The role of Australian ombudsmen in the protection and promotion of human rights

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Human Rights, 2010, 16 (1), pp. 37 - 62
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© 2010, © 2010 Taylor and Francis Group, LLC. On 1 January 2007, the Victorian Ombudsman was granted the power to inquire into whether an administrative action of a public authority is incompatible with a human right. This express human rights mandate transforms the Victorian Ombudsman from a classical ombudsman into a human rights ombudsman. It is the first time that any Australian government has given a classical ombudsman a legislative mandate to perform an oversight role with respect to human rights protection. That noted, there is synergy between the role and function of existing state, territory and federal Australian classical ombudsmen and the protection of human rights. This article explains how Australian ombudsmen currently address human rights violations. The article argues that the Victorian model represents a significant step forward in recognising the explicit role that ombudsmen may play in the protection and advancement of human rights in Australia. It proposes the Victorian model as an example of how increased human rights protection may be provided by ombudsmen in all Australian jurisdictions without compromising the essential nature of Australian classical ombudsmen, which is to focus upon individual complaint handling to redress government maladministration. The article first examines the human rights mandate of the Victorian Ombudsman; then compares and contrasts that mandate with the existing role and function of Australian classical ombudsmen; and, finally, assesses the advantages and limitations of the classical ombudsman's role in relation to the protection of human rights.
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