HDR Complaints and Grievances Guide

HDR Complaints and Grievance Guide

If you are thinking about making a complaint, it is probably not going to be the best day of your life. However, it need not be the worst day either. This guide will provide you with some basic principles and suggestions that can make lodging a complaint a much simpler, less emotionally taxing experience.

This guide relates to the making of complaints that arise in the day-to-day context in which researchers work in University departments. For examples, it might be a complaint about a decision relating to your candidature, it might be a complaint about resourcing and infrastructure, or it could be a complaint relating to interpersonal relationships.

If your complaint deals with research misconduct, then you need to refer to the Graduate Researchers and Research Misconduct webpage, for advice and contacts. 

This Guide does not relate to criminal matters, which should always be reported to the NSW Police.

What is a ‘complaint’?

The terms ‘complaint’ and ‘grievance’ can be used interchangeably. The UNE Student Grievance Policy talks about ‘grievances’ and defines them, but in general when people refer to complaints and/or grievances, they usually mean the same thing.

The first step is to decide how you want to deal with your complaint. In general there are two ways of addressing complaints:

  1. The first way is sometimes referred to as an ‘informal’ process. This means that, if you have a complaint, you raise it directly with the person or work unit concerned and attempt to resolve the matter by discussing what happened and how it might be addressed.
  2. The second way is by formal complaint. This is normally a complaint made in writing, and transmitted to the responsible University Officer. In most cases, formal complaints cannot be made anonymously, and a copy of the written complaint will be given to the person/s who are the subject of the complaint. There are some categories of complaint that can be made anonymously but these generally relate to whistle-blowing contexts and not to complaints about the day to day conduct of graduate research.

At this stage, it is a very good idea to get some advice before deciding between these two options. You can get advice about how to make a complaint at UNE from the Student Grievance Unit or from Research Services. Staff in these units can give you some initial advice about your options. 

Formal Complaint

If you do decide to go ahead and make a formal complaint, there are some basic principles you should consider.

Principles

1. One of the first things to consider at the outset, and again throughout any process, is how to ensure you have some personal support. This can mean ensuring that a family member or friend knows what is happening, or it can mean that you see a UNE counsellor regularly, whatever is appropriate for you. It is very important that you are able to deal with any complaint with a cool head! The best advice is to make sure you are taking care of your own well-being, so you can deal with making a complaint in a balanced, reasoned way.

2. Formal complaints processes are generally not quick; it will not be solved in a day, or even a week. In order to investigate a complaint, the University should take the time to ensure matters are looked at properly. But the University is also required to resolve matters as quickly and efficiently as it can, and provide you with a timely determination. You should also be kept up to date on the expected time-frames and what is happening, so that you know how things are progressing.

3. In making a formal complaint you are signalling to the University that you are willing to resolve a matter. A formal complaint should never be made with aim of paying someone back for a grievance, or exacting some form of revenge. Indeed, if people make malicious or vexatious complaint, this can become the subject of a counter-complaint and there can be serious consequences.

4. It is expected that confidentiality will be maintained by the University officers required to investigate any complaint. This means that the complaint should not be discussed or gossiped about with people who are not involved in it, and that the proper University record is kept of the complaint process in a secure system. However this also applies to the individual making a complaint who, beyond discussing matters with their support person or counsellor, should also ensure the complaint remains confidential to those who are directly involved. 

5. The University is required to ensure that you do not receive any penalty or disadvantage as a consequence of lodging a complaint in good faith.

6. When you make a complaint, the matter will be dealt with as prescribed by the relevant policy/rule and the related procedure. Whoever investigates your complaint should let you know which policy or rule, or which procedure, is being used to resolve your complaint.

Who do you complain to?

1. When you lodge a formal complaint, you need to know who to lodge it with. If you are going to lodge a formal complaint then you do not give it directly to the person you are complaining about. To do so may cause them unnecessary distress, and they cannot investigate your complaint.

2. As a student of the University you can lodge formal complaints with the Student Grievance Unit, who will make sure that the complaint gets to the responsible University Officer, or they will investigate it themselves. Alternatively, you can lodge a complaint with Research Services, who will also ensure the correct managers receive the complaint.

Again it is very important to get advice before you lodge a formal complaint.