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In Whose Interest Do You Claim: The Public's Interest or Your Own?

If, in blowing the whistle, you seek an outcome on behalf of the public and not only for your own personal interest or gain, then you are making a disclosure in the public’s interest and you are a whistleblower.

That is, your disclosure is a public-interest disclosure and you are an agent or relator for the state, because you are standing in the shoes of the public (or, in ancient times, the King), in seeking to bring the wrongdoer to account.

This legal concept was first known by the latin phrase "qui tam domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur," meaning "he sues in this matter for the King as well as for himself". You might look to the federal False Claims Act in the USA dating back to Abraham Lincoln’s time for a more recent adaptation, commonly known as 'qui tam' actions.

Whistleblowing is quite different to complaining or lodging a grievance about a person bullying or victimizing you (whether for blowing the whistle or not), because in doing this you’re acting for yourself and in your own interest and not the public interest. You need to be able to distinguish between the two, because many whistleblowing protection acts provide some protection for making a public-interest disclosure and consequent retaliation, but not for personal grievances or complaints.


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Copyright Whistleblowers Australia 2007-2010. (Last update: 12 November 2010.)