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The Commonwealth Ombudsman assists the Australian community by resolving complaints and fostering good government administration.

Professor John McMillan is the current (2009) Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman.


Online Australian Federal Ombudsman Complaint Form

The Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the Defence Force Ombudsman, the Immigration Ombudsman, the Law Enforcement Ombudsman, the Postal Industry Ombudsman and the Taxation Ombudsman.

  • Australian Federal Police

You can make a complaint about the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to the Commonwealth Ombudsman or directly to the AFP. The Commonwealth Ombudsman and the AFP’s Professional Standards have joint responsibility for handling complaints about the AFP.

  • Australian Government agencies

The Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the actions and decisions of Australian Government agencies actions and decisions to see if they are wrong, unjust, unlawful, discriminatory or just plain unfair. The Ombudsman also seeks remedies for those affected by administrative deficiencies, and acts to improve public administration.

The Ombudsman has strong investigatory powers. If required, officers working in government agencies must produce documents, and answer questions under oath during Ombudsman investigations. The types of complaints that can be investigated include problems with Centrelink and Veterans’ Affairs benefits, child support payments and immigration decisions.

Changes in legislation mean that the Ombudsman can also investigate complaints about government contractors providing goods and services to the public under a contract with a government agency, including those associated with immigration detention centres, Job Network and the Welfare to Work program.

The Ombudsman can’t investigate complaints about:

  • politics
  • private individuals or companies
  • decisions of courts or tribunals
  • employment disputes (except in the Australian Defence Force)
  • actions of State or local governments
  • actions of government ministers and
  • actions of some government business enterprises.
  • Defence Force

Under current legislation the Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the Defence Force Ombudsman. The Ombudsman investigates complaints about the Australian Defence Force (ADF) relating to or arising from present or past service.

  • Freedom of Information

If you are dissatisfied with an agency’s decision on your Freedom of Information request you should first ask for the decision to be internally reviewed. If you are not happy with the agency review, you can complain to the Ombudsman or the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.

  • Immigration

The Commonwealth Ombudsman can investigate complaints about the Department of Immigration and Citizenship in the same way as any other Australian Government department or agency.

  • Postal Industry

Legislation to create a separate office of Postal Industry Ombudsman (PIO) within the office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman was passed by Parliament on 29 March 2006 and will take effect later in 2006.

  • Taxation

The Commonwealth Ombudsman has a specialist tax team who focuses on the problems arising between taxpayers and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO).

Unhappy with the Ombudsman decision?

If you disagree with a decision that has been made about your complaint, you should discuss the matter with the person who made the decision. If you remain dissatisfied, you can ask for a review of the decision. A request for a review should be submitted in writing within three months from the date you were advised of the decision.

Review information sheet and request form (PDF version)

Review information sheet and request form (rich text version)

The review will be conducted by a senior officer who was not involved in the original investigation of your complaint. The review will consider:

  • the process adopted by the investigating officer and whether it was fair and adequate to address all the complaint issues you raised
  • the merit of the officer’s conclusions and whether they were properly explained to you.

The review officer may:

  • uphold the decision of the original investigation officer
  • change the decision of the original investigation officer
  • send the matter back to the original investigation officer or another officer for further investigation.

The Ombudsman endeavours to complete reviews within thirty days. The review officer will send you a letter advising you of the outcome of the review. The Ombudsman will only review a matter once.

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