This is the true story of a whistleblower in the Northern Territory. It lays bare all the facts, the pitfalls, the tragedies and triumphs.
I am a real person and my story is published by The Trust.
As Territorians go I have substantial experience beyond the so-called Berrimah line. I have worked in a number of locations outside of Darwin and Alice Springs. I was a believer, a permanent public servant employed by the Northern Territory Government who believed that the government would take action against wrong doing in it’s very own ranks.
How naive I was. This was was my very first lesson in the reality of government, I say government because the Northern Territory Government is not unique among governments in Australia in how it approaches “corrupt conduct”. I have used the term corrupt conduct in the broadest sense because not all corruption is necessarily illegal but nonetheless it is wrong. Corruption that is not illegal in the public service usually breaches codes of conduct which should mean disciplinary proceedings commence within the service against those whose conduct is in question. Well that is the theory. Reality I was to discover is something very different.
My knowledge of whistleblowers was scant, I really had no idea about corruption, the law or whistleblowers, I was just working to earn a living, a veritable crust as it were. All seemed good. Little did I know what awaited me after spending about 9 relatively smooth years working for the NT Government.
There was a new appointment to a managerial position that whilst occupied had been essentially non-functional. A new person from interstate was brought in to much fanfare. Apparently they were a guru and apparently they still are according to some. This appointment should have had very little to do with me. My supervisor came under the remit of the new appointee but I did not directly.
All new managers like to come in a change things, nothing new or novel in that. This was not the first time that a guru came in an wanted the “wallpaper” changed. This was normal. At any rate they were going to put their stamp on the NT, show us how to they do things down south.
The cracks began to show when the new guru caused a discrimination case not involving me but a person I supervised. It was clear cut. Another officer gave me evidence to show that our new guru did not know the rules in the NT. In the end this cost the NT Government well over $100,000 probably $250,000 when hours of government lawyers are added in.
The guru was just warming up for a second act my supervisor was asked to tell lies by the guru and retract an offer that was made in good faith. Consequently I made a formal complaint was investigated and came out squeaky clean, smelling of roses. The investigators recommended the original offer go ahead but it never did. That investigator apparently was never used again.
Whisperings of cash for contracts started in the organisation, subordinates started making accusations against my supervisor. Without divulging the finer details of the matter everything eventually came to a head and I contacted the Office of the Commissioner for Public Interest Disclosures. This office dealt with corruption before there was an ICAC in the NT. The agency had fewer powers than ICAC. It was better than nothing.
The atmosphere in the organisation was tense, you could cut the air. Things had just started to take off. There was a melt down, suddenly my supervisor was on leave just like that and two people I supervised just vanished into thin air. The NT Government went into coverup mode. Then the witch hunt commenced.
I had become a whistleblower, now I felt totally vulnerable as I waited to be “stabbed in the back” through some trumped up performance issue or some such other connivance. You can trust no person and those you do will never believe you when you tell them what is really going on. You become a “leper” and that is exactly what the government wants. They want you to break, to crack up so you can be called a nut when actually you have just called them out and you are a whistleblower.
Readers are probably wondering about protection against retaliation and if they haven’t then they should. More to come in Part 2.