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Guide to Councils

Complaint resolution bodies

You should only take your concern to another organisation if you have been unable to resolve your problem with the council itself. There are a number of organisations that can consider complaints relating to a council and each of these has specific roles and limitations.

As a general rule, a complaint should be in writing and should include the following:

  • brief statement about your issue
  • brief history of the case, including important dates or events
  • decision or action taken by the council
  • preferred outcome for this case going forward
  • copies of all correspondence to and from the council or any other material that records the contact made between parties involved.

Victorian Local Government Inspectorate

The Local Government Inspectorate (Inspectorate) is an independent administrative office of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, which reports to the Special Minister of State (SMOS). Led by the Chief Municipal Inspector, a key role of the Inspectorate is to promote voluntary compliance with the requirements of the Local Government Act 1989 (Act), and encourage best practice, accountability and transparency in local government.

The Inspectorate is staffed by Inspectors of Municipal Administration who carry out the two main functions of the Inspectorate. These are: investigating alleged breaches of the Act and administering a Compliance Audit program at councils across Victoria.

The Inspectorate has a specific focus on breaches that constitute an offence under the Act, and may investigate:

  • breaches of the Act involving a councillor, senior council officer or individual with delegated responsibility under the Act
  • any individual subject to the conflict of interest provisions within the Act
  • any individual where the matter relates to electoral provisions
  • the corporate governance of Victorian councils.

The Inspectorate may also:

  • monitor the electoral provisions of a council
  • provide recommendations to councils for continuous improvement
  • advise the Minister for Local Government where a serious failure of corporate governance has been identified at council
  • undertake prosecutions for offences under the Act.

The Inspectorate does not investigate complaints relating to council decisions or democratic processes unless there is an allegation of a breach of the Act. 

You can find out how to make a complaint to the Local Government Inspectorate on their website.

Victorian Ombudsman

The Victorian Ombudsman responds to complaints about local councils and state government departments and agencies. This is a free and independent service.

Under the Ombudsman Act 1973, the Ombudsman may be able to help you if your complaint is about an administrative action of a council. The Ombudsman cannot investigate the actions of an individual councillor, except when investigating a protected disclosure complaint under the Protected Disclosure Act 2012.

You can complain to the Ombudsman about something a council did or failed to do, or a decision it made or failed to make.

For example:

  • you made a complaint but the council is taking months to respond
  • the council says it’s fixed the problem, but you’re still not satisfied
  • the council has made a decision that you think is unfair.

The Ombudsman doesn’t deal with complaints about police, judges or employment issues.

There are some other limits on what the Ombudsman can do. For example, if your complaint is very old, or there is another body that can deal with it.

If you think you have been treated unfairly, the first step is to try and resolve your problem with the council. If that doesn't work, you can contact the Ombudsman.

You can find out more about when the Ombudsman can and can’t help by visiting its website.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA)

Environment Protection Authority Victoria’s role is to be an effective environmental regulator and an influential authority on environmental impacts. The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is charged with protecting the Victorian environment. EPA is an administrative office of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and reports to the Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Water.

EPA aspires to create a healthy environment that supports a liveable and prosperous Victoria. The Victorian community plays a vital role in protecting the environment. EPA relies on the community to report incidents of pollution, environmental hazard or other activities potentially harmful to the environment.

Pollution is the introduction of substances into water, land or the atmosphere, so that the condition is adversely altered to be detrimental to its use, or harmful to the health or welfare of humans.

The environment that EPA strives to protect includes land, water, atmosphere and climate, noise, odours, tastes and aesthetics. An environmental hazard is a danger to humans or the environment caused by inappropriate storage or handling of toxic, corrosive, flammable, explosive, or infectious substances. For example, storage of dangerous chemicals or waste products in unsealed containers beside a creek.

You can report pollution to the EPA 24 hours a day, seven days a week, by phone or online.

Victorian Electoral Commission

The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) is an independent and impartial statutory authority that supports the Electoral Commissioner, who reports directly to Parliament. The VEC conducts Victorian state and local council elections, certain statutory elections and polls, and commercial and community elections.

The VEC also conducts boundary reviews, maintains the Victorian electoral enrollment register, conducts electoral research, provides education services, and works to engage all Victorians who are entitled to vote in the democratic process.

If you have a complaint or query about how your local council elections are run, the Returning Officer appointed by the VEC to run the election is the best starting point. The Returning Officer usually sets up an office in the municipality during the election and is able to respond to most enquiries.

If you have a concern about the way the Returning Officer runs the election, contact the VEC directly to pursue this. You can find more information and contact details on the VEC website.

Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT)

The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) deals with a range of disputes. These include disputes between people and local government in many areas including: planning, land valuation, councillor conduct and objections to council decisions.

VCAT has a number of sections and each one deals with a different case. It is recommended that parties taking a matter to VCAT seek legal advice before deciding whether to proceed. You can find more information and contact details on the VCAT website.


The Auditor-General is an independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, appointed to examine the management of resources within the public sector. The Auditor-General is supported by the Victorian Auditor-General’s Office (VAGO), and conducts and reports on financial and performance audits.

The Auditor-General cannot be directed by anyone, including Parliament and the government, and dismissal of the Auditor-General is only possible by a resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

The Audit Act 1994 gives the Auditor-General the power to access all government information reports on findings arising from audits. The Auditor-General’s office is responsible for auditing the financial statements of around 590 public sector organisations, including the independent audit of council financial management and processes. The Auditor-General certifies each council's financial and performance statements as contained in its annual report.

The Auditor-General's office also assists councils to improve their financial performance by producing guidelines, reviews and model documents that councils can adopt. Occasionally the Auditor-General conducts a specific investigation into the financial affairs of a particular council. This may be as a result of an investigation into that council by Local Government Victoria or the involvement of the Ombudsman. You can find more information and contact details on the VAGO website.

Victorian Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission

The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission (IBAC) is an anti-corruption agency responsible for identifying, investigating, researching, exposing and preventing public sector corruption and police misconduct in Victoria. This includes members of parliament, the judiciary and state and local government.

IBAC is subject to scrutiny by the Victorian Inspectorate and the Parliamentary Committee. It has powers to investigate complaints assessed as serious corrupt conduct. You can report corruption to IBAC at any time by making a complaint. IBAC assesses complaints and helps you to understand your privacy options.

Outcomes of investigations, reviews and corruption prevention efforts are reported to Parliament. You can find more information and contact details on the IBAC website.

Victorian Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection

The Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection is an independent statutory body that monitors the responsible handling of personal information by the Victorian public sector, including councils.

Individuals whose personal information is, or has been, held by an agency or a local council may complain to the Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection about an act or practice that may interfere with the privacy of the individual. The Commissioner for Privacy and Data Protection will try to conciliate complaints. Where this is not possible, complaints may be referred to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Appeals Tribunal (VCAT). You can find more information and contact details on the Commisioner's website.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission

Councils across Victoria engage with the diverse range of people in their communities. These people include children, families, people with disability, older people, migrants and refugees. As a result, local councils play an important role in protecting and promoting human rights. The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (the Commission) helps people resolve complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment and racial and religious vilification.

The Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (the Charter) sets out the basic rights, freedoms and responsibilities of all Victorians. The Charter protects 20 fundamental human rights, including the right to recognition and equality before the law. These basic rights form the foundation of a democratic and inclusive society that values human dignity, equality and freedom.

The Charter requires local councils (as public authorities) to consider human rights when they make, interpret and apply laws, develop policies and provide day-to-day services.

Local councils must ensure that:

  • all council decisions give proper consideration to human rights
  • all actions, policies and services are compatible with human rights
  • local laws are interpreted and applied consistently with human rights
  • people who work on behalf of councils do so in a way that respects human rights.

The Commission is a statutory body that reports to the Victorian Parliament through the State Attorney-General. It is not a tribunal or court. It helps people to resolve complaints by mutual agreement. It does not prosecute, make judgements for or against either side, nor can it award compensation.

If you think a council has breached your human rights, you may be able to make a complaint to the Victorian Ombudsman. Human rights may also be raised in complaints to other relevant complaint-handling bodies. For example, the Disability Services Commissioner, the Health Services Commissioner or the Public Transport Ombudsman.

Complaints made under federal laws such as the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 and the Disability Discrimination Act 2006 must be lodged with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

You can read more about local government’s obligations under the Charter. For more information and contact details, see the Commissioner's website.

Australian Human Rights Commission

The Australian Human Rights Commission is a national independent statutory organisation established to promote and protect human rights in Australia. One of its main functions is to investigate and conciliate complaints concerning discrimination.

The Australian Human Rights Commission is responsible for administering the following federal laws:

  • Age Discrimination Act 2004
  • Disability Discrimination Act 2006
  • Racial Discrimination Act 1975
  • Sex Discrimination Act 1984
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986.

The Commission is a neutral third party and does not represent the interests of either the person making the complaint or the person or organisation being complained about. It investigates and attempts to resolve the complaint through a conciliation process.

If you make a complaint under these laws and it can't be resolved through conciliation, you may choose to pursue the matter in court. For more information and contact details, see the Commission website.