Functions and roles of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
The Office of the Commonwealth A public official appointed to investigate citizens’ complaints against government departments and statutory authorities. A specialised ombudsman resolves consumer complaints in a particular industry, for example the banking ombudsman for the banking industry. See also statutory authority. was established by the Ombudsman A written law made by parliament. Also called an ‘Act of parliament’, ‘statute’ or legislation. 1976 (Cth) (‘OA (Cth)’) and began operation in July 1977. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is appointed for a renewable term by the Governor-General and can only be removed from office following a vote of both Houses of Parliament.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman safeguards members of the community in their dealings with Australian Government entities and the prescribed private sector organisations that it oversees.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s office handles complaints, conducts investigations, performs audits and inspections, encourages good administration and discharges specialist oversight tasks.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is independent and impartial. This impartiality informs the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s approach to investigations. The Commonwealth Ombudsman does not advocate for complainants or the agencies about which they complain. The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s responsibility is to the Australian Parliament, and through it, to the public interest.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s investigations are free for complainants and agencies. Australia Post and registered private postal operators are required to pay for investigations by the Postal Industry Ombudsman and insurers pay a levy to the Private Health Insurance Ombudsman.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman cannot investigate complaints that are beyond their The authority of a court or tribunal to hear matters brought before it, based on some factor such as area or law, amount of money claimed, or geographic area. and may exercise Power to choose whether to do something or not. For example, a judge may have discretion to allow a party extra time to complete a document if it would be unfair to enforce the legal time limit. to decline or cease an investigation if they form an opinion set out in the OA (Cth) (s 6).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman may investigate on their ‘own motion’ (i.e. without having received a complaint). This typically occurs where there is a systemic issue or where the Ombudsman wishes to assess an agency’s complaint-handling system.
Under the OA (Cth), the Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the:
- (1) A defendant’s response to the legal claims made against them in court by a prosecutor or plaintiff. (2) A lawful excuse for conduct: for example, causing minor injuries to someone while saving them from certain death. (3) ‘The defence’ is also a way of referring to the defendant and their legal team. Force Ombudsman;
- Immigration Ombudsman;
- Law Enforcement Ombudsman;
- Overseas Students Ombudsman;
- Postal Industry Ombudsman;
- Private Health Insurance Ombudsman;
- Vocational Education and Training Student Loans Ombudsman.
All references in this section to ‘the Ombudsman’ are to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, in their various roles, unless stated otherwise. The Victorian Ombudsman is discussed in a later section, below.
Defence Force Ombudsman
The Defence Force Ombudsman investigates actions taken in relation to members and former members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) arising from their ADF employment (excluding certain matters such as disciplinary actions or actions relating to honours and awards).
Complaints about relevant matters (e.g. promotion, demotion, (1) To fulfil an obligation or be released from an obligation. For example, a debtor can discharge a debt by paying it; a prisoner can be discharged (released) from jail., postings, housing allowances and matters relating to their Formal delivery of legal documents to a person to tell them there are court proceedings against them which they must defend, or to make sure a witness in a case knows when they have to go to court to give evidence.) can be lodged by serving and former members of the ADF and by their dependants.
Unless the Defence Force Ombudsman decides that there are special circumstances that A document issued by a court directing an officer to take certain action. May be a warrant of apprehension, directing that a person be arrested and brought before a court; a warrant of commitment, directing that a person be arrested and imprisoned; a warrant of distress, directing that a person’s goods be seized to satisfy a debt; or a warrant of seizure and sale of real estate. earlier intervention, the ADF member must first seek redress through the ADF’s internal redress of grievance system, and allow at least 28 days to reach a decision. ADF complaints are dealt with in a similar way to other complaints under the OA (Cth).
The Defence Force Ombudsman can also receive reports of serious abuse within the ADF from serving and former members, and from Australian public service employees who are deployed overseas in connection with ADF operations. ‘Serious abuse’ is sexual abuse, serious physical abuse, serious bullying or harassment that occurred between two (or more) people employed by the ADF at the time of the abuse.
The Defence Force Ombudsman’s service is a free and confidential way for members and former members of the ADF to report serious abuse. It is for those who feel unable or felt unable, for whatever reason, to access the ADF’s internal mechanisms now or in the past. Reporting abuse in the ADF through the Defence Force Ombudsman is non-adversarial, and people do not need someone (e.g. a lawyer) to represent them.
The Immigration Ombudsman can investigate actions taken by the Australian Government Department of Home Affairs (‘Home Affairs’), including the Australian Border Force, in relation to visas, citizenship, immigration and detention. This includes Home Affairs’ processing of A permit that allows a person who is not a citizen to stay in a country on certain conditions, for the length of time stated in the visa. and citizenship applications, and decisions to refuse or cancel visas.
The Immigration Ombudsman undertakes file inspections, site visits and observations of Home Affairs’ field operations using the power to commence an investigation on the Ombudsman’s Decision by a body to take action, such as starting an investigation, without a complaint having been made. For example, a court can, ‘of its own motion’, without being asked by the parties in a case, find a person guilty of contempt of court., without an individual complaint.
The Immigration Ombudsman monitors Home Affairs’ actions in relation to the location, identification, detention and removal of unlawful non-citizens. The Immigration Ombudsman regularly visits immigration detention centres and other facilities that are used to accommodate detainees.
Under the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) (pt 8C), the Immigration Ombudsman must assess and report on – and may make recommendations about – people who have been held in immigration detention for more than two years. These reports are given to the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs and a de-identified copy is tabled in the Australian Parliament.
In the Immigration Ombudsman’s complaint role, detention-related complaints generally concern internal complaint-handling procedures, access to health services, access to internal and external activities, and property related matters.
Law Enforcement Ombudsman
The Ombudsman has a special role under Part v of the Australian Federal Police Act 1979 (Cth) in relation to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). In this role, the Ombudsman may be referred to as the Law Enforcement Ombudsman. The Law Enforcement Ombudsman oversees the AFP’s management of its professional standards issues through regular and ad hoc inspections of the AFP’s records.
Allegations of corruption within the AFP and the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) are referred to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity (www.aclei.gov.au).
The Law Enforcement Ombudsman also inspects and reports on covert or intrusive law enforcement activities undertaken by the AFP, the ACIC and other bodies including state and territory police forces. In addition, the Law Enforcement Ombudsman oversees the retention and storage of data by these bodies. These roles are provided by:
- the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 (Cth), in relation to the interception of telecommunications, access to stored communications, and the retention of telecommunications data (i.e. metadata);
- the Surveillance Devices Act 2004 (Cth), in relation to the use of surveillance technology (e.g. listening devices);
- the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth), in relation to law enforcement controlled operations, the AFP’s use of delayed notification search warrants and its monitoring of control orders for counter-terrorism purposes;
- the Telecommunications Act 1997 (Cth) in relation to industry assistance requested by a law enforcement agency.
Under these Acts, the Law Enforcement Ombudsman reports to the responsible federal government minister, who reports to parliament.
Overseas Students Ombudsman
The Overseas Students Ombudsman investigates complaints from international students about the actions of private education providers on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (www.cricos.education.gov.au).
This register is administered by the Australian Government Department of Education, Skills and Employment and includes education providers that are approved to deliver education and training to overseas students in Australia.
The type of complaints the Overseas Students Ombudsman can assist with includes complaints about fee amounts and requests for refunds, requests to transfer providers and issues with course progression or attendance. The Overseas Students Ombudsman also provides information to providers on best-practice complaints handling.
Postal Industry Ombudsman
The Postal Industry Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the actions of Australia Post and private postal operators that are registered with the Ombudsman under the OA (Cth). The Postal Industry Ombudsman is intended to act in a similar manner to other industry ombudsmen, but with the The ability to understand and be held responsible by the law for your actions. It also refers to a person’s ability to understand and agree to something, such as to undergo medical treatment. Full legal capacity is reached at 18 years of age, when a child becomes an adult. to exercise set Found in a statute of delegated legislation. For example, a statutory authority or body is aperson or organisation that has special powers given by parliament to do work for the public benefit. investigation and reporting powers, and to use their ombudsman powers in relation to Australia Post, if warranted. The Postal Industry Ombudsman can consider complaints about postal and similar services, including mail delivery.
Private Health Insurance Ombudsman
The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman deals with complaints related to private health insurance. For example, complaints can be made against private health insurers, healthcare providers and private health insurance brokers. The Ombudsman may, with the complainant’s To agree to something being done, to approve an action or arrangement. See also informed consent., investigate a complaint or refer the complaint. The Ombudsman also has the power to conduct A form of alternative dispute resolution where an independent person (a mediator) is appointed to help the parties come to agreement. Mediators do not decide the outcome of the dispute. They help the parties consider the issues and best possible outcome. Parties may choose to use mediation instead of going to court, or the court may order the parties to go to mediation as a way of avoiding a court hearing. See also arbitration; conciliation; negotiation. between hospitals and insurers.
The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman does not deal with complaints about the services or treatments provided by health professionals or hospitals. These should be directed to the Victorian Health Complaints Commissioner.
The Private Health Insurance Ombudsman also manages the website (https://privatehealth.gov.au) that publishes information about complying health insurance products to better inform people about the available entitlements and benefits, and publishes annual reports on the comparative performance and service delivery of all private health insurers.
VET Student Loans Ombudsman
The Vocational Education and Training (VET) Student Loans Ombudsman investigates complaints about VET Student Loans (including the VET FEE-HELP assistance scheme and the VET Student Loans program) and education providers that The first step in agreeing to make a legally binding agreement. An offer must be accepted before there can be a legally enforceable contract. For example, a person can offer to sell their car for $5000 and a buyer can accept the offer and pay that purchase price. VET Student Loan approved courses. The VET Student Loans Ombudsman also provides information on best-practice complaints handling.
The Ombudsman can assist students who are studying a diploma, advanced diploma, graduate certificate or graduate diploma course, and who have accessed a VET Student Loan that covers either all or part of the cost of their studies.
Under the Student Redress Measures (which finishes on 31 December 2022), the Ombudsman can also provide a remedy for students who have incurred debts under the VET FEE-HELP loan or assistance scheme, and for those whose VET providers have engaged in inappropriate conduct.
Other roles of the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Oversight of examination powers
Under the Building and Construction Industry (Improving Productivity) Act 2016 (Cth), the Commonwealth Ombudsman oversees the Australian Building and Construction Commission’s use of examination powers to gather information. The Ombudsman has a similar function under the Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) (s 712F) to oversee the Fair Work Ombudsman’s use of examination powers.
A person within an organisation who makes a complaint or alerts authorities that the organisation is doing something illegal or inappropriate. Protection Scheme
The Public Interest Providing information to another person or institution as required by a contract or other legal process. Act 2013 (Cth) provides a Whistleblower Protection Scheme for public officials at the federal level. Under this Act, the Ombudsman:
- promotes awareness and understanding of the scheme;
- provides information, resources and guidance to agencies and disclosers;
- receives and allocates disclosures to agencies and, in certain circumstances, investigates public-interest disclosures;
- monitors the operation of the scheme;
- reports annually to parliament.
Individuals who meet the definition of a public official – which includes most staff of Australian Government agencies, contractors, and employees of providers of goods and services under An agreement that the law will enforce. to the Commonwealth – can use the scheme to report wrongdoing. More information is available at www.ombudsman.gov.au/our-responsibilities/making-a-disclosure.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is a member of international and regional ombudsmen forums. The Ombudsman receives government funding to provide support and consultative services (e.g. staff development) to ombudsmen in the Pacific and Asian regions.
NPM Coordinator for OPCAT
The Commonwealth Ombudsman is the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) Coordinator in the context of Australia’s ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).
OPCAT creates obligations on Commonwealth, state and territory governments to establish a system of independent monitoring for places of detention and the promotion of a preventative approach towards the protection of people in detention from torture and mistreatment.
As the NPM Coordinator for OPCAT, the Ombudsman:
- coordinates the NPM bodies across Australia;
- independently reports to the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, to ministerial bodies and to the public;
- facilitates the sharing of expertise, knowledge and practice;
- consults with relevant stakeholders on best-practice inspection and reporting methods, to prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of people in detention.
Commonwealth NPM for Commonwealth primary places of detention
The Commonwealth Ombudsman acts as the NPM body for places of detention that are under the control of the Commonwealth. This role requires the Ombudsman to To promise to do or not do something, such as returning to court on a certain day, or to hand a document over to another party in a legal proceeding. An undertaking is enforceable by attachment or like an injunction. regular inspections of immigration detention facilities, military detention facilities and Australian Federal Police cells.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman also acts as the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Ombudsman. The ACT Ombudsman investigates complaints about the administrative actions of the ACT Government under the Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT). The ACT Ombudsman additionally administers the ACT’s Reportable Conduct Scheme and oversees the ACT Police’s use of covert powers. The Ombudsman also undertakes specific functions under the The right of any person to access documents held by government agencies, except documents excluded by legislation. Act 2016 (ACT), including independent merits review of freedom of information (FoI) decisions and publishing FoI guidelines. The ACT Ombudsman has also adopted a new role as the ACT Inspector of the Integrity Commission under the Integrity Commission Act 2018 (ACT). For more information, see www.ombudsman.act.gov.au.
Complaints to the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Who can make a complaint?
Individuals, companies and organisations can complain to the Commonwealth Ombudsman. Complaints can be made in person, by telephone, in writing, or via the online complaint form on the Ombudsman’s website (www.ombudsman.gov.au).
A person can ask someone else (e.g. a friend, relative or A legal practitioner (lawyer) who sees clients and opens files to deal with their legal matters but usually does not appear in court. See also barrister.) to complain to the Ombudsman on their behalf. The Ombudsman’s office can arrange for a translator to assist a person to make a complaint. People in Lawful control over a person which prevents them leaving. A person under arrest is in police custody and is not free to go. A person in prison is serving a custodial sentence that keeps them confined to the prison grounds. are entitled to communicate with the Ombudsman via sealed envelopes to preserve the privacy of their complaints.
Where people with any kind of disability – physical, intellectual or psychiatric – are concerned, help with making complaints may be available through the Victorian Office of the Public Advocate (www.publicadvocate.vic.gov.au). For more information, see ‘The Public Advocate’ in Chapter 8.2: Disability: Asserting your rights.
What the Commonwealth Ombudsman can investigate
The Commonwealth Ombudsman can investigate the ‘administrative actions’ of:
- Commonwealth departments (e.g. the Australian Government’s Services Australia, which includes Centrelink and Medicare);
- most Commonwealth agencies;
- contractors employed by the Commonwealth to provide services to the public.
An ‘administrative action’ is an action that is made by or on behalf of government, but which is neither legislative nor judicial (although it may relate to legislative or judicial actions).
There are some matters that may be technically within the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s jurisdiction (e.g. decisions of specialist tribunals) where the Ombudsman takes a restrained approach to exercising jurisdiction.
What the Commonwealth Ombudsman cannot investigate
The Commonwealth Ombudsman cannot investigate:
- state, territory or local government actions (except in his or her capacity as the ACT Ombudsman);
- the actions of private sector bodies (unless they are Commonwealth service providers, or their actions are otherwise Treated by the law as if something is the case, even if that is not the reality. For example, children may be deemed to have the same home as their parents, whether they actually live there or not. Or a person may be deemed to have given their consent to something if they hear about it and do not object. Compare rebuttable. to have been taken by a Commonwealth agency, or they are bodies that come under the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction as the Postal Industry Ombudsman, Overseas Students Ombudsman, VET Student Loans Ombudsman, or Private Health Insurance Ombudsman);
- the actions of ministers (although the Ombudsman can investigate the advice given to ministers), other parliamentarians, or proceedings in parliament;
- the actions of judges, and An independent body that hears legal claims brought by parties and decides between them. Serious cases are heard by a judge and jury, or just a judge. Less-serious cases are heard by a magistrate. officials when exercising powers of a judicial nature;
- actions taken in relation to employment by Commonwealth agencies (although the Ombudsman can investigate some pre- and post-employment matters not impacted by employment; and the Ombudsman has a specialist role as the Defence Force Ombudsman in relation to the ADF);
- actions that are or have been the subject of a court or A body set up to hear and decide disputes, usually with less formality and less strict rules of evidence than in a court proceeding. review initiated by a A person who begins a criminal prosecution against another in the Magistrates’ Court, or formally starts an action in a court or tribunal or makes a complaint to a complaint-handling body. In a civil action they could also be referred to as a plaintiff or an applicant., unless the Ombudsman considers there are special reasons to investigate.
Discretion not to investigate
The Commonwealth Ombudsman may decide to not investigate a matter or to discontinue an investigation in a range of circumstances, including where:
- there has been a delay of 12 months or more between the complainant becoming aware of the action and lodging the complaint;
- the Ombudsman forms the opinion that the complaint is Causing trouble without good legal reason. A vexatious litigant repeatedly starts court cases that have no chance of succeeding. Vexatious litigation is a court action that is unnecessary or undertaken only to cause trouble, embarrassment or inconvenience for the other party. or frivolous or not made in good faith;
- the complainant does not have a sufficient ‘interest’ in the matter;
- an investigation is not warranted, considering all the circumstances;
- the agency concerned has not been given a reasonable opportunity to resolve the matter;
- the action relates to the commercial activity of a department or a prescribed authority;
- more appropriate alternative review or The review of the decision of a lower court by a higher court. If an appeal is successful, the higher court can change the lower court’s decision. processes are available and it is reasonable that they be used;
- the Ombudsman’s investigation is not warranted – this can occur when, for example, a matter is insubstantial or not susceptible to investigation, or because it relates to a matter already considered by an expert external body.
The Ombudsman does not generally investigate a complaint unless the complainant has first raised the matter with the agency concerned. This is because most agencies with substantial client bases have dedicated internal complaint-handling systems. These systems can offer quick and fair resolutions to many complaints. The Ombudsman periodically reviews the effectiveness of these systems, for example, ensuring that agencies inform complainants with unresolved complaints how to contact the Ombudsman. However, if people with complaints are uncertain about who to contact, they can contact the Ombudsman’s office (see ‘Contacting the Commonwealth Ombudsman’, below).
For matters outside the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction, complainants may be advised to take their complaint to an industry ombudsman (if this is a more appropriate body to deal with the matter) or to a Under the Australian Consumer Law, a person who buys goods or services for less than $40 000 or for personal or home use. affairs agency. In some cases, especially where a time limit applies, they may be advised to take the matter to a review tribunal.
Investigations by the Commonwealth Ombudsman
Investigations are conducted confidentially, in private, and as informally as possible. The complainant’s name is only given to the agency for the purposes of investigating the complaint.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman accepts anonymous complaints, but these can be difficult to investigate and the Ombudsman is less able to communicate the outcome of an investigation to the complainant.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has extensive powers to access documents and information and can require people to answer questions (including appearing to give Material presented to a court to prove or disprove a fact. It can include what witnesses say as well as documents and other objects. under A person’s promise when they swear to tell the truth in court, or when signing an affidavit. A person taking an oath places one hand on the Bible or other holy book to demonstrate how seriously they take their promise. See also affirmation.). The Ombudsman’s strong preference is to exercise these coercive powers only when a person or agency is unwilling or unable to cooperate and provide information voluntarily. Before coercive powers are used, the relevant government minister must be informed of the investigation. However, in most cases, the Ombudsman requests information and an agency provides it voluntarily. In doing so in good faith, the agency’s disclosures do not breach laws or privacy and do not compromise legal professional privilege.
During an investigation, the relevant agency may be asked to comment on the complaint and to give reasons for its actions or decisions, or to provide Relevant or important. For example, material evidence is something that helps to prove an argument in a criminal case. from its files that can explain its actions. The Ombudsman must inform the agency of the commencement of an investigation and its conclusion, although in many cases this is achieved by regular reporting rather than on a case-by-case basis. The Ombudsman must inform the relevant government minister of the investigation before formally inviting a person or agency to make submissions in relation to an action. The Ombudsman may not make a disclosure that contains express or implied critical opinion unless the relevant person or agency has been provided with an opportunity to appear and make submissions.
Usually, the Ombudsman does not publicly disclose information obtained during an investigation. However, the Ombudsman has the power to make public statements that are in the public interest under section 35A of the OA (Cth).
The Commonwealth Ombudsman can provide an agency with evidence of an official’s misconduct. The Ombudsman and their officers are not compellable by courts or tribunals to provide information, documents or evidence about an investigation.
The OA (Cth) imposes strict The principle that private information told to a person must not be revealed to others. Some professionals must keep information confidential, for example doctor–patient and lawyer–client relationships. obligations upon Commonwealth Ombudsman employees. An employee must not disclose any information that they obtain as a result of an investigation at the Ombudsman’s office. Serious penalties apply if confidentiality is breached.
Commonwealth Ombudsman findings, reports and reviews
The Commonwealth Ombudsman may conclude an investigation by deciding no further action is needed. This occurs when, for example, an agency acknowledges its mistake and provides a remedy, or when the Ombudsman is satisfied that an agency’s action was reasonable.
In other cases, the Commonwealth Ombudsman may advise an agency that an action should not have been taken, or suggest another action or practice that would promote better administration. This ensures that an agency is made aware of a problem without the Ombudsman submitting a formal report.
The OA (Cth) (s 15(1)) contains a list of possible errors, namely that an action was:
- apparently contrary to law;
- unreasonable, unjust or oppressive;
- in accordance with a law or practice that was unreasonable, unjust or oppressive;
- improperly discriminatory;
- based on a mistake of law or fact;
- based on irrelevant factors, or did not take into account relevant factors;
- in all the circumstances, wrong.
Recommendations that can be made by the Ombudsman are unlimited in scope, but can include:
- reconsideration by the department, agency or authority to change its action or decision;
- change in a law, rule or procedure used by the agency;
- any other action considered appropriate in the circumstances (e.g. an apology or, in limited circumstances, financial compensation).
Regardless of the outcome of an investigation, the Commonwealth Ombudsman informs the complainant of the results of the investigation and gives reasons for a recommendation or opinion.
Commonwealth Ombudsman reports
Although the Ombudsman cannot overturn an agency’s decision, they can seek to influence administrative decisions by making recommendations in a formal report in relation to an action that an agency has taken or should take in the future.
However, it is not the norm for the Commonwealth Ombudsman to finalise an investigation by submitting a formal report. More commonly, the Ombudsman’s Office expresses a preliminary view that there has been some agency error and suggests a remedy. In most cases, agencies accept this and act on the recommendation.
The formal report process usually only arises when a matter is sufficiently important to public administration, or an agency refuses to implement recommendations made by the Ombudsman after an investigation. The Ombudsman may make a report to the relevant agency and government minister where they form an opinion relating to one or more of the errors mentioned in section 15(1) of the OA (Cth) (see list above) and consider that a recommendation should be made for remedial action or a change in law or procedure. If adequate action is not taken following a formal report, then the Ombudsman may report to the Prime Minister and to the Australian Parliament.
The Commonwealth Ombudsman may also decide to make public information about an investigation (usually without any identifying details).
Review of Commonwealth Ombudsman decisions
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s actions are not subject to external merits review, and The court’s review of an administrative decision on the basis of a legal error in the decision-making process. For example, a court can review a decision by an official on the ground that the official is biased. Compare review on the merits. See also administrative act. mechanisms have very limited practical application. (For an explanation of reviews, see Chapter 12.2: Appealing government and administrative decisions.)
Freedom of information
The Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Office is subject to the requirements of the Freedom of Information Act 1982 (Cth) (‘FoI Act (Cth)’). The Commonwealth Ombudsman processes freedom of information (FoI) requests in accordance with the FoI Act (Cth), and with regard to the confidentiality and privacy provisions in the OA (Cth). If a FoI request relates to a document originating in another agency, the request may be transferred to that agency and the person advised accordingly.
Complaints and reviews of FoI decisions are handled by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (www.oaic.gov.au). For further information, see Chapter 12.5: Freedom of information law.
Contacting the Commonwealth Ombudsman
The Commonwealth Ombudsman has offices in most states and territories. The national office is in Canberra. A list of all offices and their addresses can be found at www.ombudsman.gov.au/contact.
This website also has detailed information about what the Commonwealth Ombudsman does, how to make a complaint (including an online complaints service), how to make a public interest disclosure, details of Statutory rules made by parliament or by bodies the parliament delegates power to, for example a local council or a registration authority. See delegated legislation; statute. relating to the Commonwealth Ombudsman, a history of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s role, and copies of the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s reports and publications, including the Commonwealth Ombudsman’s Service Charter.
Tel: 1300 362 072
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