Working with the Indigenous Community

Acknowledgement of Country

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman (the Office) acknowledges the traditional owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, culture and community. We pay our respect to elders past, present and emerging.

What we do

We help people sort out problems with Australian Government agencies. This includes programs that are for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, such as the Community Development Program.

You can also tell us about problems you have with Australian Government programs. Some of the most common complaints to our Office are about:

  • Centrelink payments
  • Child Support
  • Medicare
  • Australia Post
  • VET Student loans.

If you feel comfortable, please let us know if you are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander. This can ensure that we give you the best possible service that we can to suit your needs.

For example, if you prefer to use an Indigenous language interpreter, we can make arrangements to contact you at a time that is convenient to you.

If you would like support to make a complaint, let us know and we will do our best to help you. This might include:

  • making an appointment to talk to someone in person, or
  • asking us to contact another person to get more information about your complaint.

You can:

  • ask us to call back at a time suitable for you
  • ask us for extra time to make your complaint, or
  • ask somebody else, for example an advocate, friend or family member, to help with making your complaint.

We can provide copies of leaflets explaining our services and how to make a complaint.

Making complaints to agencies

If you think an Australian Government agency has been unfair or has done something wrong, we usually ask you to make a complaint to the agency before you contact our Office. This is important because:

  • it lets the agency know you are not happy
  • agencies can fix most problems, but our investigations can take more time.

We know that some people do not like to make complaints. They may have lots of reasons, including:

  • feeling scared
  • feeling unsure about how to explain the problem
  • feeling like there’s no point making a complaint because it won’t change anything.

There is an expectation that agencies have good complaint systems. They should also give you information about how to make a complaint if you tell their staff you are unhappy.

Some Australian Government agencies ask people to use online complaint forms. If you don’t feel comfortable using a form, you can ask agency staff to record your complaint for you.

When to come to us

You should try to resolve the complaint with the agency before contacting us. Click here for more information about what to do before making a complaint.

If an agency doesn’t fix your problem or is taking too long to fix it, you can complain to our Office. We will:

  • listen to your complaint
  • decide whether we can help you.

If we are not able to help, we may be able to give you a better explanation about the agency’s processes, procedures or decisions.

We may also be able to give you information on who else may be able to help with your complaint.

You can ask to talk with a member of our Indigenous Strategy Teamand, if available at the time, an Indigenous staff member.

We welcome complaints from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.  Your story matters to the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Reconciliation Action Plan

We acknowledge, value, respect and affirm the history and cultural richness of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in all that we do. Our Reconciliation Action Plan includes practical steps to build relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities, and to continually improve access to our services.