How to ensure good decision making has people at the centre of it

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Systems and processes

Application systems and processes are accessible to all, and consider circumstances which might impede access, including lack of, or difficulty accessing, technology

Application systems and processes are adequately resourced to facilitate fully considered, independent decision making

Decision making

Decision makers have the relevant expertise, skills and knowledge required for sound decision making, including knowledge and understanding of any relevant discretion open to them to exercise

Decision makers consider application of discretion in relation to risk, and if discretion is not applied, clearly demonstrate why not

Decision makers clearly demonstrate their consideration of human rights

Decision makers record and provide clear reasons for all adverse decisions


Develop an effective complaints and review process

Clearly communicate the complaints and review process where people will easily find it – on your website, on emails or other notifications/updates

Avenues of external view are available and clearly communicated

In the real world

To manage the ongoing COVID-19 public health crisis, Victoria introduced a traffic light travel system in January 2021, a colour-coded scheme which required every person wanting to enter the State to get a permit. On 23 July 2021, the hard border came down with NSW, then the ACT the following month. Thousands were locked out – no one could enter unless they had an exemption or were an ‘excepted person’.

People were left stranded and found themselves unable to get an exemption to enter Victoria to farewell loved ones at funerals, attend medical appointments, return home to care for animals or on compassionate grounds. The Victorian Ombudsman started receiving complaints when the changes were introduced in July, and by early September, had received more than 80 complaints from affected people. The investigation had heard from 315 complainants.

Final word

“Failing to exercise discretion fairly, not giving reasons for decisions, failing to offer a right of review – these can all damage public trust in those who make decisions, and ultimately, in government.” – Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman.

  • System failures
  • Complaint handling
  • Human Rights