When the complaints process does not apply

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There are a number of situations in which the complaints process outlined in Learning Together does not apply.

On this page:

There are a range of external complaints bodies that can take complaints related to the actions of all Victorian schools, DET and other organizations. This includes specialist bodies that can take complaints about fees and charges, privacy, and discrimination and other human rights violations.

If you are concerned about your child’s safety

Every child has the right to be safe at school. If you are ever concerned that your child is at risk of or is being subjected to any form of violence or abuse at school, this is a matter for the police, rather than school or DET complaints processes.

You do not have to go to the school first, or inform them that you are contacting police. Schools have a special duty of care to their students. If you have any concerns about the safety of your child, or any child at school, please do not hesitate to contact the police. The same applies if you are concerned about any potential criminal matter at school.

  • In an emergency you should always telephone 000. Or you can contact your regional Victoria Police SOCA (Sexual Offences and Child Abuse) Unit. Find contacts at police.vic.gov.au – search under “SOCA unit”.
  • Read more about your child’s rights and safety at school.

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If your child is facing suspension or expulsion, or other review processes apply

Several types of concerns or complaints in government school are not covered by the DET concerns and complaints policy, but have different process for review or appeal. The main ones that relate to students and their families are when a student is facing suspension or expulsion.

We discuss these extensively in the section Education and your child’s rights, including:

  • how schools should deal with discipline, including for their students with a disability
  • procedures for suspension and expulsion in government schools
  • your child’s rights, and your rights as parent or carer, if your child is facing suspension or expulsion.

Other situations not covered by the DET complaints policy are outlined in the government’s School Policy and Advisory Guide, a major resource for schools on the DET website. These situations include complaints by school staff in relation to their employment, complaints about staff that would constitute misconduct or performance grievances, student ‘critical incidents’ (e.g. when someone’s safety is at risk – see also Restraint, seclusion and your child’s safety at school) and criminal matters. As described above, all potential criminal matters should be referred, without delay, to the police.

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If you hire or engage a lawyer

It is important to know that DET’s complaints policy will not apply to you, if you choose to employ a lawyer or other person to represent you in dealing with your child’s school or DET (this includes engaging free legal services such as community legal services or Legal Aid). If you do choose to engage a lawyer to represent you, the DET complaints policy will cease to apply, and your complaint will be referred to lawyers representing DET.

The DET complaints policy does apply if you have an unpaid advocate or support person helping you. Many people find it very useful to get support from an advocacy organisation, friend or family member. That might include getting advice, or having that person accompany you, for example to Student Support Group meetings. Sometimes another professional involved in supporting your family might also act in an advocacy or support role. This might be a therapist or case manager who offers to step in and help you advocate for your child. The DET complaints policy will still apply in this case, as long you are not paying that person to legally represent you or your child.

You also have the right to approach an external complaints mechanism, including a human rights body, at any time. This does not affect your entitlement to proper process under the DET complaints process.

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