Service charter

This Service Charter sets out the standards of service you can expect in your dealings with our Office about your complaint.

We are committed to providing the best service possible. Your feedback enables us to improve our service and to see ourselves from your perspective.

We regularly monitor our performance against our service standards and assess ways to make further improvement.

Our complaints service

Anyone may complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman (who is also the Defence Force Ombudsman, Immigration Ombudsman, Law Enforcement Ombudsman, Postal Industry Ombudsman, Overseas Students Ombudsman and Taxation Ombudsman) about Australian Government departments or agencies.

For further information about what complaints we can investigate see Complaints the Ombudsman can investigate.

Our complaints service is free.

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 Australian Government departments and agencies.

Our values

We aim to maintain high standards when delivering our services. In particular we are committed to the Australian Public Service Values and Code of Conduct, and to the specific values of our office:

  • independence
  • impartiality
  • integrity
  • accessibility
  • professionalism.

How you can make a complaint

  • you can make a complaint in person, by letter, fax, email, telephone or via our online complaint form. Sometimes we may need to ask you to set out your complaint in more detail or provide information in writing
  • you can authorise someone else to make a complaint on your behalf. However, before investigating we will seek your confirmation (generally in writing) that you have done so
  • you can complain anonymously (although our ability to investigate may be limited).

Services available to help you make a complaint

  • Translating and Interpreter Service (TIS): if you need an interpreter, you can contact us through TIS on 131 450
  • National Relay Service (NRS): if you are deaf, or have a hearing, sight or speech impairment, you can phone 133 677 then ask for 1300 362 072; Speak and Listen users phone 1300 555 727 then ask for 1300 362 072; Internet Relay users connect to NRS (internet-relay.nrscall.gov.au) then ask for 1300 362 072
  • Community languages: we have information about the Ombudsman in many languages on our website.

How we resolve complaints

We assess all complaints to determine which course of action is likely to lead to a better practical outcome. We may contact you to request further information or documents that will help us to better understand the complaint.

If we decide to investigate, we will contact the department or agency to seek responses to key issues identified by your complaint.

When we make a decision not to investigate or not to further investigate a complaint, it does not mean we consider a complaint has no merit. Rather, it may reflect a range of factors including our assessment of the administrative action or decision complained about, available options to investigate issues raised in the complaint, and the likelihood of an investigation or further investigation achieving a meaningful remedy for the complainant.

We will generally not investigate a complaint unless you have already complained directly to the department or agency concerned and you remain dissatisfied.

In some circumstances:

  • we may refer or transfer your complaint to the department or agency to give it an opportunity or a further opportunity to resolve the matter before we decide whether to investigate
  • we may transfer it to another agency better placed to deal with your complaint
  • we may not be able to investigate your complaint because it is not within our power under the law to do so
  • we may decide not to investigate because, for example, we are satisfied that you became aware of the action complained of more than 12 months before complaining to us or you could or have taken action about the matter in a court or a tribunal and we do not consider that there are special reasons justifying investigation by us.

How you can help us

We are committed to offering you an impartial and professional service. Our ability to provide you with a high level of service depends on mutual respect and help. To help us achieve this we ask you to:

  • tell us if you have any special requirements to access our services, if you need an interpreter or information provided in an alternative format
  • when making a complaint provide as much detail as possible
  • respond to our requests for information in a timely manner and give us accurate information
  • tell us as soon as possible if you need to correct or update any information you have given us, including your contact details or if you wish to withdraw your complaint
  • be polite and willing to listen in your dealings with us.

If you are dissatisfied with our decision

If you are dissatisfied with a decision we have made about your complaint, discuss the matter with the staff member who made the decision or write to them about it.

After that, if you remain dissatisfied, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed. You must make your review request, preferably in writing, within three months of being told of our decision and you must tell us how you think we made a mistake in reaching our decision or provide us with new, relevant and important information. A 'request for review' form is available on our website, or you can call us and ask for a form to be posted, emailed or faxed to you.

If we agree to review our decision, your request will be assigned to a staff member who was not involved in handling your complaint. The review officer may contact you to discuss your complaint. We will send you a letter advising 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 1977 you can ask us for a statement of reasons for a decision we have made about your complaint
  • you can apply to the Federal Court for a review of certain aspects of a decision we have made about your complaint.

If you are dissatisfied with our level of service

We are committed to improving our service and we welcome your views, even if they are critical.

If you are dissatisfied with the way you have been treated or the level of service you have received from one of our staff members, you may raise the issue with that staff member.

If you are not comfortable raising the matter with the staff member concerned, or you are still dissatisfied after speaking to that staff member, you may raise the matter with the staff member's supervisor.