Whistleblowing and its cousins: reporting, feedback, complaints and compliments

October 30, 2019

Shirli Kirschner, founder and director of Resolve Advisors, lawyer and accredited mediator

Shirli Kirschner

Complying with whistleblowing legislation in Australia before January 1 is an important milestone for many companies and organisations. But let’s take a moment to reflect on where it fits within a broader reporting and feedback framework.


I am a resolver and system designer. I like to consider patterns.

A number of companies are rushing to comply with the whistleblowing legislation and tick that box before compliance comes into law on 31 December. A time of the year when boxes are plentiful.

Whistleblowing legislation is designed to protect the whistleblower, and so it should. In the haste to comply, it is important to remember the cousins. At this time of year we reflect that baubles are less without a tree, candles have no meaning without a Chanukkiah, and a Ramadan feast without a fast is just a big meal.

To have relevance, some things just need to go together.

Let’s reflect on why people choose to blow whistles. For a small minority it is malice, mischief, revenge or spite. Not much can be done about those. But for many it is because they’re faced with a problem that is most serious. Serious enough that they have a strong need to be heard, and the problem needs to be attended to.

To deal with this situation, organisations and industries must have safe ways of getting information early. Aussies are not big on providing information, making a fuss, or ratting on anyone, or anything.

That said, it’s important to bear in mind that not much goes on in an organisation that the team cannot tell you.

The old-fashion Suggestion Box for complaints and compliments, upgraded to 21st century hardware, is worth its weight in gold. So is a quick staff survey on a regular basis (not suggesting that this replace the annual one).

Keep it simple. Anonymity with protections against mischief is best.

The cousins of the whistleblowing policy are:

  • A way for staff and others to send in feedback that is safe and secure.
  • Dealing with feedback pronto, and checking in with staff to see how solutions look from the outside in. In other words, looking at things from a perspective other than those who have set out to remedy the problem.
  • Whistleblowing protections and feedback for when things go wrong.

Like all simple fixes it is common sense to those who have seen the patterns before.

Contact us for advice or resources and to add family members to the discussion.

Further information

Shirli Kirschner, founder and director of Resolve Advisors, lawyer and accredited mediator

Shirli Kirschner

Shirli is the founder of Resolve Advisors and Elker. She is an award-winning system designer and mediator with a legal background.