Using the term
Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) continues to
advocate strongly for correct use of the term 'ombudsman'.
far back as 1994, the Australian Government's Access to Justice Committee
in its major report 'Access
to Justice: An Action Plan' recommended [at 315]:
should be taken in the naming of complaints bodies and, in particular,
the use of the term ‘ombudsman’. This term has come to be associated with
accessible, independent and impartial review. If the word is used to
describe systems that do not meet these basic criteria, there is a danger
that the term will lose credibility. If used loosely, the term
‘ombudsman’ could mislead the public, rather than protect them. The
government standards should prohibit use of the term, unless the body
meets specified criteria of the kind to which we have referred.
position is that to be an Ombudsman, an office must comply with fundamental principles
and essential criteria. We are concerned with
developments which undermine Ombudsman fundamentals.
issue of correct use of the term Ombudsman was also addressed in detail
by then Commonwealth Ombudsman, Prof John McMillan, in his 2008 paper, 'What's in a name? Use of
the term Ombudsman'.
primary role of an Ombudsman office is independent resolution, redress
and prevention of disputes.
specialise in dispute resolution — in particular through the receipt,
investigation and resolution of citizen or consumer complaints.
Ombudsman must not be an advocate for any special interest group, agency
offices commonly draw on their experience in resolving disputes to
provide assistance to complainants and organisations, and to contribute
to public policy discussions and consultations. But Ombudsmen do not
advocate for any of the parties.
independence is a key attribute for effective dispute resolution. This
independence is guaranteed through arrangements such as ensuring the
Ombudsman is not subject to direction, is able to select her or his own
staff, and has an unconditional right to make public reports.
it's not an Ombudsman, don't call it one.
development and popularity of the Ombudsman institution has come about
for one reason — Ombudsman offices are renowned for independent,
accessible and impartial review and investigation. In increasing numbers,
the public turn to Ombudsmen for assistance and support. It is important,
therefore, that members of the public are not confused about what to
expect when they approach an office called an Ombudsman. Public trust and
respect for the independence, integrity, and impartiality of Ombudsman
offices is at risk if bodies that do not conform to the accepted model
continue to be wrongly described as Ombudsmen.
ANZOA's policy statement:
'Essential criteria for describing a body as an Ombudsman'