Closing the Gap - Northern Territory - Commonwealth Ombudsman support

Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman

Key Elements 

The Government will provide $3.3 million over four years to fund the Commonwealth Ombudsman to continue independent oversight of Australian Government service delivery to Indigenous communities in the Northern Territory. The Ombudsman will achieve this through the delivery of effective complaint handling, the identification and resolution of broader systemic issues and by working collaboratively with Australian Government agencies to improve public administration, service delivery and to support complaint handling in relation to service delivery to Indigenous communities within those agencies.

This measure allows the Ombudsman’s office to have a presence in remote Indigenous communities in order to provide information about the role of the Commonwealth Ombudsman, to obtain feedback from community residents about the delivery of Indigenous programs and to take complaints and provide information back to complainants about investigation outcomes and any broader issues

Background

Experience to date indicates that many Indigenous Australians, especially those in remote communities, have had limited interaction with government agencies and are either confused by what is being implemented, the impact on them or how or who to complain to if they are dissatisfied. The Ombudsman is able to play a role as a ‘neutral’ third party to either provide further information or assurance about government programs or to receive and handle complaints.

Investigation of individual complaints and systemic issues by the Ombudsman is a cost effective way of providing review for individuals and communities affected by Australian Government programs. It also provides for early identification of broader systemic issues which often cut across agencies and jurisdictions. The Ombudsman provides an independent oversight role that is an essential safety net and risk management tool for government and Indigenous Australians and offers a whole of government focus on improving public administration in this area.

Through investigation of individual complaints and systemic issues, outreach activities and liaison with government agencies, the Ombudsman’s office has identified and highlighted cross-agency issues and opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the programs for Indigenous Australians. The Ombudsman’s office has a well developed working relationship with the Northern Territory Ombudsman. This measure will allow for a closer working relationship between Commonwealth and Territory Ombudsman offices in order to identify issues and effectively resolve complaints which involve multiple agencies and cross Commonwealth, Territory and local government jurisdictions.

Implementation

The Ombudsman’s office has been performing this function since the commencement of the NTER.

The office has investigated over 650 complaints, visited approximately 70 communities and town camps, engaged with local community groups and stakeholders and developed a collaborative working relationship with government agencies. The Ombudsman’s office has developed a specialist Indigenous unit and also has a presence in Darwin and Alice Springs. This approach has allowed for effective and efficient outreach activities, targeted and culturally appropriate handling of complaints and a strategic approach to engagement with key government agencies.

The ongoing funding will allow for this measure to continue and be developed more fully.

Total Government Funding

$3.3 million over 4 years.

Content Updated: 25 June 2012