What you need before you make a complaint and different ways to make it

Find out what happens to your complaint once we receive it

Others who may be able to help with your complaint

Anyone – including individuals, groups and organisations - may make a complaint to us about a South Australian state or local government agency’s acts (including misconduct and maladministration).

For public officers and public authorities who wish to report misconduct or maladministration, please go to: Make a report.

There is no charge to make a complaint.

What can I complain about? 

We deal with complaints about administrative acts, misconduct and maladministration. For example, your complaint might be about:

  • a decision-making process
  • a failure to act or delay in taking action
  • an unreasonable or unfair decision or requirement
  • the conduct of staff or delivery of a service
  • the irregular or unauthorised use of public money or substantial mismanagement of public resources.

We don’t investigate every complaint we receive. Even where the Ombudsman has power to investigate a complaint, the complaint will be assessed against our criteria for investigation, to decide whether investigation is necessary or justifiable.

We can look into complaints about:

State government agencies

Including government departments (eg. Department for Correctional Services, Department for Child Protection) and state authorities (eg. Housing SA, Public Trustee, Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner)

Local Government

Local councils and their elected members

Misconduct and maladministration by public officers

Return to Work

Breaches of the service standards and other administrative acts of Return to Work corporation and self-insured agencies

Make a complaint

We don't handle complaints about:

Commonwealth government agencies

Including agencies such as Centrelink, Child Support Agency, Australian Tax Office

Consumer matters involving private businesses


Misconduct by South Australia Police officer/s

Independent Commission Against Corruption

Office for Public Integrity

Health and community service providers

Legal practitioners and the judiciary


A private rental property or tenancy (ie directly through a land lord or real estate agency)


Including electricity, gas, telephone, internet

Banking, insurance, superannuation


Education and training

Catholic schools, non-government/independent schools, adult community education

Other complaint handling authorities

We cannot investigate when a person making a complaint has a right of appeal or review under legislation, or a legal remedy, reasonably available to them.

We do not generally investigate complaints about Development Act authorisations. The Ombudsman has no power to change an authority’s decision in relation to a development authorisation.

Before making a complaint

Many complaints can be resolved by contacting the agency about the problem.

Before looking into your complaint, we need to know how you tried to resolve it with the agency and how the agency responded.

We recommend that you:

  • call and tell them about your complaint
  • send them an email or letter if needed
  • allow them time to respond, usually 2 to 3 weeks.
  • make note of what you did and when, and keep copies of your communication.

Contact details for South Australian government departments and authorities can be found on the South Australia Government website and contact details for Councils can be found on the Local Government Association of South Australia website.


Unless the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2018 applies, we will disclose your identity to an agency for the purposes of assessing and investigating the complaint.

  • If you do not want to be identified to the agency, please let us know when making the complaint.
  • If you do so, we will not disclose your identity unless we consider it necessary to properly assess and investigate your complaint.
  • If we consider it is necessary to disclose your identity in that situation, we will let you know beforehand.

If the Ombudsman considers that it is in the public interest, parties may be authorised to disclose assessment outcomes and investigation reports. The Ombudsman may also decide to publish an assessment outcome or investigation report, having regard to our Publication of Ombudsman Act Decisions and FOI Determinations policy.

What we cannot do

  • give legal advice
  • act for any of the parties
  • award compensation
  • force an agency to comply with our recommendations; however, if the agency does not comply, we can report it to the Premier and the South Australian Parliament.

Next page: How to make a complaint