Handling your complaint

On receipt of your complaint, we will:

  • Consider your complaint carefully;
  • Treat you and the public authority you are complaining about fairly and impartially;
  • Treat you with courtesy and respect;
  • Respond to your telephone enquiry promptly - generally the same day or by the end of our next work day;
  • Acknowledge your written complaint to us promptly;
  • Advise you in writing whether your complaint is a matter that the Ombudsman may be able to assist you with;
  • Act on your complaint as quickly as we can (the time we take will depend on how complex it is);
  • Keep you informed about the progress of your complaint; and
  • Explain to you the reasons for any decision we make.


If you are not sure whether the Ombudsman can deal with your complaint then contact us.

We look at all complaints we receive to see if they are within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction.

The key matters we consider are:

  • Do we have the authority to investigate the public authority you are complaining about?
  • Is your complaint about a matter of administration*?
  • Does the complaint affect you personally?
  • Have you known about the matter for more than 12 months?
  • Could the complaint be decided by a court or tribunal?
  • Is there another body that can deal with the matter?
  • How does this impact you and the wider community?

If there is another way to resolve your complaint, we will tell you.

For more detailed information please refer to the Ombudsman Western Australia Assessment of Complaints Checklist.

* Most decisions and actions taken by public authorities in the course of performing their functions under legislation or implementing government policy are considered matters of administration. In general, matters of administration are matters relating to the executive arm or function of government as opposed to the legislative (parliament) and judicial (courts) arms or functions of government.


The purpose of an investigation is to gather information about your complaint. The Ombudsman can do this in a number of ways. In most cases we ask the agency concerned to comment on the complaint and to provide background information. We usually include a copy of the original complaint. In all cases the Ombudsman has the ability to interview the individuals involved, examine agency files and, generally, investigate in whatever way seems appropriate.

When we have looked at the facts, we consider whether the agency 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.

The Ombudsman can recommend that the agency take some action to remedy the situation, such as a review of the decision, change administrative practices, an apology or a once off payment, if it is warranted.


Many complaints are resolved either fully or partially as a result of the Ombudsman's intervention.

The Ombudsman can only make recommendations to agencies. We cannot direct action to be taken. However, public authorities generally accept and implement our recommendations.

The Ombudsman may send a report about the investigation to the relevant minister or the Premier, table a report in State Parliament, or place a report on our website.

Note: Any documents that are prepared for an investigation and sent to or by the Ombudsman cannot be used in any legal proceedings.

Requests for review

We offer complainants who are dissatisfied with our decisions the opportunity to have the handling of their complaint reviewed.  The purpose of a review is to ensure that we have acted fairly and reasonably in dealing with the complaint. If we find problems with our decision making process or in the way we have managed the investigation, we will improve our processes so that the problem does not occur again. If appropriate, we may also reconsider our decision.  We ask that a request for review is made in writing, is addressed to the Ombudsman and sets out the reasons why you believe the decision is not reasonable or correct. 

More information is available in the Ombudsman Western Australia Information Sheet Requesting a review of a decision about a complaint made to the Ombudsman