ApproachContact with our Office about a matter. An approach may be about a matter outside our jurisdiction.
Authorised internal recipientA person who is authorised to disclose material. In certain cases, also an authorised officer of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.
Authorised officerAn officer appointed by the principal officer of an agency to receive and allocate public interest disclosures.
CategoryApproaches to our Office are divided into five categories: see below.
Category 1 Initial approach (approach)An approach made by phone or in person that can be resolved simply, including by referral to a more appropriate agency. Also where we used our discretion not to investigate.
Category 2—Further assessment (approach)An approach which calls for further assessment. This might include internal enquiries/research (or obtaining more information from the complainant), but in which we applied our discretion not to investigate.
Category 3—Investigation (complaint)An approach investigated and resolved after a single contact with the agency.
Category 4—Further investigation (complaint)An approach that was resolved after two or more substantive contacts with the agency.
Category 5—Formal reports (complaint)An approach where formal powers have been exercised and/or a s 15 report issued.
Closed approachAn approach that has been finalised.
Community detentionA form of immigration detention that enables people in detention to reside and move about freely in the community without having to be accompanied or restrained by an officer under the Migration Act 1958.
Compensation for Detriment caused by Defective Administration (CDDA) A scheme that allows Australian Government agencies under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 to provide discretionary compensation to people who have been adversely affected through an agency's defective actions or inaction.
Compliance auditingThe action of inspecting the records of law enforcement agencies to determine compliance with relevant legislation.
ComplaintAn approach to the Ombudsman that expresses dissatisfaction about government administrative action or industry service provision, and where a response or resolution is expected. It does not include an approach that merely seeks information.
Controlled operationA covert operation carried out by law enforcement officers under the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) for the purpose of obtaining evidence that may lead to a prosecution of a person for a serious offence. The operation may involve law enforcement officers engaging in conduct that would otherwise constitute an offence.
Cross-agency issueA complaint or investigation that involves more than one agency, for example where the policy of one agency is administered by another, or if an issue is common to a number of agencies.
Decision to investigateThe Ombudsman may investigate the administrative actions of most Australian Government departments and agencies, and private contractors delivering government services and industries that we oversight. The Ombudsman can decide to not investigate complaints that are 'stale' or frivolous; where the complainant has not first sought redress from the agency; where some other form of review or appeal is more appropriate or where he/she considers that an investigation would not be warranted in all the circumstances.
Established complaintThe Australian Federal Police (AFP) considers a complaint has been 'established' if an AFP investigation concludes in favour of the complaint or against the AFP member.
Finalised complaintA complaint that has been resolved or in which investigation has ceased.
Formal powersThe formal powers of the Ombudsman are similar to those of a Royal Commission. They include the ability to compel an agency to produce documents and to examine witnesses under oath.
GarnisheeSome government agencies such as the Department of Human Services – Child Support have the power to seize money from a third party (such as a bank) to pay a debt. To seize this money is to "garnishee" it.
Garnishee noticeA written advice to a debtor and a third party, such as a financial institution or employer, that a person or business will be garnisheed.
General treatment policyPrivate health insurance that covers non-hospital medical services that are not covered by Medicare, such as dental, physiotherapy, and ambulance services. Also known as 'extras' or 'ancillary' cover.
Hospital policyPrivate health insurance that covers costs incurred by a private patient in hospital.
Hospital exclusions and restrictionsAn exclusion is a treatment or service which is not covered by a hospital insurance policy. A restriction is a treatment or service which is covered to a limited extent, such as covering the cost of admission as a private patient in a shared room in a public hospital; rather than the cost of a private room.
Informed Financial Consent (IFC)The provision of information to patients, including notification of likely out-of-pocket expenses (gap fees) by all relevant service providers, preferably in writing, prior to admission to hospital.
Inspection (immigration)Inspection of immigration detention facilities and other places of detention to monitor the conditions of, and services provided to, detainees and to assess whether those services are compatible with good public administration and operational effectiveness. This includes assessments of the services provided to regional processing centres by the Australian Border Force.
Inspection (other)The Ombudsman has statutory responsibility for inspecting or auditing the records of law enforcement and other enforcement agencies in relation to the use of covert powers. We inspect records relating to telecommunications interceptions, stored communications, surveillance devices and controlled operations.
Investigated complaintAn approach that is classified by the Office as category 3 or above.
InvestigationOccurs when the Office contacts an agency about an issue raised by a complainant, or because the Ombudsman has chosen to use her/his own motion powers.
Improvised dwellingMakeshift accommodation considered to be unsafe and unsuitable for living in. These can range from tin sheds to car bodies and makeshift shelters.
Income managementA scheme that enables the Department of Human Services – Centrelink to retain and manage at least 50 per cent of a person's income support payments. The funds so managed may only be allocated to priority goods and services, such as housing, clothing, food, utilities, education and health care. Managed funds cannot be used to purchase alcohol, gambling products, tobacco or pornography.
Independent Merits ReviewThese are conducted by reviewers appointed by the Minister for Immigration. They are experienced decision-makers, most whom have a background in merits review decision making in federal and state administrative tribunals, such as Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Integrity agencyAn independent body that oversees the actions of public sector and/or other specified organisations to ensure that they are accountable for their decisions and that their clients are treated fairly. Integrity agencies may carry out their functions by investigating complaints, conducting investigations, auditing records or reviewing processes.
JurisdictionUnder the Ombudsman Act 1976, the Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate the administrative actions of most Australian Government agencies and offices; Australia Post and registered private postal operators; private registered education providers in relation to overseas students; and private health funds or health care providers in relation to private health insurance.

The Commonwealth Ombudsman also undertakes the role of the ACT Ombudsman in accordance with s 28 of the ACT Self-Government (Consequential Provisions) Act 1988 (Cth).
Lifetime Health Cover (LHC)A government initiative that determines how much consumers pay for private hospital insurance, based primarily on their age. The Lifetime Health Cover rules are contained in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 (Cth).
Medical gapThe amount a private patient pays personally for medical treatment in hospital, over and above what is received from Medicare or a private health insurer. Health insurers may have gap cover arrangements with service providers to insure against some or all of these additional payments.
Medicare Benefits Schedule (MBS)A listing of the Medicare services subsidised by the Australian government. It includes a schedule of fees.
Medicare Levy SurchargeAn income tax levy that applies to Australian taxpayers who earn above a certain income threshold and who do not hold appropriate private hospital insurance.
Natural justiceIn administrative decision-making, natural justice means procedural fairness. This includes the right to a fair hearing; that decisions are made without undue bias; providing a person to present a case addressing any adverse matters; and providing reasons for decisions.
Non-refoulementThe principle that people seeking asylum may not be returned to a place where they fear harm, including persecution.
ObjectiveThe name of the electronic information management system used by the Ombudsman's Office.
OutcomesThe results, consequences or impacts of government actions.
Outcome statementsThese articulate government objectives and serve three main purposes within the financial framework:
  1. to explain why annual appropriations are approved by the Parliament for use by agencies
  2. to provide a basis for budgeting and reporting against the use of appropriated funds
  3. to measure and assess the non-financial performance of agencies and programs in contributing to Government policy objectives.
Out of jurisdiction (OOJ)A matter about which the Office has no legal power under the Ombudsman Act 1976 to investigate.
Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC)A type of health cover designed for overseas student visa holders which can be purchased from some Australian private health insurers.
Overseas Visitors Health Cover (OVHC)A type of health cover designed for people without Medicare benefits or with only reciprocal (partial) Medicare benefits which can be purchased from some Australian private health insurers and some international insurers.
Own motion investigationAn investigation conducted on the Ombudsman's own initiative.
Principal officerThe head of an agency.
Private Health Insurance RebateThe Australian Government provides an income tested rebate to help people meet the cost of private health insurance. The Rebate is income-tested and varies depending on age group and family composition.
ProgramCommonwealth programs deliver benefits, services or transfer payments to individuals, industry/business or the community as a whole and are the primary vehicles for government agencies to achieve the intended results of their outcome statements.
Public interest disclosureUnless otherwise stated, this relates to an internal disclosure of wrongdoing, which has been reported by a public official to an authorised internal recipient.
Redress of Grievance (ROG)Members of the Australian Defence Force are encouraged to seek resolution of any complaint at the lowest possible level in the chain of command. Members who are not satisfied with the outcome of the normal administrative processes may seek review through a formal Redress of Grievance submission to their commanding officer.
RemedyA solution or correction to a problem that has been the subject of a complaint.
ResolveThe name of the electronic case management system used by the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Review rightsPeople who disagree with a decision made about them or who believe they have been treated unfairly by a government agency may appeal against the decision or ask for it to be reviewed by the agency. If the person is not satisfied with this process he or she may complain to the Ombudsman (provided the complaint is within our jurisdiction).
Review (Ombudsman)A complainant who disagrees with a decision by the Ombudsman may request that the matter be reconsidered by an officer within the office who was not involved in the original investigation.
Root causeThe reason or source of a problem that, if adequately addressed, may prevent the problem recurring.
Second Chance TransferThese refer to complaints about Australia Post, and refer to relatively uncomplicated complaints which were not investigated but instead were referred back to Australia Post for reconsideration.
Root cause AnalysisA structured approach to identifying the reason or source of a problem in order to prevent its recurring.
SmartFormA web-based form that guides a person through the process of completing it.
Stored communicationsThis typically refers to emails and text (SMS) messages, but may also include images or videos, that have been electronically stored by a telecommunications carrier or internet service provider. For instance, an SMS message is stored by a carrier and sent when the intended recipient is able to receive it. Stored communications access occurs under warrant for the purposes of obtaining information relevant to the investigation of an offence.
Surveillance devicesThese are typically listening devices, cameras and tracking devices. The use of these devices will, in most circumstances, require the issue of a warrant.
Systemic issueA problem that is likely to recur. These issues are often identified through the analysis of similar individual complaints.
Telecommunications interceptionsThe recording of telephone conversations or other transmissions passing over a telecommunications network. Interceptions occur under warrant for the purposes of obtaining information relevant to a criminal investigation.
The OfficeThe Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.
The OmbudsmanThe person occupying the statutory position of Commonwealth Ombudsman.
Third-sector organisationsCommunity, voluntary and not-for-profit organisations.
Unlawful non-citizenA national of another country who does not have the right to be in Australia. The majority of unlawful non-citizens in Australia at any given time have either overstayed their visa had their visa cancelled. Some unlawful non-citizens will have entered Australia without a visa.
Waiting periodHow long a person needs to be covered under a private health insurance policy before he or she is eligible for benefits. The maximum waiting periods for hospital policies are set down in the Private Health Insurance Act 2007 (Cth).
Warm transferAn arrangement between the Ombudsman's Office and the Department of Human Services – Centrelink whereby the Ombudsman's Office will forward the details of a complaint to Centrelink to enable it to investigate it in the first instance. This arrangement is used most commonly in situations that are urgent or which seem simple, or where we think there are good reasons why the complainant should not be required to make a direct complaint to the agency.
Within jurisdictionAn approach about a matter that the Office may investigate under the Ombudsman Act 1976.
s 486O reportThe Ombudsman has a specific statutory role under s 486O of the Migration Act 1958 to report to the Minister for Immigration concerning the circumstances of anyone who has been in immigration detention for two years or more.

List of figures and tables


  • Table 1 – These functions are carried out by the separate branches as follows:
  • Table 2 – How approaches were received by the Office
  • Table 3 – Office's strategic objectives, key deliverables, key performance indicators, targets and results
  • Table 4 – DHS complaint trends
  • Table 5 – Most common complaint issues
  • Table 6 – Five most common complaint issues
  • Table 7 – Immigration detention facility inspections
  • Table 8 – Complaints transferred to other complaint bodies
  • Table 9 – Top five complaint issues
  • Table 10 – Complaints or disputes about registered private health insurance
  • Table 11 – Complaint issues
  • Table 12 – Number of complaints about hospitals, health practitioners and brokers
  • Table 13 – Overseas visitors health cover complaints
  • Table 14 – Client survey for private health insurance complaints
  • Table 15 – Overview of our oversight activities in 2016–17
  • Table 16 – Number of disclosures received and kinds of disclosable conduct
  • Table 17 – Agencies that have reported not receiving PIDs
  • Table 18 – PID investigations completed and actions taken in response to recommendations
  • Table 19 – Workforce Profile as at 30 June 2017 and 30 June 2016
  • Table 20 – Remuneration by classification as at 30 June 2017
  • Table 21 – Expenditure on consultancy contracts 2014–15 to 2016–17


  • Figure 1 – Executive and Senior Management structure at 30 June 2017
  • Figure 2 – PIO complaint numbers: 2006–07 to 2016–17
  • Figure 3 – Australia Post complaint issues in 2016–17
  • Figure 4 – s 486O assessments tabled by year
  • Figure 5 – Overseas Students Ombudsman complaints received by year
  • Figure 6 – Outcome favoured
  • Figure 7 – How complaint issues were finalised
  • Figure 8 – Total complaints and enquiries by year
  • Figure 9 – The independent oversight process
  • Figure 10 – Encouraging a pro-disclosure culture
  • Figure 11 – Comparison of the kinds of disclosable conduct
  • Figure 12 – Types of disclosures
  • Figure 13 – Comparison of reasons for s 48 decisions
  • Figure 14 – Findings of disclosable conduct
  • Figure 15 – Comparison of the kinds of referrals to other investigative methods
  • Figure 16 – Types of disclosable conduct received by the Office

List of requirements

Below is the table set out in Schedule 2 of the PGPA Rule. Section 17AJ(d) requires this table to be included in the Commonwealth Ombudsman annual report as an aid of access.

RefPart of reportDescriptionRequirementPage number(s) in this report
17AD(g) & 17AI Letter of transmittalMandatory5
17AD(h)Aids to access
17AJ(a) Table of contentsMandatory8–9
17AJ(b)Section 7Alphabetical indexMandatory190–202
17AJ(c)Section 7GlossaryMandatory174–80
17AJ(d)Section 7List of requirementsMandatory183–9
17AJ(e) Contact officerMandatory7
17AJ(f) Website addressMandatory7
17AJ(g) Electronic address of reportMandatory7
17AD(a)Review by the Ombudsman
17AD(a)Section 1Review by the OmbudsmanMandatory12–15
17AD(b)Commonwealth Ombudsman Overview
17AE(1)(a)(i)Section 2Role and functionsMandatory18–20
17AE(1)(a)(ii)Section 2Organisational structureMandatory20
17AE(1)(a)(iii)Section 3Outcomes and programme structureMandatory27
17AE(1)(a)(iv)Section 3A description of the purposes of the entity as included in corporate planMandatory27
17AE(1)(b) Portfolio structurePortfolio departments mandatoryNot applicable
17AE(2) Changes in outcomes and programs administered by the Office If applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AD(c)Report on the Performance
 Annual performance Statements
17AD(c)(i); 16FSection 3Annual performance statement in accordance with paragraph 39(1)(b) of the Act and section 16F of the RuleMandatory27
17AD(c)(ii)Report on Financial Performance
17AF(1)(a)Section 3Discussion and analysis of the office's financial performanceMandatory40
17AF(1)(b)Section 6Total resources and total paymentsMandatory170
17AF(2) Discussion of any significant changes in financial results from the prior year, from budget or anticipated to have a significant impact on future operationsIf applicable, MandatoryNil to report
17AD(d)Management and Accountability
 Corporate Governance
17AG(2)(a)Section 5Information on compliance with section 10 (fraud systems)Mandatory137
17AG(2)(b)(i) A certification by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that fraud risk assessments and fraud control plans have been preparedMandatory5
17AG(2)(b)(ii) A certification by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that appropriate mechanisms for preventing, detecting incidents of, investigating or otherwise dealing with, and recording or reporting fraud that meet the specific needs of the office are in placeMandatory5
17AG(2)(b)(iii) A certification by the Commonwealth Ombudsman that all reasonable measures have been taken to deal appropriately with fraud relating to the officeMandatory5
17AG(2)(c)Section 5Structures and processes for the office to implement principles and objectives of corporate governanceMandatory128–30
17AG(2)(d) — (e) A statement of significant issues reported to Minister under paragraph 19(1)(e) of the Act that relates to non-compliance with Finance law and action taken to remedy non-complianceIf applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 External Scrutiny
17AG(3)Section 5Significant developments in external scrutinyMandatory131
17AG(3)(a)Section 5Judicial decisions and decisions of administrative tribunals and by the Australian Information CommissionerIf applicable, Mandatory131
17AG(3)(b) Reports by the Auditor-General (other than report under section 43 of the Act), a Parliamentary Committee, or the Commonwealth OmbudsmanIf applicable, MandatoryNot applicable
17AG(3)(c) Capability reviewsIf applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 Management of Human Resources
17AG(4)(a)Section 5Assessment of effectiveness in managing and developing employees to achieve the office's objectivesMandatory132–4
17AG(4)(b)Section 5Statistics on staffingMandatory134
17AG(4)(c)Section 5Information on enterprise agreements, individual flexibility arrangements, Australian workplace agreements, common law contracts and determinations under subsection 24(1) of the Public Service Act 1999Mandatory134
17AG(4)(c)(i)Section 5SES and non SES employees covered by agreements etc. identified in paragraph 17AG(4)(c)Mandatory134
17AG(4)(c)(ii)Section 5Salary ranges by classification levelMandatory136
17AG(4)(c)(iii)Section 5Non salary benefits provided to employeesMandatory134
17AG(4)(d)(i — iv) Performance payIf applicable, MandatoryNil to report
 Assets Management
17AG(5)Section 5Assessment of effectiveness of assets managementIf applicable, mandatory137
17AG(6)Section 5Assessment of entity performance against the Commonwealth Procurement RulesMandatory136
17AG(7)(a)Section 5A summary statement detailing the number of new contracts engaging consultants entered into during the period; the total actual expenditure on all new consultancy contracts entered into during the period (inclusive of GST); the number of ongoing consultancy contracts that were entered into during a previous reporting period; and the total actual expenditure in the reporting year on the ongoing consultancy contracts (inclusive of GST)Mandatory136–7
17AG(7)(b)Section 5Statement that "During 2016–17, three new consultancy contracts were entered into involving total actual expenditure of $0,187 million. In addition, five ongoing consultancy contracts were active during the period, involving total actual expenditure of $0.089 million."Mandatory136
17AG(7)(c)Section 5Summary of the policies and procedures for selecting and engaging consultantsMandatory136
17AG(7)(d)Section 5Statement that "Annual reports contain information about actual expenditure on contracts for consultancies. Information on the value of contracts and consultancies is available on the AusTender website."Mandatory136
 Australian National Audit Office Access Clauses
17AG(8)Section 5Absence of provisions in contracts allowing access by the Auditor-GeneralIf applicable, Mandatory136
 Exempt contracts
17AG(9)Section 5Contracts exempted from publication in AusTenderIf applicable, Mandatory137
 Small business
17AG(10)(a)Section 5Statement that "the Office supports small business participation in the Commonwealth Government procurement market. Small and Medium Enterprises (SME) and Small Enterprise participation statistics are available on the Department of Finance's website."Mandatory136
17AG(10)(b)Section 5Procurement initiatives to support small businessMandatory136
17AG(10)(c) If the entity is considered by the department administered by the Finance Minister as material in nature—a statement that "[Name of entity] recognises the importance of ensuring that small businesses are paid on time. The results of the Survey of Australian Government Payments to Small Business are available on the Treasury's website."If applicable, MandatoryNot applicable
 Financial Statements
17AD(e)Section 6Annual financial statements in accordance with subsection 43(4) of the ActMandatory140–65
17AD(f)Other Mandatory Information
17AH(1)(a)(i) If the entity conducted advertising campaigns, a statement that "During [reporting period], the [name of entity] conducted the following advertising campaigns: [name of advertising campaigns undertaken]. Further information on those advertising campaigns is available at [address of entity's website] and in the reports on Australian Government advertising prepared by the Department of Finance. Those reports are available on the Department of Finance's website."If applicable, MandatoryNot applicable
17AH(1)(a)(ii)Section 5Advertising campaigns statementIf applicable, Mandatory137
17AH(1)(b) Statement that "Information on grants awarded by [name of entity] during [reporting period] is available at [address of entity's website]."If applicable, MandatoryNot applicable
17AH(1)(c)Section 5Outline of mechanisms of disability reporting, including reference to website for further informationMandatory7, 134, 135
17AH(1)(d)Section 6Website reference to Information Publication Scheme statement pursuant to Part II of FOI ActMandatory169
17AH(1)(e)Section 4Correction of material errors in previous annual reportIf applicable, mandatory53
17AH(2)Section 4Information required by other legislationMandatory60, 99–123