This year marks a significant milestone for the Victorian Ombudsman.
On October 30 it celebrates 50 years as a lead parliamentary integrity agency committed to fairness, integrity and respect for human rights; holding Victorian public organisations accountable for delivery of their services.
Victorian Ombudsman Deborah Glass said: “Even as the office continues to grow and evolve its purpose has remained the same. As inaugural ombudsman Sir John Vincent Dillon said in his first Quarterly Report 50 years ago: ‘The very essence of his office demands that he be non-partisan, independent and judicial in his treatment and investigation of complaints. The office really combines the judicial functions of a judge or magistrate and the administrative functions of an inquisitor’.
“While our language today would not be gendered, that essence remains at the heart of the work we do. Every Victorian Ombudsman since has been committed to that ambition. To investigate grievances and where practicable, to have errors acknowledged and corrected. To redress the imbalance of power between the individual and the State. Not to take sides but to present a fair and independent perspective. And that is the same for a complaint affecting one individual as it is for the most egregious and systemic”.
Several events are planned to mark the occasion through the year including a report covering the 50-year history of the Ombudsman and hosting the Australasian and Pacific Ombudsman Region Conference in October.
The 50th anniversary provides a timely opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary work the Ombudsman has done over 50 years, highlighting the breadth of the Office’s impact.
Ms. Glass: “Victoria’s second Ombudsman, Charles Norman Geschke, epitomised the role of the office in redressing the imbalance of power. In his last report to Parliament in 1994 he described saving the wooden kiosk at Clifton Hill station, so that the lady kiosk operator did not have to sell her wares from a portable trolley at 6 am in the Melbourne winter. No problem with the bureaucracy was too small, no bureaucrat too mighty, for the Ombudsman’s attention”.
“How do you measure the impact of an agency like the Victorian Ombudsman? The complaints resolved or conciliated, the investigations undertaken, the human rights considered, the laws, regulations and policies changed, and most importantly, the people heard, and public administration improved.
“As one complainant to the office put it: ‘Maybe the complaint will not be formally investigated or be ‘tabled in parliament’ but at least the Ombudsman will be able to decide if it is fair” said Ms. Glass.
The Ombudsman acts to ensure fairness for Victorians in their dealings with the public sector and to improve public administration. As it marks this occasion it’s worth noting some of the highlights of the Office’s work.