Skip to main content

Complaint mechanisms: Reporting pathways for violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation

  • Research program
Publication date

Complaint mechanisms: Reporting pathways for violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation

Research report


The Disability Royal Commission has published a report about complaint mechanisms.

The report was written by researchers from the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne and the University of Technology Sydney.

Complaint mechanisms refer to a broad concept that includes the following:

  • procedures within organisations that allow people to:

    • report negative experiences, like violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation

    • seek rectification on an individual and systemic level

    • trigger changes to a system, for example making it easier to complain.

  • agencies that are responsible for handling complaints, like commissions such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme Quality and Safeguards Commission and various Ombuds.

Complaint mechanisms provide processes for making complaints within organisations, and consider the various agencies and public bodies that are responsible for handling complaints.

The report provides guidance on the design of accessible and inclusive complaint mechanisms for people with disability.

How was the study done?


  • conducted surveys on how a complaint mechanism might be structured and designed according to human rights and justice approaches, for example approaches which focus on results from complaints like an apology, payment or change in service

  • looked at all the different complaint mechanisms across Australia

  • looked at studies that captured the experiences of people with disability who have used complaint mechanisms.

What did the study find?

The report contains several conclusions. Some of these are:

  • Much violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation experienced by people with disability is related to being segregated or institutionalised, discrimination and negative attitudes.

  • Complaint mechanisms are not equipped to make systemic changes which are needed to prevent and address much of this violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation.

  • Many complaint mechanisms are not equipped to provide justice to the person making a complaint.

  • Improvements could be made to many complaints mechanisms that already exist by:

    • making information consistent

    • having dedicated reporting pathways for violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation

    • having supported decision-making available

    • being clear about the outcomes of a complaint.

  • There needs to be an independent complaints mechanism to respond to violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation which is neutral, transparent and supports people who complain.

  • There should be a national redress scheme. A lot of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation happened in the past and a national redress scheme would serve as a form of justice. This might include financial compensation or counselling. A national redress scheme would be an additional pathway for reporting these past incidences.

More information

To read the full report, visit our website. Go to the ‘Publications’ section and click on ‘Research’.