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Whistleblowing Women

Australian women who blow the whistle on corruption in their workplaces.

Monica Bennett-Ryan and Janice Weightmen, whistleblowing women at Victoria Barracks.

Within weeks of starting employment with the Australian Government Security Vetting Agency at Victoria Barracks in March 2010, five whistleblowers sensed something was terribly wrong.

They had been told to "be creative" making up past histories and addresses for subjects being vetted.

And ASIO was being duped by these faked security checks.

National security seemed to be being breached.

Thousands of high-level security assessments in the Defence Department were being compromised by this incorrect data.

The data was subsequently used by ASIO to issue official clearances of individuals working in sensitive areas.

The background character checks involved individuals employed as private security guards working on Australian military bases, senior public servants with access to sensitive information, staff in our overseas embassies and airline air marshals.

The five whistleblowers went to the Federal Ombudsman, who gave them the impression that Defence were too big and powerful, there was no hope of anything being done about the situation.

Whistleblower Monica Bennett-Ryan says there was a bullying culture at the Victoria Barracks and threats not to speak out.

"We were not allowed to complain or ask questions. If you broke the rules the penalty was instant dismissal. We were disposable."

In February 2012, Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, Vivienne Thom, tabled a devastating report in Federal Parliament.

"Evidence provided to the inquiry confirmed that the substance of the allegations was true: incorrect data had been inserted in the vetting process," Thom reported.

"Now I have very little faith in the Defence Department and the Labor Government, and especially Defence Minister Stephen Smith," says Janice Weightman, another whistleblower.

Monica Bennett-Ryan says the issue of bullying at Victoria Barracks remains unresolved.

"The bullying has never been looked at despite complaints," she says.

"Defence lied and lied and no one is making them accountable. We were treated appallingly."

"We just want the bullying to stop."

The security breach Defence tried to hide, Des Houghton, The Courier-Mail, 3 March 2012 :