The history of the Ombudsman

The word 'ombudsman' comes from Sweden which in 1809 established the position of Justlieombudsman to oversee government administration. The title loosely translates as 'citizen's defender' or 'representative of the people'. Since 1809, it has been adopted in many parts of the world, in both government and private industry (eg. banking and insurance) settings. However, the role has changed considerably and nowadays the Ombudsman functions in Sweden and elsewhere do not generally involve acting on behalf of complainants in the way that an advocate or lawyer would do. Nor does the Ombudsman represent the agency being complained about. Rather, an Ombudsman acts in an impartial and independent way.

The office of the Ombudsman in Western Australia has a very proud history. Western Australia had the first Ombudsman in Australia, with the legislation, the Parliamentary Commissioner Act 1971, proclaimed on 12 May 1972. All the other States and Territories and the Commonwealth followed Western Australia's lead.
The late Hon. John Tonkin (Premier 1971–74) was the architect of the Act, having proposed the appointment of a State Ombudsman as early as 1963 when he was Leader of the Opposition. Soon after he became Premier in 1971, he introduced the Parliamentary Commissioner Bill.

The Ombudsman's formal title is Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations.

Western Australia's Ombudsman:

  • Oliver Dixon (1972–1980)
  • Ivor Evans (1980–1982)
  • Eric Freeman (1982–1990)
  • Robert Eadie (1990–1996)
  • Murray Allen (1996–2001)
  • Deirdre O'Donnell (2002–2007)
  • Chris Field (2007 - present)