Role of ombudsmen

An ombudsman is an independent government official, a ‘watchdog’, who hears and investigates complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by a government department or agency, including those related to education and training. Australia has a Commonwealth ombudsman and ombudsmen in each state and territory.

The VET Student Loans Ombudsman, Queensland Training Ombudsman and South Australian Office of the Training Advocate are responsible for investigating matters specifically related to vocational education and training (VET). Apprentices and trainees can also go to the Fair Work Ombudsman for information and assistance to resolve workplace issues.

VET Student Loans Ombudsman

The VET Student Loans program replaced the VET FEE-HELP scheme from 1 January 2017. To complement the new program, the VET Student Loans Ombudsman function was established within the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman through the Education and Other Legislation Amendment Act (No.1) 2017.

The VET Student Loans team within the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman manages and investigates complaints and disputes between students and providers, regarding both the VET FEE-HELP scheme and the VET Student Loans program.

South Australian Office of the Training Advocate

The Office of the Training Advocate addresses concerns relating to the South Australian training system. Established in 2003, it received statutory recognition under the Training and Skills Development Act 2008. The Office of the Training Advocate provides services for students (including apprentices, trainees and international students), employers, trainers and training providers. It:

  • provides information about the training system in South Australia
  • offers independent advice and support
  • provides advocacy to address issues
  • promotes benefits of training and employment
  • investigates or refers them to the appropriate authority
  • advises the State Government on ways to improve the training system.

Queensland Training Ombudsman

The Queensland Training Ombudsman is an independent office that provides support to Queenslanders to resolve training issues or make complaints. The Office of the Training Ombudsman was created on 14 September 2015 and became permanent on 22 April 2016 through the Further Education and Training Act 2014.

The Office focuses on reviewing and resolving enquiries and complaints from anyone in the VET system including students, registered training organisations (RTOs), apprentices, trainees, employers and other stakeholders. The Queensland Training Ombudsman also plays an advocacy role by reporting on systemic issues in the VET sector and advising the government on ways to improve them.

Fair Work Ombudsman

The Office of the Fair Work Ombudsman helps employers and employees, including apprentices and trainees, understand their rights and responsibilities under Australian workplace laws, and help resolve any work related issues that arise.

Government ombudsmen

The Commonwealth Ombudsman, established in 1976, investigates complaints from people who believe they have been treated unfairly or unreasonably by an Australian Government department or agency. The Commonwealth Ombudsman is also the Overseas Students Ombudsman and is responsible for:

  • investigating individual complaints about the actions or decisions of a private-registered education provider in connection with an intending or former overseas student
  • working with private-registered education providers to promote best-practice handling of overseas students

State and territory government ombudsmen have oversight over departments and agencies within their jurisdiction. Oversight of the ombudsman role in the Australian Capital Territory rests with the Commonwealth Ombudsman. More information about Government ombudsmen may be found on their websites:

National Training Complaints Hotline

The National Training Complaints Hotline is a joint initiative between the Commonwealth, state and territory governments. It provides a single number to call for anyone with a complaint or query about the training and have it referred to the relevant authority.

Where to go for more information

How to cite this overview

NCVER (National Centre for Vocational Education Research) 2020, Getting to know VET overview: Training ombudsmen, VET Knowledge Bank, NCVER, Adelaide, <>.

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