GSTF Journal of Law and Social Sciences (JLSS)

, 4:14

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

A Snapshot in Time: The Changing Systemic Role of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman 1

  • Anita StuhmckeAffiliated withFaculty of Law, University of Technology Sydney


The role of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman has changed. This change has occurred through operational decision-making rather than through legislative reform. Similarly to many classical ombudsman institutions the Commonwealth Ombudsman has two traditional roles – proactive system fixer and reactive individual complaint handler. Since the office was introduced in Australian in the 1970s. the emphasis placed upon systemic reform has increased. This change is noteworthy as it is generally assumed that these dual roles are related in that improvements produced by one role will impact upon the other. Here it is most often implied in public law literature, that the correction by an ombudsman of a systemic administrative deficiency through its systemic function will reduce numbers of individual complaints. Using empirical data based upon a ‘snapshot in time’ study of the Australian Commonwealth Ombudsman this article argues that this traditional assumptions as to the relationship between the two roles is flawed. The findings of the study presented in this article will impact upon the operation of the ombudsman institution and provide insight into ways in which the role and performance of such a growing international integrity review body may be strengthened.


dispute resolution government public administration ombudsman