Can I resolve my complaint myself?
Resolving your concerns informally
JCU encourages you to resolve any concern with the most relevant person, directly, through respectful, informal discussion or email.
There are many benefits in trying to resolve your complaint informally:
- Informal complaint resolution is usually quicker and simpler.
- You have an opportunity to gain further understanding of the situation, and this in itself may resolve your concerns.
- This informal method of resolution allows you to explore options about how to resolve a disagreement or complaint without involving extra people or using a more formal process.
- If the issues raised in your complaint affects many students, resolving your concerns quickly and informally may benefit others in the JCU community.
If you have exhausted all informal avenues to address you concern and you remain dissatisfied you can consider submitting a formal complaint.
Need some information, advice or support before taking action?
If your concern or complaint is not something that can be resolved by approaching a person or Unit of the University directly, you should consider seeking help.
Giving feedback to JCU
If you would like to alert the University to something you believe needs to be addressed for the good of the JCU community and you are not seeking any personal resolution or communication, please consider submitting a Feedback Form. The Feedback Form asks for your name and contact details in case we need to clarify any details. The University will, however, accept an anonymous submission. To complete an anonymous submission, use this form instead.
Where should I direct my complaint?
Is your complaint with a person, event or situation which is within the control or responsibility of JCU?
Not all complaints can be managed under the Student Complaints Management Policy and Procedure. To ensure you are directing your complaint to the correct unit of the University please check our list of Policies relating to specific complaints. Contact details can be found on each Policy.
Where JCU cannot help you with your complaint
Some organisations located on JCU campuses are independent of the university and have their own complaint processes. If your complaint directly relates to the actions or operations of the following organisations, you will have to lodge your complaint with that organisation. Find a list of organisations here.
If you remain uncertain about whom to approach regarding your complaint, contact any of these support services.
What if I can't find a policy for my complaint?
The Student Complaints Management Policy and Procedure outlines JCU’s approach to managing student complaints where there is no other existing policy dealing with your complaint. This policy provides a mechanism for students to submit a formal complaint that will be considered by an appropriate decision-maker.
If you are considering submitting a formal student complaint under the Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures it will be for one the following reasons:
- You feel you have been adversely or unjustifiably impacted by a situation that is within the control of, or which is the responsibility of, JCU, AND
- The nature of your complaint is not dealt with under another JCU policy, AND
- You have tried to resolve your concerns through informal discussion but you are not satisfied with the outcome, OR
- It would be unsafe or inappropriate to approach the person who is the subject of your complaint.
You have tried to resolve your concerns informally but you are not satisfied
If you have tried to resolve your concerns but remain dissatisfied, you will need to provide details of the steps you have already taken with your complaint submission so that the person who deals with your complaint has this background.
Reporting illegal or harmful behaviour or unsafe situations
Sometimes the type of complaint you have is not one that can, or should be, addressed informally. For example, when you want to report inappropriate conduct or actions that may or may not be illegal—regardless of whether you are personally affected or not. In this case you may make a formal complaint but you must outline why an informal approach is not appropriate.
You may wish to consider if the university has other formal mechanisms for addressing more complex or serious student complaints. These complaint types may be dealt with under specific policies and procedures.
How do I make a complaint?
Any person you approach about your complaint, whether you wish to deal with it informally, or through a more formal process, will need to be able to understand your concern. Before you approach someone about your complaint, you should take the following steps.
Think through the issues and how they arose: Might there have been a misunderstanding? Has there been an error? Is there something that I should have done, which I forgot?
Make a list of relevant dates and collect relevant documents: Check your diary, emails, phone call / text records, find invoices/receipts, letters, notices, and develop a timeline.
Think about what outcome you are seeking: What would solve the problem? What is reasonable?
Read through the Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures, scan through other student policies to see if JCU has a mechanism for dealing with your concern, or seek advice or further information.
Draft your complaint submission
- Complete an online Student Complaint Form (if you are unable to complete the online version, complete the PDF form, ensuring you save the form prior to submitting)
- Organise your written complaint submission so that it includes:
- A clear explanation of who and/or what you are complaining about, and how you have been adversely and/or unjustifiably impacted through this situation.
- Key dates and events in chronological order.
- An explanation of the steps you have taken to resolve your concerns informally. If you have not attempted informal resolution, please explain why.
- The names and contact details of any persons who:
- may have witnessed part or all of the events you have described, or
- may be able to support your claims.
- Reference to any documentation you have attached which supports your claim(s).
- Specify the outcome/s you would like to achieve to resolve your complaint.
- The name of any JCU Student Association Student Advocate or support person who is helping you.
- Seek advice from a JCU Student Association Student Advocate, or relevant staff member.
- Submit your formal complaint, including all supporting documentation.
If you are unable to use or access the online complaint form, use this form. Email your complaint to: firstname.lastname@example.org or send by mail to: Student Complaint and Quality Improvement Unit, c/o Director, Student Services, James Cook University, PO Box 6811, Cairns QLD 4870.
If you need assistance to submit a formal complaint, please contact the Student Complaints and Quality Improvement Unit by email to email@example.com or by phone: (07) 4232 1397.
The University will not accept a formal complaint more than 12 months old, unless exceptional circumstances are explained, with evidence, and these are accepted by the Director, Student Services.
What happens to my complaint?
Your formal complaint will be received and acknowledged by the Student Complaint and Quality Improvement Unit, acting on behalf of the Director, Student Services. Your complaint will be assessed, and you may be asked to provide further information or clarification.
If you have not attempted to resolve your complaint informally, and you have not explained why, your complaint may be referred back to you to attempt informal resolution.
If the subject of your complaint is something which should be dealt with under a different JCU policy, the Student Complaint and Quality Improvement Unit will refer the complaint back to you and explain this. Depending on the type of complaint, you may have to re-write your statement or complete a form.
If your formal complaint is complete it will be referred, within five working days, to a Responsible Officer. You will be advised of when and to whom the complaint was referred, and the anticipated timeframe for a response to you (typically this is 15 business days). The Responsible Officer will consider your complaint and determine what steps need to be taken, and may appoint someone to assist if further investigation is required. If your complaint is about a person, the Responsible Officer will also have to consider how to approach the respondent, and ensure the respondent is afforded procedural fairness. You might be contacted if further clarification is required or to submit further material, or you may be invited to attend an interview, hearing or meeting.
If your complaint is unable to be resolved in 15 days, you will receive advice about the progress of your complaint and any delays. When the Responsible Officer has made a determination, or, resolved your complaint, you will receive a letter or report about the complaint resolution process, the determination concerning the complaint and further avenues of appeal. For some very serious complaints, the determination of the Responsible Officer may be that a further process must be entered into. All records about your complaint and its resolution will be kept by the University.
My rights, responsibilities and expectations
The JCU Student Charter outlines the reasonable expectations that you can have of the University while studying. It also documents what the University expects of you. Beyond this you also have other rights which is too large a subject to cover here, and the JCU Student Association may be able to advise you further.
The Student Complaint Management Policy and Procedures defines a student complaint as follows:
A complaint is a student’s expression of dissatisfaction that their rights, existing interests and/or reasonable expectations have been adversely and unjustifiably impacted because of an action, decision or omission within the control or responsibility of the University. Any circumstance related to University operations, services, and decisions, or the conduct of its staff, its students, or people associated with the University or using University facilities may be the subject of a complaint.
The Policy outlines sixteen principles at the heart of managing a student complaint. Some of the key things you should know are summarised below, but we encourage you to read the whole Policy before you take steps to submit a formal student complaint.
JCU is committed to resolving all complaints in a timely manner. A formal student complaint cannot usually be resolved as quickly as with an informal process, for a number of reasons:
- The complaint is often more complex or serious.
- Often other staff in the University need to be consulted before a decision can be reached.
- Information may need to be gathered and seriously considered.
Please note: A formal student complaint must be made within twelve months of the last relevant action.
Expectation of reasonableness
JCU must consider the rights and expectations of the complainant as well as any person who is the subject of any complaint that you make. In making a complaint, you should not be treated less favourably, victimised, or otherwise discriminated against. Likewise, JCU expects that you will conduct yourself appropriately, and refrain from engaging in frivolous or vexatious complaints.
Confidentiality by all parties must be maintained to the greatest possible extent at all stages of the complaint management process. Communication must be limited to persons to whom disclosure is consistent with their official position and responsibility, or with specific responsibility to assist in the resolution of the complaint or appeal.
If you are considering submitting an anonymous complaint, please consider the following:
- If the complaint is about the actions or decisions of a person, that person (known as a ‘Respondent’) will be told about the complaint and given an opportunity to respond to it.
- The respondent may be able to work out the identity of the complainant by other means. While the University will maintain confidentiality, we cannot guarantee anonymity.
- JCU will accept anonymous formal complaints, however, unless we can find corroborating evidence, our ability to understand, consider and respond to your anonymous complaint may be limited.