Fairness role across state for Ombudsman

DEFENDER: Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says one of the main areas of complaints to her office is the conduct of local councils. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK
DEFENDER: Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass says one of the main areas of complaints to her office is the conduct of local councils. PICTURE: JUSTIN WHITELOCK

THE word Ombudsman derives from the Swedish term “defender of the people”.

According to Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass, her role is to challenge the imbalance of power between an individual and the state. 

“My role is about fairness,” Ms Glass said.

“It’s about ensuring fairness for Victorians in their dealings with the public sector and improving public administration.

“It covers the whole range of state government services, including local councils.”

Along with the Auditor-General and Independent Broad-based Anti-

corruption Commission, the Victorian Ombuds-

man is the pillar of the state’s integrity network.

Ms Glass spoke to The Courier during a visit to the city on Wednesday before she attended a Ballarat Rotary Club dinner.

Ms Glass said one of the main areas of complaint to her office was the conduct of local councils.

“It’s not surprising that’s the case, because every person in Victoria has a relationship with their local council,” Ms Glass said.

Ms Glass said one of key issues people had with their council was how it dealt with their complaints, which had sparked her to launch an investigation into the handling of complaints by local government last year.

The report was tabled in Parliament in February and brought about the establishment of a good practice guide which listed recommendations to councils on how complaints could be handled better. 

“I think it’s really important for people to know that, as the Victorian Ombudsman, a big part of my role is to deal with regional and rural Victoria,” Ms Glass said.

“What I really want people to understand is what my office can do for people and why complaining is important, because complaints can deliver improvements in public services.”

Other areas of high public interest and complaints include child protection, housing and the state’s prison system.

Last year, Ms Glass’s office received more than 34,000 complaints. 

Earlier this year, Ms Glass ordered the state government to pay $4.5 million in compensation to the former residents of a private aged care facility in Mentone that had closed down because the Department of Health had failed in its duty of care.

The formal inquiry followed a complaint from a 91-year-old resident of the home.

To contact the Victorian Ombudsman, call 1800 806 314 or visit ombudsman.vic.gov.au

melissa.cunningham@fairfaxmedia.com.au