Role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman in Immigration

The Commonwealth Ombudsman is an independent statutory office that exists to receive, investigate and resolve complaints about Commonwealth Government Departments and Agencies.

Specifically, the Ombudsman will investigate claims of unfair or unreasonable treatment or maladministration that has caused harm to the complaining party. The Ombudsman has the power to compel an organisation to take actions that will undo the damage caused to the person, including the payment of compensation.

When investigating complaints against the Department of Immigration, it is referred to as the Immigration Ombudsman. The Ombudsman is also responsible for providing oversight of Australia’s offshore detention regime.

Can I take my complaint to the Ombudsman?

It depends on the substance of the complaint. The Ombudsman will not consider, for example, whether a decision taken against you was fairly made. That is the role of the Tribunals and Courts.

However, the Ombudsman may step in for you if you are experiencing difficulties in dealing with the Department, including:

  • Where a decision is not being made in a timely fashion (this includes decisions on Freedom of Information requests);
  • Where you are unable to speak to an appropriate officer about a problem or question you have;
  • Where you have made a complaint about the Department and it has not been resolved to your satisfaction; or
  • Where you have been treated unfairly or harshly by Department officers.

The Ombudsman is a free service and it carries out its role completely free of government interference, so you can be assured of a fair consideration of your complaint.

If you wish to contact the Ombudsman about an issue you have, contact details are available on their website.