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Complaint handling policy and process

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Complaint handling policy and process

About this Policy

This policy describes the principles and concepts of the NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA) complaint management process. It is based on the NSW Ombudsman’s Complaint Handling Model Policy (June 2015). It provides guidance to members of the public who wish to make a complaint about us, and to our staff about how to handle these complaints.

1. Introduction

1.1  Purpose

This policy is intended to ensure that NESA handles complaints in a way that is responsive, consistent, fair and courteous. Our complaint management system is intended to:

  • enable us to respond to issues raised by people making complaints in a timely and cost-effective way
  • respect the privacy of the person making the complaint
  • boost public confidence in our administrative process, and
  • provide information that can be used by us to deliver quality improvements in our products, services, staff and complaint handling.

1.2  Scope

This policy applies to all staff receiving or managing complaints from the public made to or about us, regarding our products, services, staff and complaint handling.

This policy does not replace or override NESA policies and procedures regarding staff performance matters, grievances and public interest disclosures dealt with under separate mechanisms.

1.3  Organisational commitment

NESA expects staff at all levels to be committed to fair, effective and efficient complaint handling. The following table outlines the nature of the commitment expected from staff and the way that commitment should be implemented.




Chief Executive Officer, and Executive Director, Corporate Governance and School Standards

Promote a culture that values complaints and their effective resolution.

Report publicly on NESA complaint handling.

Provide adequate support and direction to key staff responsible for handling complaints.

Regularly review reports about complaint trends and issues arising from complaints.

Encourage all staff to be alert to complaints and assist those responsible for handling complaints resolve them promptly.

Encourage staff to make recommendations for system improvements.

Recognise and reward good complaint handling by staff.

Support recommendations for product service, staff and complaint handling improvements arising from the analysis of complaint data.

Chief Financial Officer (CFO)

Establish and manage our complaint management policy, processes and reporting

Provide regular reports to the CEO on issues arising from complaint handling work.

Ensure recommendations arising out of complaint data analysis are canvassed with the CEO and implemented where appropriate.

Recruit, train and empower staff to resolve complaints promptly and in accordance with our policies and procedures.

Encourage staff managing complaints to provide suggestions on ways to improve the complaint management system.

Encourage all staff to be alert to complaints and assist those responsible for handling complaints resolve them promptly.

Recognise and reward good complaint handling by staff.

Frontline staff

Demonstrate exemplary complaint handling practices.

Treat all people with respect, including people who make complaints.

Assist people make a complaint, if needed.

Comply with this policy and its associated procedures.

Keep informed about best practice in complaint handling.

Provide feedback to management on issues arising from complaints.

Provide suggestions to management on ways to improve complaints management.

Implement changes arising from individual complaints and from the analysis of complaint data as directed by management.

All staff

Understand and comply with NESA complaint handling practices

Treat all people with respect, including people who make complaints.

Be aware of this policy and its associated procedures.

Assist people who wish to make complaints access the NESA complaints process.

Be alert to complaints and assist staff handling complaints resolve matters promptly.

Provide feedback to management on issues arising from complaints.

Implement changes arising from individual complaints and from the analysis and evaluation of complaint data as directed by management.

2. Terms and Definitions


Expression of dissatisfaction made to or about us, our products, services, staff or the handling of a complaint, by a person who is apparently directly affected by the service or action; and where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected or legally required. A complaint covered by this Policy can be distinguished from:

  • staff grievances
  • public interest disclosures made by our staff
  • code of conduct complaints
  • statutory internal reviews
  • appeals available under a separate policy, including in relation to HSC-related  illness misadventure claims and disability provisions claims
  • complaints about the conduct of organisations we regulate ( non-government schools, teacher accreditation authorities)
  • responses to requests for feedback about the standard of our service provision [see the definition of ‘feedback’ below]
  • reports of problems or wrongdoing merely intended to bring a problem to our notice with no expectation of a response [see definition of ‘feedback’ below]
  • service requests [see definition of ‘service request’ below]
  • requests for information [see our Access to Information Policy]
  • concerns relating to the merit of government policy
  • complaints about not acting in a way that is contrary to law.

Complaint management system

All policies, procedures, practices, staff, hardware and software used by NESA in the management of complaints.


An unresolved complaint escalated either within or outside of NESA.


Opinions, comments and expressions of interest or concern, made directly or indirectly, explicitly or implicitly, to or about us, about our products, services or complaint handling where a response is not expected or legally required.

Service request

Service requests include:

  • requests for approval
  • requests for action
  • routine inquiries about our business
  • requests for the provision of services and assistance
  • reports of failure to comply with laws regulated by the organisation
  • requests for explanation of policies, procedures and decisions.


A clear, formal written statement by an individual staff member about another staff member or a work related problem.


A statement of instruction that sets out how NESA should fulfil its statutory functions.


A statement or instruction that sets out how NESA policies will be implemented and by whom.

Public interest disclosure

A report about wrong doing made by a public official in New South Wales that meets the requirements of the Public Interest Disclosures Act 1994 (PID Act).


3. Guiding principles

Figure 1:

3.1  Facilitate complaints

People focus

We are committed to seeking and receiving feedback and complaints about our services, systems, practices, procedures, products and complaint handling.

Any concerns raised in feedback or complaints will be dealt with within a reasonable time frame.

People making complaints will be:

  • provided with information about our complaint handling process
  • provided with multiple and accessible ways to make complaints
  • listened to, treated with respect by staff and actively involved in the complaint process where possible and appropriate, and
  • provided with reasons for our decision/s and any options for redress or review.

No detriment to people making complaints

We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that people making complaints are not adversely affected because a complaint has been made by them or on their behalf.

Anonymous complaints

We will accept anonymous complaints and will carry out an investigation of the issues raised where there is enough information provided.


NESA will ensure that information about how and where complaints may be made to or about us is well publicised. We will ensure that our systems to manage complaints are easily understood and accessible to everyone, particularly people who may require assistance.

If a person prefers or needs another person or organisation to assist or represent them in the making and/ or resolution of their complaint, we will communicate with them through their representative if this is their wish. Anyone may represent a person wishing to make a complaint with their consent (e.g. advocate, family member, legal or community representative, member of Parliament, another organisation).

If you need an interpreter, please contact the translating and interpreting service on 131 450 and ask to be connected to the phone number we provide you with.

No charge

Complaining to us is free.

3.2  Respond to complaints

Early resolution

Where possible, complaints will be resolved at first contact with NESA.


NESA will promptly acknowledge receipt of complaints. We will assess and prioritise complaints in accordance with the urgency and/or seriousness of the issues raised. If a matter concerns an immediate risk to safety or security the response will be immediate and will be escalated appropriately.

We are committed to managing people’s expectations, and will inform them as soon as possible of the following:

  • the complaints process
  • the expected time frames for our actions, including our response
  • the progress of the complaint and reasons for any delay
  • the complainant’s likely involvement in the process, and
  • the possible or likely outcome of the complaint.

We will advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to deal with any part of their complaint and provide advice about where such issues and/or complaints may be directed (if known and appropriate).

We will also advise people as soon as possible when we are unable to meet our time frames for responding to their complaint and the reason for our delay.

Objectivity and fairness

NESA will address each complaint with integrity and in an equitable, objective and unbiased manner.

We will ensure that the person handling a complaint is different from any staff member whose conduct or service is being complained about.

Conflicts of interests, whether actual or perceived, will be managed responsibly. In particular, internal reviews of how a complaint was managed will be conducted by a person other than the original decision maker.

Responding flexibly

Our staff are empowered to resolve complaints promptly and with as little formality as possible. We will adopt flexible approaches to service delivery and problem solving to enhance accessibility for people making complaints and/or their representatives.

We will assess each complaint on its merits and involve people making complaints and/or their representative in the process as far as possible.


NESA will protect the identity of people making complaints where this is practical and appropriate. Personal information that identifies individuals will only be disclosed or used by NESA as permitted under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act), relevant privacy laws, secrecy provisions and any relevant confidentiality obligations.

3.3  Manage the parties to a complaint

Complaints involving multiple agencies

Where a complaint involves multiple organisations, NESA will work with the other organisation/s where possible, to ensure that communication with the person making a complaint and/or their representative is clear and coordinated.

Subject to privacy and confidentiality considerations, communication and information sharing between the parties will also be organised to facilitate a timely response to the complaint.

Where a complaint involves multiple areas within our organisation, responsibility for communicating with the person making the complaint and/or their representative will also be coordinated.

Where our services are contracted out, we expect contracted service providers to have an accessible and comprehensive complaint management system. We take complaints not only about the actions of our staff but al