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Research Report: Data digest
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Description of agencies

The agencies are organised into three categories—government, tribunals and self-regulated industry. Within these categories they are divided into State and Commonwealth agencies. While it is possible to classify dispute resolution agencies in a number of different ways, we divided them according to the way in which they were established, and by their processes for dispute resolution.

Organisations listed under government were established by the government through legislation and, in most cases, adopt processes which are essentially inquisitorial, or have a strong emphasis on mediation and conciliation. Those classified as tribunals were established by the government and adopt a primarily quasi-judicial process in resolving complaints and disputes. Those listed under self-regulated industry were established by organisations within that particular industry and are not generally governed by legislation.

Government - Commonwealth

Australian Consumer and Competition Commission
Established: 1995 (merger of the Trade Practices Commission and the Prices Surveillance Authority)
Legislation: Trade Practices Act 1974, Prices Surveillance Act 1983 (plus additional responsibilities under other legislation)
Jurisdiction: National. Covers anti-competitive and unfair market practices, mergers or acquisitions of companies, product safety/liability, and third party access to facilities of national significance.

Commonwealth Ombudsman
Established: 1977
Legislation: Ombudsman Act 1976, Freedom of Information Act 1982, Complaints (Australian Federal Police) Act 1981, the Telecommunications (Interception) Act 1979, Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT) and Freedom of Information Act 1989 (ACT)
Jurisdiction: Commonwealth and ACT. Considers and investigates complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by a Commonwealth Government department or agency, including the Australian Taxation Office, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Defence Force. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the ACT Ombudsman.

Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission
Established: 1986
Legislation: Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission Act 1986, Race Discrimination Act 1975, Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Disability Discrimination Act 1992
Jurisdiction: National. Matters which can be investigated by the Commission include discrimination on the grounds of race, colour or ethnic origin, racial vilification, sex, sexual harassment, marital status, pregnancy, or disability.

Private Health Insurance Ombudsman
Established: 1995
Legislation: National Health Act 1953
Jurisdiction: National. Resolves problems about private health insurance and acts as the umpire in dispute resolution at all levels within the private health industry. Complaints can be made by fund members, doctors, some dentists, hospitals, day hospital facilities, and health funds.

Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman
Established: 1993
Legislation: Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999
Jurisdiction: National. Provides a dispute resolution service for residential and small business consumers who have been unable to resolve a complaint with their telephone or Internet service provider.

Government - State

Anti-Discrimination Board
Established: 1977
Legislation: Anti-Discrimination Act 1977
Jurisdiction: NSW. Promotes anti-discrimination and equal opportunity principles in NSW, handles complaints about discrimination, conducts education regarding rights and responsibilities and puts forward recommendations for changes to policies and the law.

Community Justice Centres
Established: 1980
Legislation: Community Justice Centres Act 1983
Jurisdiction: NSW. Provide mediation and conflict management services to help people resolve their own disputes.

Health Care Complaints Commission
Established: 1994
Legislation: Health Care Complaints Act 1993
Jurisdiction: NSW. Resolves, reviews and investigates complaints about health care.

NSW Ombudsman
Established: 1975
Legislation: Ombudsman Act 1974
Jurisdiction: NSW. Investigates and reports on complaints about the conduct of a NSW agency or their employee. NSW agencies include government departments and statutory authorities, for example, police, local councils, schools and universities and some non-government agencies, for example, area health services, non-government schools, child care centres and agencies providing community services.

Office of Industrial Relations
Established: 2003 (formerly Department of Industrial Relations)
Legislation: Industrial Relations Act 1996
Jurisdiction: NSW. The Act enables awards and enterprise agreements to be made and sets out the obligations of employers including the requirements to keep time and wage records, issue pay slips and display awards and enterprise agreements. The Act also allows the Office to take action for a breach of an award or enterprise agreement and recover unpaid entitlements.

Office of the Legal Services Commissioner
Established: 1994
Legislation: Legal Profession Act 1987
Jurisdiction: NSW. The Office oversees the investigation of complaints and resolves disputes in relation to the conduct of solicitors, barristers and licensed conveyancers.

Tribunals - Commonwealth

Administrative Appeals Tribunal
Established: 1976
Legislation: Administrative Appeals Tribunal Act 1975
Jurisdiction: National. Provides independent review of a wide range of administrative decisions made by the Commonwealth Government and some non-government bodies. It covers areas such as taxation, customs, freedom of information, social security, veteran’s entitlements and Commonwealth employees’ compensation and superannuation.

Migration Review Tribunal
Established: 1999 (formerly the Immigration Review Tribunal est. 1989)
Legislation: Migration Act 1958
Jurisdiction: National. Reviews visa criteria, sponsor arrangements, the points system and decisions made by the Minister for Immigration regarding the refusal of visas and business nomination decisions.

Refugee Review Tribunal
Established: 1993
Legislation: Migration Act 1958
Jurisdiction: National. Reviews decisions made by the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) to refuse or cancel protection visas to non-citizens in Australia.

Social Security Appeals Tribunal
Established: 1975
Legislation: Social Security (Administration) Act 1999
Jurisdiction: National. Hears appeals against decisions made by the Department of Family and Community Services, Centrelink, Department of Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Superannuation Complaints Tribunal
Established: 1994
Legislation: Superannuation Act 1993
Jurisdiction: National. Deals with superannuation related complaints.

Tribunals - State

Administrative Decisions Tribunal
Established: 1998
Legislation: Administrative Decisions Tribunal Act 1997
Jurisdiction: NSW. Makes original decisions and reviews decisions made by other bodies. It is made up of five divisions: General, Community Services, Retail Leases, Legal Services and the Revenue.

Consumer Trader and Tenancy Tribunal
Established: 2002 (formerly the Residential Tribunal and the Fair Trading Tribunal)
Legislation: Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal Act 2001
Jurisdiction: NSW. Specialist dispute resolution forum for consumer trader and tenancy matters. The Tribunal consists of nine divisions: Tenancy, General, Home Building, Building Conciliation Service, Motor Vehicles, Residential Parks, Strata and Community Schemes, Commercial and Retirement Villages.

Self-regulated industry - Commonwealth

Banking and Financial Services Ombudsman
Established: 2003 (formerly Australian Banking Industry Ombudsman, est. 1989)
Jurisdiction: National. An independent dispute resolution service which considers disputes between individuals or small businesses and financial services providers.

Credit Union Dispute Resolution Centre
Established: 1996
Jurisdiction: National. Assists participating credit unions and their members resolve complaints in a fair, timely and cost-effective manner.

Financial Industry Complaints Service Ltd
Established: 1999 (formerly the Life Insurance Complaints Service est. 1991)
Jurisdiction: National inquiry and complaint resolution service in relation to life insurance, financial planning, stockbroking and managed investment issues.

Insurance Brokers Disputes Ltd
Established: 2002 (formerly the Insurance Brokers Dispute Facility est. 1996)
Jurisdiction: National. Handles complaints and helps resolve problems between insurance brokers and financial services providers (other than insurance companies) and their clients.

Insurance Enquiries and Complaints Ltd
Established: 1993
Jurisdiction: National. Resolves disputes between insurers and their insurance companies or claimants who have a dispute with another person's insurance company in relation to motor vehicle property damage (i.e. third party claim).

Self-regulated industry - State

Energy & Water Ombudsman NSW
Established: 1998
Jurisdiction: NSW. Provides an independent way of resolving complaints for customers of electricity and gas providers, and member water providers.


Scott, S, Eyland, A , Gray, A, Zhou, A & Coumarelos, C 2004, Data digest, a compendium of services usage data from NSW legal assistance and dispute resolution services 1999-2002, Law and Justice Foundation of NSW, Sydney, 2004