and provincial human rightscommissions, freedom of information legislation and auditor-generalunits, as well as appeal bodies in more specific areas. Having nosystematic information about their effectiveness, it is safe toassume that most of them are no more effective than official channelsin other countries such as Australia and the US.
*** New Zealand ***
Auckland Council for Civil Liberties
Address: PO Box 6582, Wellesley Street, Auckland
Phone: (09)376 9670
Official channels include whistleblower legislation, ombudsmenand appeal bodies in a variety of areas (such as banking, racerelations conciliators, Health and Disability Commissioner, PoliceComplaints Authority), freedom of information legislation,auditor-general units and antidiscrimination bodies. Having nosystematic information about their effectiveness, it is safe toassume that most of them are no more effective than official channelsin other countries such as Australia and the US.
*** South Africa ***
Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI)
Address: PO Box 30668, Braamfontein 2017
Phone: phone 011 403 8403/4
Fax: 011 403 8309
Institute for Democracy inSouth Africa (IDASA) is an independent, nonprofit publicinterest organisation promoting democracy.
Address: PO Box 1739, Cape Town 8000
Phone: 021 461 5616/98
Fax: 021 461 7210
Black Sash is a human rights advocacy organisation, focussingon social security issues, offering free paralegal services at eightoffices throughout the country.
Address: 12 Plein Street, Cape Town 8001
Phone 021 461 7818
Fax 021 461 8004
Protection for whistleblowers is included in the Open Democracy Bill,to be considered by parliament in 1999. Of state-funded institutions,worthy of note are the Human Rights Commission, Pretoria; Office ofthe Public Protector, Pretoria (a sort of ombudsman for the publicservice); Office of the Auditor-General, Pretoria; Office for SeriousEconomic Offences, Pretoria; Special Investigating Unit of the HealthCommission, East London. Little evidence is available on theeffectiveness of these and other organisations in responding topublic interest disclosures.
*** United States ***
US whistleblowers should obtain the book The Whistleblower'sSurvival Guide: Courage Without Martyrdom by Tom Devine,available from the Government Accountability Project (see first entrybelow) for $13.95 plus $2.00 postage and packing. This is anextremely valuable analysis of whistleblowing, and includes detailson US official channels, summarised very briefly below.
Government AccountabilityProject (GAP) provides advocacy and legal assistance towhistleblowers. With a 16-person staff, it can provide advice andreferrals. However, direct legal representation by GAP attorneys isonly possible in a fraction of cases. GAP has developed specialexpertise in dealing with whistleblower rights, nuclear weaponsfacility clean-ups, food safety, laws on environmental protection,and national security abuses.
Address: 1612 K St., NW, Suite 400, Washington DC, 20006
Phone: (202) 408 0034
Fax: (202) 408 9855
West coast office:
1402 Third Avenue, Suite 1215, Seattle, WA 98118
Phone/fax: (206) 292 2850
The Giraffe Project
The Giraffe Project is a nonprofit organisation that moves people tostick their necks out for the common good and helps them do itbetter.
IntegrityInternational is a Washington-based non-profit group thatprovides resources and support for whistleblowers. Dr Don Soeken whocan offer expert advice to whistleblowers.
Project on GovernmentOversight (POGO) is a nonprofit organisation thatinvestigates government waste, fraud and abuse, including workingwith whistleblowers inside the system.
Address: 1900 L Street NW, Suite 314, Washington DC 20036
Phone: (202) 466 5539
Fax: (202) 466 5596
Public Employees for EnvironmentalResponsibility (PEER) is a nonprofit organisation thatsupports employees in government environmental agencies who areseeking greater protection of the environment.
Address: 2001 S Street NW, Suite 570, Washington DC 20009
Phone: (202) 265 7337
Fax: (202) 265 4192
American Civil LibertiesUnion, National Taskforce on Civil Liberties in theWorkplace uses public education and targeted court cases topromote civil rights of all employees.
Address: 166 Wall Street, Princeton NJ 08540
Phone: (609) 683 0313
Fax: (609) 683 1787
Centerfor Government Accountability
The Center for Government Accountability is a grassrootswhistleblower and Government dissident network and supportorganization. It is particularly involved with Department of Energyand American Indian issues currently.
Official channels Hotlines to receive reports of fraud, wasteor mismanagement are available in nearly every federal governmentdepartment and agency. However, GAP says "hotlines are in most casesworthless at best": few reports are investigated and in many casesthe whistleblower's confidentiality is violated. In the privatesector, the equivalent of government hotlines are corporate voluntarydisclosure programmes. They appear to work no better than hotlines.In the armed forces, service suggestion programmes provide rewardsfor employees who make suggestions that save money. However, therewards are small and making suggestions can lead to reprisals. Mostgovernment agencies have an internal office responsible forinvestigating misconduct, usually called an inspector general (IG).Whistleblowers should be wary of IGs: often they cover up problems,doing damage control for management; sometimes they are corruptthemselves; and they may act to discredit and attack whistleblowers.The Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) is a formal channel forgovernment whistleblowers to make disclosures. The OSC can refercharges to the agency in question to answer, but does this onlyrarely. GAP concludes that "an OSC whistleblowing disclosure islikely to be unproductive or even counterproductive--unless it ispart of a larger strategy involving other institutions." One of themost promising avenues for redress is to sue under the False ClaimsAct. However, this can be highly expensive, open the whistleblower upto blacklisting and prevent speaking out for the duration of thecase, often years.
revised 1 March 2004
for a listing of alternate locations.