Loreto Kirribilli welcomes feedback from all members of the school community and takes all complaints or concerns that may be raised seriously. This Complaints Handling Policy is designed to assist you to understand how to make a complaint.

What is a complaint?

A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction made to Loreto Kirribilli, related to our services or operations, or the complaints handling process itself, where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.Complaints and allegations of staff misconduct or reportable conduct are managed separately to other complaints. Refer to the section at the end of this policy – Complaints and Allegations of Staff Misconduct or Reportable Conduct for more information.

Furthermore, this procedure does not extend to complaints which are whistleblowing disclosures. These are dealt with in the School’s Whistleblower Complaints Procedures section below.

In summary a whistleblowing disclosure is a disclosure which:

  • is made by a board member, staff member, a person who supplies goods or services to the school, including a volunteer, an employer of a supplier or a relative of any of these people;
  • involves alleged misconduct, an improper state of affairs or circumstances, or illegal activity, and
  • is made to a senior staff member, or officer of the school, the school’s auditor or a person who the school has authorised to collect such disclosures.

Loreto Kirribilli’s Commitment

Loreto Kirribilli is committed to handling complaints effectively and efficiently. To manage complaints effectively, we have established a Complaints Handling Program in line with both the international complaints handling standard (ISO 10002:2018 Quality management – Customer satisfaction – Guidelines for complaints handling in organisations), and the Australian/New Zealand complaints handling standard (AS/NZS 10002:2014 Guidelines for complaint management in organisations).

Informal Complaints Resolution

The vast majority of issues causing concern in schools can be handled quickly and in an informal manner. We therefore ask that, where appropriate, you first raise your concern directly with the relevant staff member.

How do I make a Formal Complaint?

If you have been unable to resolve a matter informally, or simply wish to make a formal complaint you can do so by contacting the Relevant Contact Person listed below:

Academic Concerns in the Senior School – Director of Teaching & Learning

Pastoral Care Concerns in the Senior School – Director of Student Wellbeing

All other matters in the Senior School – Director of Senior School

All matters in the Junior School – Head of Junior SchoolAll formal complaints will be managed in accordance with the following procedure. 

Our Internal Complaints Handling Process

Step 1 – All valid complaints will be acknowledged in writing, as soon as practicable, and allocated a status, priority and target resolution date. It is our policy, where possible, to resolve all disputes within 14 days.

Step 2 – The Relevant Contact Person will conduct an investigation into the issues raised, following principles of procedural fairness, and make a determination.

Step 3 – Following the determination, if appropriate, the Relevant Contact Person will formulate a resolution and provide a written response to the complainant. The matter will be closed if this response is accepted.

Step 4 – If the initial response is not acceptable the matter will be reviewed internally by the Principal who may seek additional information or submissions from the relevant parties. The Principal seek to resolve all disputes within 14 days from the date that the review process is initiated. The matter will be closed if the response of the Principal is accepted.

Step 5 – If the matter remains unresolved, the complainant may pursue external resolution alternatives.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality applies with respect to both information relating to the person making the complaint, and, if relevant to a person against whom a complaint is made. The School is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of information throughout the complaints process.Personally identifiable information about a complainant will only be made available for the purpose of addressing the complaint and (unless the complainant consents) will be actively protected from disclosure.

Complaints and Allegations of Staff Misconduct or Reportable Conduct

Complaints and allegations of staff misconduct and/or reportable conduct are managed by the School in a different manner to other complaints. This is because the School has legal obligations to report certain staff conduct to external authorities. Staff misconduct is a broad term that could include breaches of professional boundaries, codes of conduct or standards of behaviour, whereas reportable conduct is a term defined in law as including:

  • any sexual offence or sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child (including child pornography offences, sexual touching or an offence involving child abuse material) including grooming behaviours
  • any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child
  • any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child (whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child).

If your complaint relates to alleged staff misconduct or reportable conduct please make your complaint to the Principal or Head of Junior School, or if this person is the subject of your complaint please notify the Deputy Principal.

For more information about Loreto Kirribilli’s complaints handling procedures regarding allegations of staff misconduct or reportable conduct, please refer to our Procedures for Handling Allegations of Staff Misconduct and Reportable Conduct document available on our public website below.

COMPLAINTS HANDLING PROCESS SUMMARY

Procedures for Handling Allegations of Staff Misconduct and Reportable Conduct

Introduction

Complaints regarding allegations of staff misconduct and reportable conduct are managed in a different manner to other complaints received by the School. This is because often these complaints are of a sensitive nature and raise potential privacy and confidentiality issues.

Loreto Kirribilli requires all staff to comply with a Code of Conduct and standards of behaviour that are intended to prevent staff misconduct and reportable conduct, and staff are encouraged to report any breaches of the Code or standards.

It is also critical that the broader School community reports staff misconduct and reportable conduct (both defined below) to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students, and that the School complies with its legislative reporting obligations. Loreto Kirribilli has a legal obligation to investigate and report to the NSW Ombudsman all allegations of reportable conduct made against staff at the School as defined by the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW) (Ombudsman Act).

For the purposes of this policy, “staff” and “staff member” is defined to include teaching and non-teaching staff, Board members, volunteers, contractors and external providers.

Definition of Staff Misconduct

The School defines “staff misconduct” as conduct by a staff member that:

  • breaches the School’s Code of Conduct or other key policies/procedures
  • displays purposeful neglect of duties/responsibilities
  • involves alcohol and/or other substance abuse
  • is physically, verbally or emotionally abusive
  • endangers the safety or wellbeing of students or others at the School.

Definition of Reportable Conduct

Section 25A of the Ombudsman Act defines reportable conduct as including:

  • any sexual offence or sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child (including child pornography offences, sexual touching or an offence involving child abuse material) including grooming behaviours
  • any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child
  • any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child (whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child).

Some examples of conduct that would not constitute reportable conduct include touching a child to get their attention, guide them or comfort them, a teacher raising their voice to attract attention or restore order in a classroom, or conduct that is established to be accidental.

Making a Complaint or Allegation of Staff Misconduct or Reportable Conduct

If you would like to make a formal complaint or allegation of staff misconduct or reportable conduct, you can do so by:

Senior School

  1. Sending an email to the Principal.
  2. Writing a letter to the School addressed to the Principal.
  3. Telephoning the School and asking to speak to the Principal.

If the Principal is the subject of your complaint or allegation of misconduct or reportable conduct, please contact the Deputy Principal who will immediately report to the Chair of the School Board.

Junior School

  1. Sending an email to the Head of Junior School.
  2. Writing a letter to the School addressed to the Head of Junior School.
  3. Telephoning the School and asking to speak to the Head of Junior School.

The Head of Junior School will notify the Principal within 24 hours of all complaints and allegations received. If the Head of Junior School is the subject of your complaint or allegation of misconduct or reportable conduct, please contact the Principal.

Investigating and Managing Staff Misconduct and Reportable Conduct

The School initially investigates all complaints and allegations to determine whether the conduct in question amounts to staff misconduct, as defined in this policy, or reportable conduct that must be further investigated and reported to the NSW Ombudsman. All investigations uphold the principles of procedural fairness confidentiality – information is only shared with those who need to know.

Staff Misconduct

When a complaint or allegation does not include conduct that is defined as reportable conduct following the School’s initial investigation, and it is determined through the School’s investigation that staff misconduct has occurred, the School will notify the complainant of the finding and corrective actions that will be taken. Staff misconduct is managed through our Human Resources policies and procedures relating to internal grievances, discipline and termination.

Reportable Conduct

When a complaint or allegation does include conduct that is defined as reportable conduct following the School’s initial investigation, the School is required by law to report the allegation to the NSW Ombudsman as soon as practicable.

We also conduct a risk assessment following any allegation that includes conduct defined as reportable conduct to identify and mitigate any ongoing risks to student safety and wellbeing.

The School must conduct an internal investigation, led by the Principal or an accredited investigator.

When conducting an internal investigation, the School follows the NSW Ombudsman’s Practice Guide: Planning and Conducting an Investigation.

A further risk assessment is conducted during the internal investigation and at the end of that investigation.

There are five potential findings that the School can make following the internal investigation:

  • Sustained – finding that the alleged conduct did occur
  • Not Sustained – Insufficient Evidence: finding that there is some, but insufficient, evidence available to reasonably establish that the alleged conduct did occur
  • Not Sustained – Lack of Evidence of Weight: finding that the evidence available is of such poor probative value, or lacking weight, that on the balance of probabilities the conduct did not occur
  • False – finding that the alleged conduct did not occur
  • Not Reportable Conduct – finding that the alleged conduct was not reportable – for example, conduct that was reasonable in the circumstances or accidental. This may also include ‘misconceived’ matters where allegations were made in good faith, however it was based on a misunderstanding of what occurred, and therefore the conduct is not reportable.

The School is required to notify the NSW Ombudsman of the findings of the internal investigation as soon as possible once the internal investigation has been finalised.

Making a Finding of Reportable Conduct

If the School’s internal investigation results in a finding of reportable conduct, following the School’s notification to the NSW Ombudsman, we will conduct a final risk assessment of the conduct, the staff member and the circumstances, and take action to mitigate ongoing risks, including reporting findings of workplace misconduct to the Office of the Children’s Guardian who is responsible for administering Working with Children Checks.

Disclosing Information to the School Community

A parent or carer has a legitimate interest in being told of the process that is being followed to investigate an allegation that their child was a victim of staff misconduct or reportable conduct.

Information can often be provided to the parent, carer or child without the need to consider legal impediments to disclosure. However, legal impediments – real or feared – may discourage the timely and appropriate release of information, particularly in the case of reportable conduct allegations.

The School closely follows the NSW Ombudsman’s guidance on this issue provided in the Providing advice about reportable conduct investigations to children, parents and carers fact sheet.

The School is permitted to disclose information to:

  • the child who was allegedly the subject of the reportable conduct that forms the basis of the reportable allegation
  • any parent of the child
  • if the child is in out-of-home care, any authorised carer of the child.

There are times when it may be appropriate to disclose information about the internal investigation to one of these involved parties but not another, for example, to disclose information to the child’s parent, but not the child.

The School is permitted to disclose the following information to involved parties:

  • information about the progress of an investigation
  • the findings of the investigation
  • any action taken in response to those findings,

however it considers all the circumstances of the complaint/allegation and investigation when determining if information should be disclosed.

Where to Find More Information

The NSW Ombudsman has several informative fact sheets on the topic of reportable conduct and the School’s obligations to report. For more information about the School’s policies and procedures relating to staff misconduct, reportable conduct or complaints handling generally, please contact the Deputy Principal.

Loreto Kirribilli’s Whistleblower Complaints Procedures

From 1 July 2019 Loreto Kirribilli has introduced new procedures to comply with the new amendments to the Corporations ACT 2001 (the Act) for enhancing whistleblower protections that compliments the School’s Complaints Handling Policies.

Under the new provisions in the Act a person who is an “eligible” whistleblower who makes a disclosure to an “eligible recipient” about a “disclosable matter” is entitled to certain protections, including a right to have their identity kept confidential and protection from detriment.

Consequently from 1 January 2020, the School will publish a comprehensive Whistleblowing Policy to fulfil its legal requirements.

Eligible whistleblower

An individual is an eligible whistleblower in relation to the school if they are, or have been, any of the following:

  • a board member;
  • an employee;
  • a person who supplies goods or services (paid or unpaid);
  • an employee of a person who supplies goods or services (paid or unpaid); and
  • a relative or dependent of any individual described above.

It could cover parents who are helping the school in a volunteer capacity even if they have volunteered on one occasion.

Eligible recipients

An eligible recipient in relation to a school is:

  • a board member or senior manager;
  • an auditor, or member of an audit team;
  • an actuary of the school or related company; and
  • a person authorised by the school to receive disclosures.

Disclosable matters

A disclosable matter is a disclosure of information where the discloser has reasonable grounds to suspect that information relating to the school or a related company concerns:

  • misconduct;
  • an improper state of affairs or circumstances;
  • illegal activity; or
  • a danger to the public or financial system.

‘Reasonable grounds’ to suspect would be where the discloser has the suspicion that could reasonably be formed based on the facts and information available to them. It is not required that the recipient believe the suspicion, merely that the suspicion held by the discloser is reasonable.

If a disclosure is made without ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’ (e.g. where the disclosure is unfounded) the disclosure will not be a qualifying disclosure and the discloser will not have the protections provided for under this procedures and the Corporations Act.

Personal work-related grievances

A personal work-related grievance is any matter in relation to the discloser’s employment, or former employment, having (or tending to have) implications for the discloser personally. Generally, disclosures that concern personal work-related grievances do not qualify for protection.

A disclosure of a personal work-related grievance will remain protected if it concerns detriment to the discloser in contravention, or alleged contravention of whistleblower-related victimisation.

A disclosure of a personal work-related grievance will also remain protected if it is made to a legal practitioner for the purposes of obtaining legal advice or legal representation in relation to the operation of the whistleblower provisions.

However, a disclosure is not a personal work-related grievance if it:

  • has significant implications for the regulated entity to which it relates, or another regulated entity, that do not relate to the discloser;
  • concerns conduct, or alleged conduct, in contravention of specified corporate and financial services laws, or that constitutes an offence punishable by 12 months or more imprisonment under any other Commonwealth laws;
  • concerns conduct that represents a danger to the public or the financial system; or
  • concerns conduct prescribed by regulation.

Making a qualifying disclosure

While an eligible whistleblower can make a disclosure to any eligible recipient, the School encourages them to make a disclosure in writing by:

  1. Sending an email to the Principal; or
  2. Writing a letter to the School addressed to the Principal

If it is not appropriate for the disclosure to be made to the Principal, the eligible whistleblower is encouraged to make the disclosure, in writing, to the Deputy Principal who will immediately report to the Chair of the School Board.

Investigating a qualifying disclosure

Upon receiving a disclosure, the recipient will acknowledge receipt of compliant in writing as soon as practicable and assess the disclosure to determine whether it qualifies for protection under the Corporations Act or the disclosure concerns matters that should managed in accordance with the School’s Complaints Handling Policies.

How the School investigates a qualifying disclosure will depend on the nature of the disclosure.

An investigation will generally involve the making of inquiries or collection of evidence for the purpose of assessing the disclosure made by the whistleblower.

External professionals may be engaged to assist or conduct the investigation process.

The timing of an investigation will depend on the circumstances of the matter and whether the School is the primary investigator of the disclosure

Protections for whistleblowers

To qualify for protection disclosures (identified and anonymous) must be of disclosable matters made by eligible whistleblowers to eligible recipients, ASIC, APRA or a legal practitioner.

Whistleblowers are protected by the requirement that their identity should be kept confidential. In addition, they are not subject to any civil, criminal or administrative liability (including disciplinary action) for making the disclosure.

Whistleblowers are also provided immunities to ensure that information they disclose is not admissible in evidence against them in criminal proceedings or in proceedings for the imposition of a penalty, other than proceedings in respect of the falsity of the information.

They are also protected by the prohibition against victimisation (actual or threatened detriment) and remedies include:

  • compensation
  • injunctions and apologies
  • reinstatement of a person whose employment is terminated
  • exemplary damages

If an eligible whistleblower believes they are being subjected to a detriment or a threat of detriment, this should immediately be reported in writing to the Principal.

If it is not appropriate for the report to be made to the Principal, the eligible whistleblower should report the matter, in writing, to the Deputy Principal who will immediately report to the Chair of the School Board.

Contact

If you have any queries about this procedures, please contact the Deputy Principal for advice.