Frequently asked questions
You can complain to us if you think you have been unfairly treated by an ACT Government agency or employee.
We can also look at complaints about:
- Tertiary public education providers
- ACT Police (see ACT Policing)
- ACT Corrections
- protected 'whistleblower' disclosures (see Public interest disclosure)
- reportable conduct investigations (see reportable conduct scheme)
- freedom of information requests
See Complaints the Ombudsman can investigate for more information.
Anyone can make a complaint. If you do not want to make the complaint yourself, you can ask someone else, such as a relative, friend, advocate, solicitor or welfare worker to complain on your behalf. You may need to give consent in some circumstances.
The Ombudsman's services are free.
Yes. The Ombudsman accepts anonymous complaints.
We will decide whether or not to investigate based on the seriousness of the matter raised by the complaint and the level of information provided.
All complaints received by the Ombudsman's office are carefully and promptly considered.
In providing our complaints service, we:
- decide whether we can or should investigate a complaint
- seek appropriate remedies where we investigate a complaint
- deal with complaints in an impartial and effective way
- promote improved administration by ACT Government agencies.
To help us decide whether to investigate or not, we may request more information from you, including providing documents such as copies of letters or emails. We might also ask you to make your complaint in writing.
If we decide not investigate your complaint, we will tell you the reasons why.
If we are unable to help, or your complaint falls outside our jurisdiction, we may be able to refer you to someone who can, such as:
- the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal or other tribunals
- state, territory, industry and specialist Ombudsmen
- the ACT Human Rights Commission
- other complaint-handling agencies.
When the Ombudsman does investigate, it is done independently, impartially and in private. We will indicate how long it may take to deal with your complaint and provide the name of a contact person at our office.
The aim in all cases is to resolve complaint disputes fairly and to help agencies improve their services.
The work of the office helps people access remedies. These range from better explanations for actions, through to decisions being reconsidered or actions expedited. Other remedies include apologies and changes to law, policy or practices that help others in the future.
The Ombudsman cannot override the decisions of agencies, or compel them to comply with our recommendations. However, agencies generally do accept the Ombudsman's recommendations. If they do not, and the Ombudsman considers that it is in the public interest to do so, a formal report can be made to the relevant minister, the Chief Minister, or the Legislative Assembly.
When you complain to the Ombudsman's Office, you can expect:
- professional and courteous attention
- independent and impartial assessment of your complaint and advice regarding your options
- confidential, prompt and free investigation, if appropriate, in a manner that is fair to all concerned
- clear explanations about what we can and cannot do, and why
- clear explanations for any decision we make
- ongoing communication from us regarding the progress of your complaint.
Criticisms and compliments are important ways of gaining feedback about our service. We are committed to improving our service to the community and your views are welcome, even if they are critical. See our Contact us page for further details.
If you disagree with our final decision after it is made, you can ask us to review it.
If you disagree with our final decision after it is made, you can ask us to review it. A request for review should be made in writing within three months of being told of our decision.
Review information sheet and request form (PDF version)
Review information sheet and request form (rich text version)
The review will be conducted by a senior officer who was not involved in the original investigation of your complaint. The review will consider:
- the process adopted by the investigating officer and whether it was fair and adequate to address all the complaint issues you raised
- the merit of the officer's conclusions and whether they were properly explained to you.
The review officer may:
- uphold the decision of the original investigation officer
- change the decision of the original investigation officer
- send the matter back to the original investigation officer or another officer for further investigation.
We endeavour to complete reviews within thirty days. The review officer will send you a letter advising you of the outcome of the review.
We will only review a matter once.
Apart from seeking internal review, you have the right to seek external review of the decision made by the staff member who handled your complaint:
- under the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1989 you can ask us for a statement of reasons for a decision we have made about your complaint
- you can apply to the Supreme Court for a review of certain aspects of a decision we have made about your complaint.