What can you expect if you make a complaint?

We are committed to seeking and receiving feedback from staff, students and others to allow them to express their concerns when the issue occurs so that options for a resolution can be identified as soon as possible.

Complaints process flowchart - Receive, Acknowledge, Assess and Address, Options for review and close complaint, Provide reasons for decision
Source: NSW ombudsman

Complaining to us is free and individuals are able to formally present their case at minimal or no cost.

Complainants and respondents will be entitled to be assisted or accompanied by a support person.

The privacy and confidentiality of parties will be respected to the extent practicable and appropriate, with acknowledgement that matters may be subject to production under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 or may be subject to subpoena.

Concerns or complaints will be dealt with within a reasonable time frame. Investigations will be initiated as soon as practicable after receipt of a formal complaint.

People making complaints will be:

  1. provided with information about our complaint handling process;
  2. provided with multiple and accessible ways to make complaints;
  3. listened to, treated with respect by staff and actively involved in the complaint process where possible and appropriate; and
  4. provided with reasons for our decision and advised if they are not satisfied with the outcome they have a right of Internal Review.
  5. If they remain dissatisfied with the determination of the Internal Review they have the right to external review and may make a complaint to the relevant external agency such as the NSW Ombudsman, International Student Ombudsman, Privacy Commission or Human Rights Commission.

We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that people making complaints are not adversely affected because a complaint has been made by them or on their behalf.

We accept anonymous complaints and will carry out an investigation of the issues raised where there is enough information provided to do so.

We will ensure that information about how and where complaints may be made to or about us is well publicised. We will ensure that our systems to manage complaints are easily understood and accessible to everyone, particularly people who may require assistance.

If a person prefers or needs another person or organisation to assist or represent them in the making and/or resolution of their complaint, we will communicate with them through their representative if this is their wish. Anyone may represent a person wishing to make a complaint with their consent (e.g. advocate, family member, legal or community representative, member of Parliament, another organisation).

How will we respond to a complaint?

Where possible, we endeavour to resolve complaints when they are first made to the University at a local level, that is, between the complainant (person making the complaint) and the people in the area where the problem has arisen. This is referred to as level 1 complaint handling.

Our staff are empowered to resolve complaints promptly and with as little formality as possible. We will adopt flexible approaches to service delivery and problem solving to enhance accessibility for people making complaints and their representatives.

The person handling the complaint will be different from any staff member whose service or conduct is being complained about. Conflicts of interests, whether actual or perceived, will be managed responsibly. In particular, internal reviews of how a complaint was managed will be conducted by a person other that the original decision maker.

Once a complaint is received we will promptly acknowledge receipt of complaints

We will assess and prioritise complaints in accordance with the urgency and/or seriousness of the issues raised. If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security the response will be immediate and will be escalated appropriately.

We are committed to managing people's expectations and will inform them as soon as possible of the following:

  1. the complaints process
  2. the expected time frames for our actions
  3. the progress of the complaint and reasons for any delay
  4. their likely involvement in the process; and
  5. the possible or likely outcome of their complaint.

We will advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to deal with any part of their complaint and provide advice about where such issues and/or complaints may be directed (if known and appropriate).

We will also advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to meet our time frames for responding to their complaint and the reason for our delay.

We will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner.

We will assess each complaint on its merits and involve people making complaints and/or their representative in the process as far as possible.

We will protect the identity of people making complaints where this is practical and appropriate. Personal information that identifies individuals will only be disclosed or used by the University as permitted under the relevant privacy laws, secrecy provisions and any relevant confidentiality obligations.

We aim to resolve complaints at the first level, the frontline. Wherever possible staff will be adequately equipped to respond to complaints, including being given appropriate authority, training and supervision.

Where this is not possible we may decide to escalate the complaint to a more senior officer within the University. This is referred to as level 2 complaint handling and will provide for the following internal mechanisms:

  1. assessment and possible investigation of the complaint and decision/s already made; and/or
  2. facilitated resolution (where a person not connected with the complaint reviews the matter and attempts to find an outcome acceptable to the relevant parties).

If the person making the complaint is dissatisfied with the outcome of the level one handling, they may request an Internal Review by the University Ombudsman.

If the person making the complaint is dissatisfied with the outcome of the level two handling, they may request an External Review by a relevant organisation such as the Administrative Appeals Tribunal or the Commonwealth Ombudsman or the NSW Ombudsman or the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board or the Human Rights Commission. This is referred to as level 3 complaint handling.

Level 1 Frontline complaint handling and early resolution of complaints, level 2 Internal review, level 3 External review
Source: NSW ombudsman

Principles of Procedural Fairness in Decision Making

All investigations will afford procedural fairness to all affected parties.

Principles of procedural fairness that will be applied include:-

  • Informing the subjects of the investigation of the substance of any allegations against them or grounds for proposed adverse comment or findings about them.
  • Providing people with a reasonable opportunity to put their case
  • Hearing all parties to a matter and consider submissions
  • Making reasonable inquiries or investigations before making a decision
  • Ensuring that no person decides a case in which they have a direct or significant indirect interest
  • Acting fairly and without bias
  • Conducting the investigation without undue delay.
It is important to ensure that appropriate procedural fairness is afforded to any person who is the subject of a complaint and so the subject is entitled to be advised of the results of an investigation, regardless of whether there are any adverse findings against them or not.