Workplace whistleblowing research to chart new territory

A three-year, trans-Tasman research project into whistle-blowing practices in the workplace, has been granted over half of a million dollars (AU$457,800) in funding by the Australian Research Council Linkage.

Victoria University of Wellington is one of the 15 organisations involved in the world’s first empirical study of how organisations manage employee-reported wrongdoing in the workplace.

The project, ‘Protecting While They Prosper? Organisational Responses to Whistleblowing’, will delve into unchartered territory by revealing which employer practices around whistleblowing are effective, those that are not, identify gaps in the system and how they can be remedied.

The insights will enable researchers to develop best-practice guidelines that could inform whistleblowing policies of governments, regulators and organisations, and better protect practices that combat wrongdoing in the workplace, a statement from Victoria University says.

Victoria’s Institute for Governance and Policy Studies director, Michael Macaulay is the sole New Zealand academic involved in the project, and will lead the work on this side of the Tasman.

He is “ecstatic” that the group has been awarded the funding, which he says “is really valuable to the policy community of New Zealand”.

“Evidence from the New Zealand public sector shows that there are genuine concerns over public disclosures and the handling of whistleblowing. Our project will be able to help inculcate good practice and hopefully lead to tangible improvements.” .

The research team is led by Brisbane’s Griffith University and includes researchers from University of Sydney, Australian National University, New Zealand Ombudsman and the State Services Commission.

It follows on from the researchers’ earlier ground-breaking work “Whistling while they work” (2005-2009), which investigated the incidence, significance and outcomes of whistleblowing as experienced by general employees.

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