Complaints processes in the Catholic education system

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Try to resolve the issue with the school first wherever possible. If this is unsuccessful, you have the right to take your complaint further.

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This page provides more detail about complaints processes within the Catholic school system.

All Catholic schools are required to have a proper complaints policy and processes. You can ask for a copy of your school’s policy. You are always entitled to seek information, advice and support to raise a concern or a complaint from an advocacy organisations like ACD.

Catholic schools are generally more independent than government schools, however the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) provides a template for school complaints policies, which suggests that policies outline who you can complain to, what procedures should be followed, and how and where to appeal if you are unsatisfied with the outcome. Key aspects of this template policy are summarised below, but you should always read and follow the policy of your child’s particular school when making a complaint. This makes it more likely that your complaint can be resolved quickly, and it also helps if you need to take your complaint further.

  • You can read this template on the CECV website – search under ‘complaints’.


Sample complaint process

Note that the following is based on the CECV template, but individual schools policies might vary.

Schools generally require that parents or carers first try to resolve any complaint with the relevant teacher. You can also consider raising the issue with your child’s Program Support Group, or with the school welfare coordinator, chaplain or integration coordinator. If this is unsuccessful, you can take your complaint to the principal, or other designated complaints officer. This person should be listed in the school complaints policy.

If there is any reason why the designated complaints officer cannot investigate your complaint (for example if there is a conflict of interest or personal relationship between them and anyone involved), you should be referred to someone else who will investigate.

The principal or other designated complaints officer should conduct an impartial and confidential process to investigate the complaint, and make a written record of the complaint. The process might involve separate interviews with everyone involved, including any witnesses. The importance of confidentiality will be stressed to everyone involved.

The complaints officer will then report back to you on what was said, and what action will be taken to resolve the issue, if your complaint was substantiated. Examples of actions include: agreed actions if a similar issue arises again, an apology, a change of policy, a change of decision, disciplinary action (for a student or staff member) or counselling for the complainant.


Taking it further

Complaints should always be resolved at the local level, if possible. If you are unhappy with the complaints officer’s handling of your concern or complaint, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed by the principal (if the complaints officer is a staff member other than the principal). They will review how the complaint was handled, and if they believe that it was not handled appropriately, will organise for a different person to look at the complaint again.

If you are unhappy with the school’s response to your complaint (or if complaining to the school directly is inappropriate, for example if it relates to the principal) then you can take your complaint to the next level – the diocese office – or you can use an external complaints mechanism.


Contacts for Victorian diocese offices

The next avenue for appeal within the Catholic education system is to the Catholic Education Office in your local diocese. In the Melbourne Archdiocese, contact the Chair of the Pastoral Care Unit; in the regional dioceses, contact the Educational Consultant. You can also contact an external complaints body at any time.

Archdiocese of Melbourne (Melbourne and Geelong)
Phone: (03) 9257 0228

Ballarat Diocese (Ballarat, Horsham, Mildura, Warrnambool)
Phone: (03) 5337 7135

Sandhurst Diocese (Bendigo and Wangaratta)
Phone: (03) 5443 2377

Sale Diocese (Warragul)
Phone: (03) 5622 6600

If you are unhappy with the response of the diocese office, you can contact the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, or make a complaint using an external complaints mechanism. You can take your complaint to an external complaints mechanism at any time.

You are also entitled to seek legal advice and representation.