What we do with your complaint

When you complain to us, we will treat you with respect – we're here to help you. That may mean explaining your options or working with the government agency or community service provider to fix the problem.

This is how we handle your complaint.

We assess your complaint

We are independent and impartial. We don’t work for the government, and we don’t take sides.

We will review your complaint to decide what action, if any, we should take.

Although you may disagree with an agency or service provider’s decision or feel angry or disappointed, we can only act if we think their behaviour was illegal or unreasonable.

When assessing your complaint, we will consider:

  • Is this a complaint we can handle – see complaints we handle
  • Was the complaint made to the agency, and how did it respond?
  • Has there been a misunderstanding or communication problem?
  • Is there evidence of a systemic problem?
  • When the problem began.

Most complaints are handled within 30 days. Complex complaints can take a lot longer.

We will always tell you what we decide to do with your complaint. You can find out more about how we assess complaints.

We give you information and advice

We may find that there has been a miscommunication or that the agency or service provider hasn't done anything wrong. In this case, we can explain:

  • the agency or service provider’s decisions or actions
  • how to appeal their decision
  • who else you can talk to about your complaint.

Over 80% of complaints we receive are resolved this way.

We contact the agency or service provider

If we think the agency or service provider can fix the problem, we will contact them. We aim to resolve most complaints informally. We will find the best person to handle your complaint so you don’t have to start the complaints process again.

We can also ask the agency or service provider for more information about your complaint. In some cases, we may suggest improvements to fix an underlying issue.

Nearly all complaints are resolved by this stage.

Voluntary conciliation

If there's an ongoing relationship between you and the agency or service provider, we might offer voluntary conciliation. This involves both sides agreeing to come together to talk about the problem. Conciliation can improve communication to help reach an agreement.

Formal investigation

We may formally investigate your complaint if it's very serious.

We will report what we find and what should happen next. We may recommend that the agency or service provider:

  • reconsiders or changes an action or decision
  • changes a rule, procedure or law
  • pays compensation.

Very few complaints are formally investigated.

While we can't force an agency or service provider to comply with our recommendations, most do. If they don't, or there are serious systemic or public interest matters, we can make a report to Parliament.

If you need help

You can talk to us if you need help making a complaint. We can support people with disability and Aboriginal peoples, and have information in easy English and other languages.