Commissioner of Complaints

The Commissioner of Complaints (the Commissioner) is a position established under Part 8 of the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (the Act).

The functions of the Commissioner are to investigate complaints concerning action taken by the Chief Executive Officer of the NHMRC (CEO) or the NHMRC Research Committee in relation to an application for funding made on or after 24 June 1993.

New NHMRC Commissioner of Complaints

On 9 February 2017, the Minister for Health and Minister for Sport, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP appointed Mr Chris Reid as the new Commissioner of Complaints for NHMRC. The outgoing Commissioner of Complaints is Professor Don Chalmers. 

Mr Reid has had a long-standing career as a solicitor and government lawyer and brings considerable experience and expertise in investigation and administrative law to the role of Commissioner. Mr Reid currently holds a position as Special Counsel for Maddocks.  His former position, as General Counsel at the Department of Health, provides him with familiarity with the Health Portfolio.

Professor Chalmers was the Commissioner of Complaints between September 2013 and December 2017.  In that time, he brought significant expertise to the role, as Dean of the Law School of the University of Tasmania and Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, considering 25 complaints.  Professor Chalmers is Chair of the Gene Technology Ethics and Community Consultative Committee and member of the International Human Genome Organisation Ethics Committee.

On behalf of NHMRC, I thank Professor Chalmers for his outstanding contribution, and welcome Mr Reid to his new role.

Professor Anne Kelso AO

Chief Executive Officer

Making a complaint to the Commissioner

Before complaints are investigated by the Commissioner, they will first be considered by the CEO and her staff. Complaints regarding a decision made in relation to funding should therefore be addressed in the first instance to:

The Chief Executive Officer
National Health and Medical Research Council
GPO Box 1421
CANBERRA ACT 2601

Or sent electronically to complaints@nhmrc.gov.au

Following consideration of the complaint by the NHMRC, complainants will receive a response. If they are not satisfied with the response, they have the right to resubmit the complaint for assessment by the Commissioner. Individuals wishing to make a complaint to the Commissioner should lodge the complaint to the following address:

NHMRC Commissioner of Complaints
GPO Box 1421
CANBERRA ACT 2601

In order to make a complaint, the complaint must be in writing, be signed by the complainant, and describe the action complained about and the grounds for the complaint (see below).

Grounds for Complaints

Section 58 of the Act lists the grounds for making a complaint to the Commissioner. These are:

  1. that the action involved a breach of the rules of natural justice;
  2. that the action was induced or affected by fraud;
  3. that there was no evidence or other material to justify the action;
  4. that an irrelevant consideration was taken into account in relation to the action;
  5. that a relevant consideration was not taken into account in relation to the action;
  6. that in the course of the action a discretionary power was exercised for a purpose other than the purpose for which the power is conferred;
  7. that the action involved the exercise of a discretionary power in bad faith;
  8. that, in the course of the action, a personal discretionary power was exercised at the direction of another person;
  9. that the action involved the exercise of a discretionary power in accordance with a rule or policy without regard to the merits of the particular case;
  10. that the action involved any other exercise of a power in a way that constitutes abuse of the power.

How is the complaint handled by the Commissioner?

Once the complaint is sent to the Commissioner, the Commissioner will gather all the necessary information to enable him to make a decision. The Commissioner must conduct the investigation in private and in a manner that he thinks fit.

Outcomes of complaints to the Commissioner

There are four possible outcomes once a complaint is sent to the Commissioner:

  1. The Commissioner may decide not to investigate the complaint- This may occur if:
    1. more than 12 months has elapsed between the time that the complainant became aware of the complaint and the time when the complaint was made;
    2. the Commissioner believes that further investigation is not justified; or
    3. the complainant has not firstly had the complaint considered by the CEO.
  2. The complaint is transferred to the Privacy Commissioner
  3. The Complaint is upheld
  4. The complaint is unsuccessful

If the complaint is upheld, the Commissioner will provide a recommendation to the CEO and to the NHMRC.

Further information

If you require any further information on the complaint process please refer to the NHMRC Complaint Form and Policy or contact the NHMRC  on 02 6217 9333 or 1800 646726.