Information for people making complaints

Who can make a complaint?

  • a person accessing or using a service
  • a persons carer, advocate or legal representative on their behalf
  • in some cases we can accept anonymous complaints or handle complaints by keeping the complainant/notifier anonymous so call us if you would like to discuss making an anonymous complaint

If you need help making the complaint or putting the complaint in writing you can call us or come and visit us and we can help you write the complaint down.

If you are worried about making a complaint you can call us confidentially on 6205 2222 and we can talk through the process with you and explain the options available to you.

What do we do

  • The Commission can handle complaints about discrimination, health services, services for older people, services for children and disability services in the ACT. The Discrimination, Health Services, Disability & Community Services commissioner handles all complaints made to the Commission.
  • The Commission is an independent agency. Staff who deal with complaints on behalf of the Commissioner, are not advocates for the person making the complaint or the person or organisation the complaint is about. Our role is to get both sides of the story and where appropriate, help those involved to resolve the complaint.
  • The Commission is not a court and does not have the power to decide if what you are complaining about is discrimination or a breach of your rights. We can make recommendations arising out of complaints about services for older people, children, disability and health services. Complaints about discrimination are able to be heard and determined by the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT).
  • You do not need a lawyer to make a complaint or respond to a complaint. However, you may want to organise a lawyer or other type of advocate to assist you. If necessary, we can provide you with contact details for advocacy services or a Community Legal Centres, who may be able to assist you.

What happens when the Commission receives a complaint?

  • The law says that complaints must meet certain requirements. It helps if you can provide as much detail as possible about what happened, when the events occurred and who was involved.
  • Usually, we will contact the person or organisation you are complaining about and give them a copy of your complaint. We may ask them to provide specific information and/or a response to the complaint. We will let you know what they say about your complaint. Sometimes, we may also need to contact other people you have mentioned in your complaint and provide them with information about your complaint.
  • In some cases, the Commissioner may decide not to investigate a matter or to stop investigating a complaint. If this happens, we will explain why.
  • We may also talk to you about trying to resolve your complaint by conciliation.

What is conciliation?

  • Conciliation is where we try to help you and the person or organisation you are complaining about, find a way to resolve the complaint.
  • Conciliation is not like a court hearing. The person who manages the conciliation (the conciliator) doesn’t decide who is right or wrong or how the complaint should be resolved. The conciliator’s role is to help ensure the process is fair, help both sides talk to each other and help negotiate an agreement. The conciliator can also provide information about the law and how other complaints have been resolved.
  • Conciliation can take place in a face-to-face meeting or a meeting over the telephone. In some cases, complaints can be resolved through an exchange of letters and conversations with the conciliator.
  • The conciliator decides how the conciliation process will run and who will participate. If you need assistance such as a language or sign language interpreter, the Commission can arrange this for you.
  • Conciliation is ‘confidential’. This means that generally, what is said or done when trying to resolve the complaint cannot be used in any later action regarding the complaint.

What happens if the complaint is not resolved?

  • If the complaint is not resolved, we may ask you for more information before making a final decision about the complaint.
  • If the Commissioner is satisfied that a complaint cannot be resolved, the complaint will be finalised. The Commissioner can also finalise complaints for other reasons. For example, where the Commissioner is satisfied that a reasonable explanation has been provided by the respondent, where the complaint does not have merit or has already been dealt with by another agency.
  • Where a discrimination complaint cannot be resolved through conciliation in some cases you will be able to take that matter on to the ACAT for hearing and determination of the complaint.
  • The Commission cannot take the matter to court for you or help you present your case in court. So, you may need to talk with a lawyer or legal service if you want to go to court.

What if I have more questions?

If you have more questions, please contact the officer who is managing your complaint or call or email us.
To make a complaint please see our Complaints section

Disclaimer: The information on this fact sheet is only intended as a guide. It is not a substitute for legal advice.