What we do

Who we are

The Swedish Parliament first used the word 'Ombudsman' in its modern sense when in 1809 it established the office of Justitie-Ombudsman, who was to function as a defender of the people in their dealings with government. Since then, similar offices have been established in over 100 countries worldwide, most of which are affiliated with the International Ombudsman Institute.

In Australia, there are state and territory ombudsman offices and a Commonwealth Ombudsman, who performs the functions of the ACT Ombudsman.

An increasing concern with service quality and customer satisfaction in a range of industries has led to the introduction of a wide variety of dispute resolution and complaint schemes, which assist consumers to settle their differences with suppliers of goods and services informally and quickly.

In addition, a number of industry ombudsman have been appointed, whose responsibility it is to protect citizens’ interests in their dealings with a variety of service providers, especially in industries previously owned or regulated by governments, for example telecommunications, energy, banking and insurance.

Office establishment

In June 2009, the ACT Ombudsman's office celebrated its twentieth anniversary. The office was established as part of the framework for ACT self-government in 1989, and has been an enduring feature of the ACT system of government accountability and statutory oversight. Many thousands of ACT residents have approached the ACT Ombudsman over that period on matters as diverse as public housing, road traffic control, whistleblower protection, urban planning, child protection, schooling and correctional services.

The role of ACT Ombudsman has since been discharged by the Commonwealth Ombudsman as a result of an arrangement between the ACT and Australian governments.

Ombudsman's role

We consider and investigate complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by an ACT Government department or agency, including the Australian Federal Police in its community policing role. We also investigate complaints from ACT public education providers including Australian National University (ANU), Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) and University of Canberra (UC). Our aim is to resolve complaints impartially, informally and quickly. If we cannot assist with a particular complaint, we will explain why, and suggest other avenues for resolving the matter.

We cannot override the decisions of the agencies we deal with, nor issue directions to their staff. Instead, we resolve disputes by consultation and negotiation, and if necessary, by making formal recommendations to the most senior levels of government. Since the inception of the ACT Ombudsman’s office in 1989, we have assisted in resolving many hundreds of individual complaints, and brought about significant improvements in the quality of government administration.

Our annual report provides details of the numbers and types of complaints we deal with, and the ways in which they are resolved.

We also conduct inspections of law enforcement agencies' use of covert powers under ACT legislation and the management of the ACT child sex offenders register. The results of our inspections can be found in our annual report.

Our mission

  • an office that safeguards the community in dealings with ACT Government agencies.
  • to correct defective administration, by conducting independent investigation of complaints about ACT Government administrative action
  • to foster good public administration that is accountable, lawful, fair, transparent and responsive
  • to assist people to resolve complaints about government administrative action.

Values

  • independence
  • impartiality
  • integrity
  • accessibility
  • professionalism
  • team work.

What we do

  • investigate complaints about ACT Government agencies and public education providers and make recommendations for resolving complaints
  • foster good complaint handling in ACT Government agencies and public education providers
  • encourage and assist people to resolve problems directly with government agencies and public education providers
  • highlight problems in public administration through complaint handling, own motion investigations and reporting
  • contribute to public discussion on administrative law and public administration
  • focus attention on the adverse impact government administration can have on individuals
  • promote open government
  • assess law enforcement agencies' compliance with ACT legislation when using the following covert powers: surveillance devices, controlled operations and assumed identities
  • monitor ACT Policing's management of the ACT child sex offenders register.

How we do it

  • professional, high-quality and well-trained staff
  • delivery of our services in accordance with professional standards
  • efficient and effective information systems
  • being responsive to criticism of our own performance.

How the Ombudsman can help you

If you think you have been unfairly treated by an ACT Government agency or public education providers you can complain to the Ombudsman’s office. We can investigate complaints about:

Agencies

ACT Government agencies responsible for services such as public housing and education, corrective centres, planning and parking infringements.

Services

We can investigate services delivered by some private contractors for the ACT Government. We can also investigate services delivered by ACT public education providers including ANU, CIT and UC. Complaints can be received from domestic and overseas students who are over 18 years of age. Students who are under 18 years of age can make complaints to the Children and Young People Commissioner at the ACT Human Rights Commission.

Freedom of information

Freedom of Information (FOI) including delays in processing FOI requests and complaints about FOI charges.

Whistleblowers

Under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1994 the ACT Ombudsman can investigate whistleblower complaints.

Australian Federal Police (AFP)

The AFP provides community policing services to the ACT under an agreement with the ACT Government. We can investigate complaints about the actions of the AFP.

Australian Government agencies

The ACT Ombudsman is also the Commonwealth Ombudsman and can investigate complaints about Australian Government agencies.

We cannot investigate complaints about the actions of ACT Government ministers or politicians; private individuals; or environment, health and consumer services (there are special commissioners to deal with these issues); decisions of courts and tribunals; and public service employment.

Overseas Student Ombudsman

The Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the Overseas Student Ombudsman and can investigate complaints about problems that overseas students have with private education and training in Australia.