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Glossary

Term

Definition

Action Taken

What we did to resolve or otherwise respond to a contact to our Office. Different types of contact may have different available actions, which can include:

  • conducting a formal investigation resulting in a report
  • resulting in comments to the agency
  • finalised without comments or suggestions to the agency
  • conducting an assessment of a matter resulting in a decision (such as on an FOI review application)
  • resulting in a recommendation to the agency (such as for a reparation payment relating to abuse in Defence)
  • assessing a complaint and finalising without a formal investigation, with or without making preliminary inquiries of an agency
  • referral back to the agency or organisation about whom the complaint is made
  • referral to another agency or complaint-handling body
  • in relation to program specific matters—carrying out the relevant statutory process
  • in relation to enquiries providing the information sought
  • otherwise responding to the request.

Contact

Any external contact to our Office. Contacts are made up of complaints, program specific matters and any other enquiries.

Authorised officer

An officer appointed by the Principal Officer of an agency to receive and allocate public interest disclosures

Community detention

A 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.

Complaint

Contact with our Office indicating that something is unsatisfactory or unacceptable, in relation to an action by an agency or organisation within our jurisdiction. This includes:

  • complaints about a Commonwealth Government agency, including the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police
  • complaints, including disputes, about public or private sector bodies, received under any of the following jurisdictions: Postal Industry Ombudsman, Overseas Students Ombudsman, VET Student Loans Ombudsman and Private Health Insurance Ombudsman)
  • complaints about ACT Government agencies (under the ACT Ombudsman jurisdiction, and including ACT FOI complaints, ACT PID complaints and complaints about the ACT Integrity Commission)
  • complaints made about an agency or organisation within our jurisdiction, but where the issue raised is out of our jurisdiction (e.g. an immigration decision which was made by the Minister personally). We are unable to consider this situation further, but it is still counted as a complaint to our Office.

Contact

Any external contact to our Office. Contacts are made up of complaints, program specific matters and any other enquiries.

Authorised officer

An officer appointed by the Principal Officer of an agency to receive and allocate public interest disclosures.

Community detention

A 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.

Complaint

Contact with our Office indicating that something is unsatisfactory or unacceptable, in relation to an action by an agency or organisation within our jurisdiction. This includes:

  • complaints about a Commonwealth Government agency, including the Australian Defence Force and the Australian Federal Police
  • complaints, including disputes, about public or private sector bodies, received under any of the following jurisdictions: Postal Industry Ombudsman, Overseas Students Ombudsman, VET Student Loans Ombudsman and Private Health Insurance Ombudsman)
  • complaints about ACT Government agencies (under the ACT Ombudsman jurisdiction, and including ACT FOI complaints, ACT PID complaints and complaints about the ACT Integrity Commission)
  • complaints made about an agency or organisation within our jurisdiction, but where the issue raised is out of our jurisdiction (e.g. an immigration decision which was made by the Minister personally). We are unable to consider this situation further, but it is still counted as a complaint to our Office.

Controlled operation

A 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.

Enquiry

Any contact with our Office that is not a complaint or program specific matter. This can include:

  • a request to the Office (e.g. a request from a journalist, a request under the FOI Act for documents we hold, a Public Interest Disclosure about us, or a service delivery complaint made about our own services)
  • a purported complaint about an agency or organisation which is determined to be out of our jurisdiction on the basis of the organisation being complained about (e.g. telecommunications, banking, State government)
  • other enquiries (e.g. how do I make a complaint about Agency X; an enquiry about private health insurance; PID enquiries; enquiries made to the ACT Ombudsman regarding FOI/Reportable Conduct, complaint handling advice for providers).

Finalised

A contact is finalised when we have finished taking action in response to hat contact.

Metadata

Information about a communication which does not include its content. In the example of a phone call, metadata may include the phone numbers of the two parties to the conversation, the duration, date and time of that phone call but not what was said.

Natural justice

In 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.

Outcome

The end result of a contact to our Office. These can vary depending on the type of contact, and can include:

  • rectifying the situation for a person (such as restoring a payment; waiving a debt; a different decision; a better explanation from the agency; an apology)
  • assistance or advice for a person (such as referral to a more appropriate avenue; a better explanation by us on review rights; advice on how to make a complaint; an agency considering a matter in a more timely manner)
  • outcomes which reflect our role as independent and impartial (such as independent assurance that the agency’s decision was lawful and reasonable)
  • outcomes for the broader community (such as changes to an agency’s policies or practices)

Out of jurisdiction (OOJ)

A matter about which the Office has no legal power under the Ombudsman Act 1976 to investigate.

Own motion investigation

An investigation conducted on the Ombudsman’s own initiative.

Program specific matter

An application, report or other statutory process, which requires processing by our Office, but is not a complaint. This includes:

  • applications under the ACT FOI Act (review requests, extensions of time, etc)
  • reports of Defence abuse
  • PHIO mediations
  • FOI mediations
  • notifications under the ACT Reportable Conduct scheme
  • PIDs, extension requests and notifications.

Public interest disclosure PID)

Unless otherwise stated, this relates to an internal disclosure of wrongdoing, which has been reported by a public official to an authorised internal recipient.

Review rights

People 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), noting the Ombudsman does not have the power to change or remake a decision.

Serious abuse

‘Serious abuse’ (within Defence) is defined as sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and serious bullying and harassment. All reports of abuse are assessed to determine whether the reported abuse meets this definition

Stored communications

This 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 devices

These are typically listening devices, cameras and tracking devices. The use of these devices will, in most circumstances, require the issue of a warrant.

Telecommunications interceptions

The 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 Office

The Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman

The person occupying the statutory position of Commonwealth Ombudsman.

Waiting period

How 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).

Within jurisdiction

A contact about a matter that the Office may investigate under the Ombudsman Act 1976.