This section describes some organisations that may be able to help resolve difficulties with your council. (Before referring to this section, you should read the sections on Communicating with the council and Taking it further)
Once you identify an organisation that may be able to help with your issue, you should ask about the type of information they need and the way they want to receive it. As a general rule, a complaint should be in writing and should cover the following points:
- The decision or action taken by the council
- A brief statement about why you consider the council is not correct
- A brief history of the case, including some important dates or events
- A brief statement of what you want as a result of taking the matter further
- Copies of all correspondence to and from the council or any other material, which records the contact made between the parties involved
Local Government Victoria
Local Government Victoria (LGV) is a part of the Department of Planning and Community Development (DPCD). It supports and advises the Minister for Local Government in regard to the administration of the Local Government Act 1989.
LGV's role is concerned with “oversighting, supporting and encouraging” the system of local government. It provides advice and support to councils in relation to the roles and responsibilities of councils under the Local Government Act. This includes governance, electoral, and resource management matters.
It is important to note that neither Local Government Victoria nor the Minister for Local Government is involved in the detailed management or day to day decisions of councils.
LGV can refer allegations about possible breaches of the Local Government Act to the Local Government Investigations and Compliance Inspectorate.
Complaints about councils which cannot be resolved through negotiation with the Council itself, and which are not within other jurisdictions, may be directed, in writing, to Local Government Victoria or to the Minister for Local Government (who will generally refer the matter to LGV).
The Ombudsman seeks to provide a speedy, inexpensive, non-adversarial way for people to receive a fair hearing of their grievances with government administrations.
The Ombudsman can help when your complaint is about an administrative action taken by any council employee, but not those of a councillor when acting in the role of a councillor or of a council acting as a decisions making body.
An "administrative action" includes any action, decision or recommendation by a council staff member. It can also relate to a failure to carry out these functions. This might mean an unreasonable delay, inadequate communication, inflexible policies and procedures, failure to correct errors and the provision of incorrect advice by authorities, or inadequacies in administrative procedures.
The Ombudsman’s role includes:
- Conducting independent and impartial investigations into complaints made against Victorian Government departments, public statutory authorities and council employees
- Investigating disclosures of improper conduct against public bodies and officers, including councillors, under the Whistleblowers Protection Act 2001
- Enquiring into complaints of non-compliance by agencies with the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act
The Ombudsman Victoria website explains the role in greater detail.
While an initial phone call may help to clarify an issue, to be investigated all complaints must be submitted in writing to the Obudsman.
The Office of the Victorian Privacy Commissioner is an independent statutory body that monitors the responsible handling of personal information by the Victorian public sector. The Office has a range of functions aimed at having the 10 Information Privacy Principles understood and respected, both inside and outside the public sector.
These principles deal with:
- Collection of personal information
- Use and disclosure
- Data quality
- Data security
- Access and correction
- Trans border data flows
- Sensitive information
Individuals whose personal information is or has been held by an agency or a local council may complain to the Privacy Commissioner about an act or practice that may interfere with the privacy of the individual. The Privacy Commissioner will try to conciliate complaints.
When appropriate, complaints may be redirected to the Ombudsman or Health Services Commissioner.
When conciliation is not reasonably possible, or has been tried and failed, complaints may be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT). A serious or flagrant breach of an IPP or code of practice may result in a compliance notice from the Privacy Commissioner to the agency or council.
Ph 1300 666 444
Fax 1300 666 445
As part of his responsibility to audit the financial statements of about 590 public sector organisations, the Auditor-General (AG) oversees the independent audit of council financial management and processes. He reviews and certifies a council’s financial and performance statements as contained in its annual report.
The AG’s office also assists councils to improve their financial performance by producing guidelines, reviews and model documents that councils can adopt.
Occasionally the Auditor-General conducts a specific investigation into the financial affairs of a particular council. This may be as a result of an investigation into that council by Local Government Victoria or the involvement of the Ombudsman.
The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, appointed to examine the management of resources in the public sector. Through his reports to the Victorian Parliament, the Auditor-General provides an independent assessment of how economically, efficiently and effectively councils have managed their services.
Ph 03 8601 7000
Fax 03 8601 7010
Victorian Electoral Commission
The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) generally conducts council elections.
If you have a complaint or query about how your local council elections are run, the Returning Officer appointed by the VEC to run the election is the best starting point. The Returning Officer usually sets up an office in the municipality during the election and is able to respond to most enquiries.
If you have a concern about the way the Returning Officer runs the election, contact the VEC directly to pursue this. The VEC supports and does the work for the Electoral Commissioner, who reports directly to Parliament.
Ph 13 18 32 or 03 9299 0520
Fax 9629 8632
Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Victoria
The Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission Victoria helps people resolve complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment and racial and religious vilification by offering a conciliation process that is:
The Commission is a statutory body that reports to the Victorian Parliament through the State Attorney-General. It is not a tribunal or court. It helps people to resolve complaints by mutual agreement. It does not prosecute, make judgments for or against either side, nor can it award compensation.
Complaints made under federal laws; the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act must be lodged with the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (Below)
The Commission monitors implementation of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights but does not handle complaints made in relation to the Charter. These should be directed to Ombudsman Victoria.
In addition to a complaint resolution service, the commission offers information, education and consultancy services, conduct research and provide legal and policy advice.
Tel: 1300 891 848
Fax: 1300 891 858
TTY: 1300 289 621
Interpreters: 1300 152 494
Advice Line: Weekdays: 9am-5pm, Wednesdays 9am-1pm
Tel: 1300 292 153
TTY: 1300 289 621
Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is a national independent statutory organisation established to promote and protect human rights in Australia. One of its main functions is to investigate and conciliate complaints concerning discrimination.
Discrimination occurs when a person, or a group of people, are treated less favourably than another person or group because of age, race, colour, national or ethnic origin; sex, pregnancy or marital status; disability; religion; sexual preference; or some other central characteristic. It might include harassment or victimisation in the workplace; being unable to gain physical access to a building or facility; being denied goods and services; difficulty in obtaining appropriate accommodation and housing; or not being able to join a trade union.
The majority of complaints lodged with the Commission concern alleged discrimination in employment.
The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission is responsible for administering the following federal laws:
- Age Discrimination Act 2004
- Disability Discrimination Act 1992
- Racial Discrimination Act 1975
- Sex Discrimination Act 1984
- Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986
The Commission is a neutral third party and does not represent the interests of either the person making the complaint or the person or organisation being complained about. It investigates and attempts to resolve the complaint through a conciliation process.
If you make a complaint under these laws and it can’t be resolved through conciliation you may choose to pursue the matter in court.
(GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001)
Phone: (02) 9284 9600 or 1300 369 711
Fax: (02) 9284 9611
TTY: 1800 620 241
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) was created on 1 July 1998 and amalgamated 15 boards and tribunals to deal with a range of disputes. It deals with disputes between people and government in areas like:
- planning and environment
- land valuation
- licences to carry on businesses (including travel agents, motor car traders and others)
- state taxation
- many other government decisions (such as Transport Accident Commission decisions and freedom of information issues)
The most common council-related reason to appeal to VCAT is land use planning decisions.
VCAT has a number of Divisions, each of which has a number of "lists" (sections) which specialise in particular types of cases. How cases are resolved varies, depending on the type of case, its complexity, whether parties are represented, whether mediation is an option, and so on. It is recommended that most parties taking a matter to VCAT should seek legal advice before deciding whether to proceed.
GPO Box 5408 CC, Melbourne VIC 3001
Ph (03) 9628 9700