Department of Education




PoliciesHuman resourcesComplaints and misconduct ‹ Disputes and Complaints
School management
Safety and welfare
Human resources
Complaints and misconduct
Disputes and Complaints
Staff Conduct and Discipline Policy and Procedures
A Guide to the Discipline process for Public Sector staff
A Guide to the Discipline process for Wages and other officers
Code of Conduct
Complaints Management Toolkit
Grievance Framework
How to Comply with our Code of Conduct
Reporting Misconduct
Talking with my school
Letter 01 Complainant - Informal grievance received
Letter 02 Complainant - Meeting with line manager
Letter 03 Complainant - Scheduling conciliation, mediation meeting with all parties
Letter 04 Complainant - Notification of Resolution Agreement
Letter 05 Complainant - Notification of Resolution Decision
Letter 06 Complainant - Delay in process
Letter 07 Complainant - Progress update
Letter 08 Respondent- Informal grievance received, future meeting
Letter 09 Respondent - Meeting with line manager
Letter 10 Respondent Scheduling conciliation, mediation meeting with all parties
Letter 11 Respondent - Notification of Resolution Agreement
Letter 12 Respondent - Notification of Resolution Decision
Letter 13 Respondent - Delay in process
Letter 14 Respondent - Progress update
Letter 15 Complainant - Formal grievance received, future interview
Letter 16 Complainant - Scheduling interview
Letter 17 Complainant - Findings of formal assessment and outcome
Letter 18 Complainant - Delay in process
Letter 19 Complainant - Progress update
Letter 20 Complainant - Grievance referred to Standards and Integrity Directorate
Letter 21 Complainant - Response received from Standards and Integrity Directorate
Letter 22 Complainant - Scheduling mediation with external provider
Letter 23 Complainant - Outcome of mediation
Letter 24 Respondent-Formal grievance received, interview or written response
Letter 25 Respondent - Scheduling interview
Letter 26 Respondent - Findings of formal assessment and outcome
Letter 27 Respondent - Delay in process
Letter 28 Respondent- Progress update
Letter 29 Respondent - Grievance referred to Standards and Integrity Directorate
Letter 30 Respondent - Response received from Standards and Integrity Directorate
Letter 31 Respondent -Scheduling mediation with external provider
Letter 32 Respondent - Outcome of mediation
Letter 33 Interviewees - Scheduling interview
Employee housing
Equity and diversity
Human resource management
Leave management
Recruitment, selection, appointment, transfer and deployment
Finance and administration
Corporate management

Disputes and Complaints


Appendix B Useful information for staff

B.1 Positive outcomes from handling complaints well

Quality management of a complaint goes beyond simply complying with policy. When a complaint is handled well it gives expression to the Department's core values of Learning, Excellence, Equity and Care.

A complaint is a sign that something is wrong even if we think the complainant is mistaken. Although we need to distinguish misunderstandings from valid complaints, both indicate real problems that must be solved.

We should not be afraid of complaints. Complaints are a valuable source of feedback on the service we provide. The fact that a complaint has been made suggests that the complainant trusts us to respond in a positive way.

How well we handle complaints can be critical to the image of our schools and the Department and our relationship with the community.

A badly handled complaint can result in both a dissatisfied parent and bad word of mouth or informal publicity.

When we handle a complaint well we not only satisfy the complainant, we improve our relationship with the complainant and increase confidence in government schools. Handling a complaint properly shows that we listen, we learn from our mistakes, we are committed to continuous improvement and we care.

Further, processes for handling complaints should provide feedback to school or office leadership to support improvement in our policy and operations.

B.2 Principles for handling complaints

B.2.1 Act promptly

Find out as quickly as possible both the nature of the complaint and the outcome the complainant wants. Determine who is the appropriate person to handle the complaint to ensure there is no conflict of interest or perception of bias.

B.2.2 Listen carefully, discuss the issues calmly and maintain confidentiality

  • Treat complainants with respect and courtesy.
  • Approach the complaint with an open mind, taking the person seriously and letting them have their say.
  • We should welcome complaints and assure complainants that they will be dealt with properly.
  • Record all relevant details.
  • Maintain confidentiality to protect complainants, their children and the staff involved.

B.2.3 Focus on relevant issues

  • Keep the discussion to relevant issues and check the facts.
  • It is important to hear all sides of the story and keep everyone involved informed of the progress and outcome of the complaint.
  • Be clear about current policy and processes.

B.2.4 Give personal and specific responses

  • Give the complainant your name. Let them decide whether the matter is really an enquiry, a concern or a complaint.
  • Be clear about what solutions we can actually offer.
  • Explain what will happen next and what steps and support are available.
  • Make sure written responses address all of the issues, contain correct information and use plain English.

B.2.5 Keep a record of complaints, timeline for action, action taken and outcomes

  • Recording details helps to ensure that we deal with each complaint satisfactorily. In many cases some brief diary points and/or a note on the student's file is all that is required.
  • A clear record is helpful where there are subsequent enquiries, concerns, complaints or investigation.
  • Tracking complaints will help us improve our policies and operations both in managing complaints and in the areas of operations about which we receive complaints.
  • The emphasis should be on learning rather than attributing blame. We need information to plan for improvement.

B.3 Strategies that may be useful for dealing with complaints at 

B.3.1 Mediation

The primary focus of mediation is to reach a fair and workable agreement between the parties in conflict. It should be a voluntary process with parties agreeing to mediation and taking responsibility for making decisions through the process.

B.3.1.1 The mediation process


The process of pre-mediation involves:

  • The mediator meeting with each party individually and listening to their perspective on the situation
  • Checking the person's 'emotional readiness' to participate in mediation
  • Discussing and finalising the agenda for the mediation; what are their primary concerns and what requests do they wish to make of the other party? How best might they phrase these concerns and requests to ensure the best possible outcome?
  • Anticipating what the other party might raise and how the individual will respond
  • Discussing the ground rules for successful mediation
  • Seeking commitment to the mediation process

If parties are in agreement, then mediation proceeds. Only two people are generally involved in mediation. Therefore, with three parties, either two or three mediations will be required.

Note that pre-mediation may identify other organisational needs and appropriate interventions will be discussed following pre-mediation. It is also common for the line manager's role to be discussed in pre-mediation, which may involve feedback to the line manager, either by the parties directly or the Mediator, if that person is not the line manager.


  • Brief meetings are held with each party immediately prior to joint meeting to confirm the parties readiness to proceed and that agenda is still appropriate
  • Mediator introduces the process to the parties
  • Ground rules developed and/or reinforced
  • Each party presents a statement or request from their agenda in turn and clarifies as necessary
  • Parties develop options to address/resolve the point being discussed (only move on to next point when some agreement or understanding is demonstrated)
  • A written document is developed stating the outcome of mediation, agreement reached between the parties and recommendations for further action
  • A review period is agreed.

If appropriate, the line manager can be invited in at the end of the mediation meeting to be advised of the outcome, discuss their role in monitoring the agreement and to clarify any outstanding organisational issues.

Refer to the mediation flowchart below.

B.3.2 Line management adjudication

This strategy requires the line manager to clarify the complaint in the context of the Department's policies and, if a mutually satisfactory solution is not achievable, to impose a resolution which may include the issuing of a formal directive to an employee.

B.4 Further information

Disputes and Complaints policy;
Talking To Your School;
Managing Unsatisfactory and Sub-Standard Performance of Teaching Staff and School Administrators: policy;
Discipline policy;
Being Fair: A Procedural Fairness Manual for Australian Schools (1999), National Children's and Youth Law Centre

Note: Some times staff members need support in dealing with difficult situations. All staff should feel confident in seeking the support of line managers. It is also possible to access free confidential counselling through the Department's Employee Assistance program by telephoning 9446 0800 or 1800 674 188 (country). Staff who are Union/Association members can also seek assistance and support from their Union/Association.

Mediation Process

Disputes and Complaints

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