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Curtin University
Integrity and Standards Unit

Complaint Handling at Curtin

Curtin's complaints resolution framework comprises the online Complaints Portal, back-end electronic Complaint Management System (with electronic workflow) and a comprehensive set of procedures, guidelines, protocols, and other documentation that assists in and ensures the effective resolution of complaints made against Curtin University, its operations or its officers, at the most appropriate level and at the earliest opportunity. This contributes to Curtin’s continuous improvement cycle so that the potential and opportunity for incidents to be repeated are minimised.

General Information on Complaint Resolution

Information on complaint resolution that is of relevance to all parties to a complaint.

Click here to view the Executive Management approved procedures for lodging complaints (and timelines for lodgement), resolving complaints, making complaints to external bodies, protecting parties to a complaint and anonymous complaints. Compliance with these procedures is mandatory for Curtin staff.

NOTE: These procedures do not apply to complaints made against Curtin students or the Curtin Student Guild. In addition, student appeal processes are separate to these procedures.

Click here to view a detailed statement which outlines Curtin University's expectations and the obligations of the three (3) main parties to a complaint during the complaint resolution process:

1) Complainant i.e. the person making a complaint;

2) Respondent i.e. the Curtin person identified as the one allegedly responsible for the action, behaviour, decision or omission that forms the subject of the complaint; and

3) Line manager i.e. the Curtin officer assigned responsibility for resolving the complaint during the complaint resolution process.

Click here to view a documented protocol which outlines the University's expectations and obligations in relation to interaction and communications between internal / external clients and ISU officers. This includes all matters concerning University complaints and feedback.

The ISU is obliged, and expects its clients, at all times to communicate and conduct themselves in a reasonable, lawful and appropriate manner.

What happens when a complaint is submitted

For complainants, this is what happens when your complaint is submitted through the Complaints Portal.

Upon successfully submitting your complaint, you will see a message appear on your screen with a complaint ID e.g. 20180020.

Please use this complaint ID for all correspondence and communications in relation to your complaint. In particular, when emailing, please place your complaint ID in the subject line and send it to

A few minutes after successfully submitting your complaint, you should also receive an email acknowledging submission of your complaint to the system, and including all the information you submitted at the time of entry. An example is included here.

Of course if your submission was done anonymously, no such email can be sent and we will not be able to communicate with you.

When we receive your complaint, we will review it and assign it to the most appropriate person in the University to resolve. This will usually be the line manager of the person who is responsible for the decision, omission or behaviour that you are complaining about.

We will attempt to assign your complaint as soon as possible but no later than one (1) business day of having received it into our system, though sometimes circumstances prevent us from meeting this timeframe e.g. where we need to go back to you to obtain further information before proceeding. In addition, sometimes we have to re-assign a complaint to a different line manager which also adds time to the process

When the line manager has received your complaint and accepted it in the system, you will automatically receive an email from the line manager acknowledging assignment of the complaint to them. An example is included

The line manager is expected to accept and acknowledge your complaint within five (5) working days of it being sent to them.

NOTE 1: The above process does not strictly apply in situations where we have initially assessed your complaint as being positive or negative feedback; in other words, where our complaint resolution process cannot be applied. Regardless, we still require line managers to reply to complainants in relation to such matters but upon doing so, we will then close off the matter and no further action will be taken by the University.

NOTE 2: In circumstances where you have used the Complaints Portal to submit a query or concern that does not come within the ISU's jurisdiction, we will either respond to you with information as to where to send your correspondence, or will pass it onto the most appropriate party in the University to deal with and communicate with you.

When the line manager assigned to your complaint has completed the complaint resolution process, the outcome and decision from the resolution process will be formally communicated back to you either by email or letter.

NOTE: When you have received this communication and we have been informed of the complaint's closure by the line manager, the matter will be finalised and closed off in our system. Should you be unhappy with the outcome, there are circumstances under which you can initiate a new complaint or contact an external body to complain about the University's handling of your complaint. This is explained in our Complaints Procedures which can be found in the previous section.

Complaint Management Electronic Workflow

For line managers, the workflow associated with resolving complaints using Curtin's electronic Complaint Management System is described below.

Before proceeding further, if this is the first time you have been assigned a complaint for resolution at Curtin or you've just received a complaint and you're not sure what to do, please first take a look at this high level flowchart which summarises the main workflow steps and where you fit into the whole process.


  • A link to the Line Manager Guidelines (currently under review contact ISU for assistance) for effectively dealing with complaints is found in step 4, and a link to the standard template for notifying a complainant of your decision is found in step 5. They can also be accessed via the above flowchart.
  • If you require a PDF version of the Complaint Handling Checklist, please go to step 6 below.

For new complaints, you will receive a standard format email notification of the complaint with the Complaint ID specified in the subject line, along with the words NEW COMPLAINT (see example here). This email will be sent to you from our main complaint mailbox, with the complaint details at the bottom of the email and any supporting documentation attached.

The email will provide you with three options, via the following labelled buttons:

1) ACCEPT the complaint;

2) DECLINE the complaint on the basis of a conflict of interest; or

3) DECLINE the complaint on the basis of it having been sent to the wrong line manager.

You will also see a link at the bottom of the email with the title Complaint Notification Information (see document
here) which provides high level information to assist you in identifying the type of complaint to be resolved, and therefore what action needs to be taken.

NOTE: You must take all reasonable steps to action this email within five working days of receiving it.

If you click on the ACCEPT button on the email received in step no. 1, you will automatically receive a standard format email acknowledging your acceptance of the complaint, with some high level information on how to resolve it and what you have to do once you're ready to close it off (see example here). This email will be sent to you from our main complaint mailbox:

NOTE 1: You will need to file this email as you will use it later when closing off the complaint, after coming to a decision on the merits of the complaint matters reported.

NOTE 2: You must take all reasonable steps to commence working on the resolution of your complaint within 10 working days of having received it.

: At the same time that you receive this email, a standard format email will also be automatically sent (see example
here) to the complainant (assuming they are not anonymous) to acknowledge your receipt of their complaint and indicating that you will contact them if you require further information or need to arrange a meeting. You will not see this email as it is only sent to the complainant.

If you click on either of the two DECLINE buttons on the email received in step no. 1, a pop-up screen will appear asking you to enter further information (see examples here):

1) If you decline the complaint on the basis that you are not the most appropriate decision maker, the pop-up screen will request that you enter the name of the person to whom you believe the complaint should be re-assigned. You then click the Submit button which automatically notifies the ISU of the need to re-assign the complaint.

2) If you decline the complaint on the basis that you have an actual, perceived or potential conflict of interest in dealing with the matter, the pop-up screen will ask you to enter the circumstances of the conflict. Again, you then click the Submit button which automatically notifies the ISU of the need to re-assign the complaint.

NOTE: In either case, you no longer have any involvement in the resolution of the particular complaint. Once the ISU actions your request to decline the complaint, the process re-starts from step no. 1 but with a different line manager assigned.

Click here to view a document titled Line Manager Guidelines - how to effectively deal with complaints, which provides you with detailed guidance for dealing with and resolving the complaint that has previously been accepted by you. (These guidelines are currently under review, contact ISU for assistance).

It is important, particularly if this is the first time you have had responsibility for resolving a complaint, that you read this document prior to commencing the complaint resolution process as it contains valuable information for ensuring that you follow proper process in coming to a decision on the complaint assigned to you.

NOTE: After a complaint has been resolved and formally closed off by the ISU (see sections below), the ISU may send a Complainant Experience Questionnaire to the complainant concerned in order to obtain information on and assess how well their complaint was handled by the University and where, if any, improvements can be made to the process. Click
here to see the questions that complainants are requested to answer.

When you have completed the complaint resolution process (but prior to requesting that the complaint be closed), you will need to notify the complainant of your decision in relation to their complaint.

A standard letter template is available (see example
here) which you can use as a basis for communicating with the complainant on the outcome of their complaint.

Remember to send a copy of your completed correspondence to the ISU using our main complaint mailbox: and quoting the correct Complaint ID in the subject line.

NOTE: If the complaint involved allegations of staff misconduct, then your People & Culture representative will assist you in formulating correspondence to the respondent.

When the complaint resolution process is complete and you are ready to close off the complaint, bring up the standard format email you received at the time that you first accepted the complaint (in step no. 2) and click on the button labelled Checklist. This will take you to a Complaint Handling Checklist template which you complete online, then send back to the ISU by clicking on the Submit button (see example here).

NOTE 1: It is assumed at this point that you have already emailed all relevant correspondence and documentation to the system in support of your closure request (using our main complaint mailbox while quoting the correct Complaint ID in the subject line).

NOTE 2: A PDF template version of the checklist is also available
here for those complaints that were in progress prior to the CMS coming into operation on 1 Aug 2018. This document needs to be stored on disk first, then updated and saved before being emailed back to the ISU as an attachment.

If the ISU has received and reviewed your request for complaint closure and decided that further information is required to support your final decision, you will receive an email requesting that you submit the required information (see example here) before the matter is closed. This email will be sent to you from our main complaint mailbox:

After you have submitted the required documentation, click on the button labelled Checklist in the email you received which again will ask you to update and re-submit the Complaint Handling Checklist.

If all is in order, the ISU will close off your complaint and you will receive a confirmation email as described in the next step.

If the ISU has received and reviewed your request for complaint closure and everything appears to be in order (including receipt of all supporting documentation for the complaint's resolution), the ISU will finalise and close the complaint, and you will receive a standard format email thanking you for completing your enquiries and confirming the complaint's closure (see example here). This email will be sent to you from our main complaint mailbox:

At this point, the complaint's status in the system has been set to FINALISED and no further action is required on your part.

On occasion, the University receives matters through the Complaints portal which are classified as (negative or positive) feedback or enquiries.

In such cases, you will receive an email via our main complaint mailbox:, with the feedback or enquiry information at the bottom of the email and any supporting documentation attached. In addition, you may be asked to look into the matter raised and provide a formal response to the complainant (see example here).

Please send us a copy of your response using the above mailbox, when you send it to the complainant. There is no need to go through a formal complaint closure process as we will automatically close it off in our system

The purpose of a formal investigation is to examine and determine the veracity of a complaint of alleged misconduct by a staff member or staff members so as to reach an independent view on the issues raised / introduced by the complainant.

A failure to follow due process by the investigator during this part of the complaint management process may lead to an unfair outcome and/or decisions being overturned on review.

As such, all formal investigations undertaken at, by or on behalf of Curtin University that are assigned to or are overseen by the ISU must meet agreed standards. These standards have been incorporated into a document titled Investigation Standards.

Of note in these standards is the following:

  • Procedural fairness ... (is) the requirement for a fair and proper procedure to be used when making a decision.
  • The Investigator shall not be biased in conducting an investigation.
  • The Investigator shall not be limited or restricted in any way in determining or deciding the best or most appropriate sources of evidence or information for conducting an investigation.
  • The Investigator shall reach a conclusion on a matter being investigated only after making reasonable, logical, fair, rational and valid enquiries in accordance with the Investigation Plan.
  • To ensure that any action taken in relation to the Investigator's findings remains impartial, the roles of investigator and decision-maker shall be undertaken by separate people.
  • The Investigator shall make a finding on the evidentiary standards of 'the balance of probabilities' (see note below).

IMPORTANT NOTE: In disciplinary workplace investigations at Curtin University, allegations of misconduct made against staff must be proven on ‘the balance of probabilities’ i.e. it must be more probable than not that the allegations are proven. 'Balance of probabilities' refers to the standard of proof required to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of misconduct. This standard of proof is found in the often-cited case of Briginshaw v Briginshaw (1938) 60 CLR 336. The Briginshaw test (or Briginshaw standard as it is often called) possesses a measure of flexibility, so that the more serious the allegation the higher the degree of probability required. This contrasts with matters that are dealt with under criminal law where a higher standard of proof exists i.e. beyond reasonable doubt. Also note that universities do not / cannot conduct criminal investigations as they have neither the authority nor expertise to do so e.g. they cannot collect forensic evidence, nor compel witnesses to attend interviews or give evidence.

Where a formal investigation is conducted internally by an ISU investigator, a number of standard forms and templates are used during the course of the investigation.

The Director ISU is responsible for the development and maintenance of these standard forms and templates and, by way of quality assurance processes, ensures that each internal investigation conducted makes use of them.

The forms and templates are maintained in the internal ISU Operations Manual. A sample of these forms is included here:

The Director ISU has access to the Human Resource Investigation Services common use agreement (Contract No. CUA HRS2015).

This agreement has been set up by the WA State Government to meet the needs of public sector agencies seeking HR Investigation Services in relation to a range of issues including allegations of misconduct, bullying and employee grievances.

The University has agreed on a panel of preferred investigation service providers that are sourced from the above agreement. Wherever necessary and possible, investigators are selected by the University from this panel.

The Director ISU is responsible for obtaining quotes to do work from external investigators selected from this panel, and presenting quotes to University management for review and approval. The Director ISU is also responsible for overseeing the work done by external investigators to ensure it meets the University's standards.

End-to-end complaint resolution flowcharts

For line managers, high level flowcharts which describe the end-to-end manual steps for resolving complaints (including staff and research misconduct) are included below.

This flowchart outlines the high level end-to-end manual steps involved in lodging, assessing, assigning, resolving and closing a complaint e.g. student grievances, staff misconduct notifications, research misconduct and negative feedback.

This flowchart outlines the specific manual steps to be followed when a complaint alleges staff misconduct under the current Staff Agreement (Part A).

NOTE: The Staff Agreement referred to here is the Academic, Professional and General Staff Agreement 2017-2021, which is effective from 20 June 2018.

This flowchart outlines the specific manual steps to be followed when a complaint alleges staff misconduct under the current Staff Agreement (Part B).

NOTE: The Staff Agreement referred to here is the Academic, Professional and General Staff Agreement 2017-2021, which is effective from 20 June 2018

Extra Guidance

For line managers, extra documentation of relevance to assist in the complaint resolution process is available below.

Does the complaint assigned to you involve allegations of misconduct against a staff member who comes under a Staff Agreement?

If so, then click
here to find the relevant Staff Agreement and section on staff misconduct / serious misconduct in that agreement, in order to follow the correct procedures when dealing with these types of complaints.

Further detailed information is provided in the flowcharts above.

Does the complaint assigned to you involve allegations of potential breaches of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research?

If so, then click here to view the Code itself and associated guides that outline the requirements that must be met in resolving the complaint.

NOTE: The requirements for dealing with potential breaches of the Australian Code have been integrated within Curtin's complaint resolution processes, as described in the flowcharts above. More detailed procedures are available from the Office of Research.

Are you experiencing problems with a complainant (or respondent) as a result of their unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour during the complaint resolution process?

If so, then click here to view a comprehensive manual from the NSW Ombudsman which details how to deal with such conduct by complainants.

Such matters are also covered in the University's Complaints Procedures listed above.