Accountability and Oversight Committee- Education, training and communications initiatives of Victorian oversight agencies

That the Council take note of the report.

This report covers the three agencies the committee has oversight responsibility for — that is, the new Office of the Victorian Information Commissioner, which merged the functions of the former Freedom of Information Commissioner with those of the commissioner for privacy and data protection, the Victorian Ombudsman and the Victorian Inspectorate. The report examines how education, training and communications activities of the oversight agencies can be strengthened to improve understanding of their functions and processes, both within the public sector service and the community more broadly.

Key accountability and oversight functions of the Ombudsman, the information commissioner and the inspectorate are contingent upon a member of the public filing a complaint or submitting a request. As such public understanding of these processes and functions is integral to the effectiveness of the oversight agencies. The committee received evidence in submissions from oversight agencies, local councils and government departments, as well as holding public hearings and conducting study tours to Queensland, New South Wales and New Zealand. The committee's inquiry found that more needs to be done to better articulate the role and work of the oversight agencies, and how these agencies can best work in the interests of all Victorians.

Among its 17 recommendations, the committee has proposed that the Victorian Ombudsman be provided with a statutory education and training function, and specifically engage with young people and disadvantaged groups through its community education and awareness-raising activities; that enhanced and independently evaluated e-learning programs be carried out by the Victorian Information Commissioner, and the Victorian government invest further in the provision of e-learning training and workshops; the Victorian Information Commissioner publish freedom of information review decisions online; the Victorian Inspectorate review its website and include a series of case notes to provide guidance on matters of frequent complaints; the oversight agencies deliver presentations to a wider audience; and the Victorian government promote options for greater support of the public, including legal and counselling-based services, for people who remain dissatisfied with a final decision of the oversight agencies, in particular where they have exhausted all other review options.

I would like to thank the other committee members who were involved in this inquiry: the chair, Mr Angus in the other place, Ms Jaclyn Symes as the deputy chair, Michael Gidley, MP, James Purcell, Nick Staikos, MP, and the Honourable Marsha Thomson. I would also like to thank the committee secretariat for their work: Sean Coley, Caitlin Grover and Sarah Catherall.

Motion agreed to.

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