Responding to Ombudsman complaints

The Ombudsman encourages all complainants to make their complaint directly to the public authority involved to give them the opportunity to address their concerns. As well as helping resolve their complaint, bringing the matter to the public authority’s attention may result in changes to public authority policies or procedures that will benefit other community members.

In the event that a complainant is dissatisfied with the response from the public authority in relation to their complaint, they may raise their concerns with the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman has the jurisdiction to investigate the actions of State Government departments, prisons, hospitals, schools and TAFEs, local governments and public universities.

The Ombudsman's process for handling complaints

The Ombudsman will assess each complaint and if it is within jurisdiction and appropriate for the office to take action, the following action will be taken:

1. Assess the complaint   We will assess each complaint to determine the extent of the Ombudsman’s involvement. Where the complainant has not yet lodged a complaint with the public authority, we generally ask them to do this first and inform them that they can contact us again if they are not satisfied.

If the complaint is within our jurisdiction and it is appropriate for us to take action, we will resolve the complaint as outlined below.
2. Advise the public authority   In most cases, we initially ask the public authority concerned to comment on the complaint and to provide background information.
3. Explore options for early resolution   Where, appropriate, we will explore options for early resolution of the complaint with the public authority.
4. Conduct an investigation   If unresolved, we will undertake further investigation if required. The Ombudsman has the ability to interview the individuals involved, examine agency files and, generally, investigate in whatever way seems appropriate.
5. Form a view   When we have looked at the facts, we consider whether the public authority has:

  • acted contrary to law;
  • acted unreasonably, unjustly, oppressively or been improperly discriminatory;
  • made a discretionary decision for an improper purpose, or taken into account irrelevant considerations or failed to consider relevant considerations;
  • failed to provide reasons for a decision when reasons should have been given;
  • based a decision wholly or partly on a mistake of law or fact; and/or
  • acted wrongly.
We will form a preliminary view and seek comments from any public authority adversely affected.
We will review any comments received and form a final view.
6. Make recommendations   Where appropriate, the Ombudsman can recommend that the public authority take some action to remedy the situation, such as a review of the decision, changes to administrative practices, an apology or a once off payment, if it is warranted.

We will advise the complainant and public authority of outcomes and close the complaint.


Further information on the Ombudsman's process for handling complaints can be found in the following guidelines and information sheets:

Responding to complaints made to the Ombudsman about your public authority

It is in the interests of everyone that complaints are handled effectively and efficiently. Public authorities can support this by responding promptly with all relevant information when they are contacted by the Ombudsman and, where appropriate, being prepared to provide an appropriate remedy for a complaint.

To assist public authorities to respond effectively to investigation of complaints made to the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman has developed the following guidelines and information sheets:

  • Being interviewed by the office of the Ombudsman
    These guidelines have been designed for people being interviewed as part of an investigation by the Ombudsman.
  • Remedies and redress
    These guidelines provide a framework to help managers make decisions about providing redress or a remedy when a service provided to the individual is unsatisfactory and the public authority has in some way contributed to this.