One of our functions is to promote the Energy and Water Ombudsman scheme to those who may need our assistance. In 2019 2020, we assisted customers across Queensland and used a range of community outreach activities and information channels, including mainstream and social media, to build awareness of our services.
Our priorities this year have included connecting with older Queenslanders, consumers in regional areas, and customers in financial difficulty, who we reach through our relationships with financial counsellors and community services that help those in financial hardship. We continued to foster relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities too, with highlights including visits to Mt Isa and Yarrabah.
During 2019-2020, we attended financial literacy workshops and spoke to members of the public about their energy and water bills. We promoted our services through presentations at community events and attended ‘bring your bills’ events across the state.
During Seniors Week, we attended the Positive Ageing Fair in Cairns, and the Dickson Seniors Expo and Bonner Seniors Expo in the Brisbane region in October. We also attended the Brisbane Disability Expo in November.
We built and maintained strong connections with community workers and financial counsellors by attending the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) and Financial Counsellors’ Association of Queensland (FCAQ) conferences.
Read more about our community outreach.
Our three Regional Managers based in Cairns, Rockhampton and Brisbane oversee our connections in their regions. During 2019-2020, their teams travelled to Toowoomba, Scenic Rim, Mt Isa, Yarrabah and Yeppoon, connecting with community leaders and providing information to help customers understand their rights and responsibilities when making a complaint about an issue within our jurisdiction.
Our Mt Isa Bring Your Bills Day, co-hosted by Centacare North Queensland and the Office of Fair Trading, was a great success. We helped consumers with their energy bills and worked alongside Ergon Energy to help some attendees get their issues resolved on the spot.
Our Indigenous outreach program aims to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to become confident and informed consumers, and ensure they are aware of their right to assistance with issues relating to their energy services, and water services for customers in South East Queensland.
During 2019-2020, we connected with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander support networks and supported the annual National Aborigines and Islander Day Observance Committee (NAIDOC) week festivities in Cairns, Rockhampton and Brisbane in July.
These events provided a great opportunity to showcase our services to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customers. We also supported National Reconciliation Week events.
We continue to promote our services online through our website and social media. These channels have become even more important since community outreach events were put on hold in response to COVID-19.
Our social media reach has continued to grow during 2019-2020 by increased interaction with stakeholders and the community, informing Queenslanders about how we can help with their energy and water problems.
We also contributed to a series of webinars hosted by QCOSS focused on managing household energy efficiency, energy hardship and concessions and finding the best energy deals.
Our peer networks
We maintain strong links with the Ombudsman community as a member of the Australian and New Zealand Ombudsman Association (ANZOA) and the Australia and New Zealand Energy and Water Ombudsman Network (ANZEWON).
Committed to high standards of independence, impartiality and effectiveness, ANZOA members observe the six benchmarks for industry-based customer dispute resolution: accessibility, independence, fairness, accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.
In addition to regular informal contact with other Ombudsman offices, the Ombudsman attended three ANZOA meetings throughout the year.
Our team members are actively involved in ANZOA’s eight interest groups, including:
- complaints management
- customer financial hardship
- indigenous engagement
- information technology for business
- people and development
- policy and research
- public relations and communications
- systemic issues and investigations.
ANZEWON is a network of energy and water Ombudsmen and utilities complaints Commissioners from across Australia and New Zealand, who work together to explore and address industry and policy developments that affect Australian and New Zealand consumers.
The network supports collaboration and learning to avoid duplication of effort which ensures members can progress projects with greater efficiency and effectiveness.
During 2019-2020, ANZEWON members commissioned a joint research paper by the University of New South Wales titled What will energy consumers expect of an energy and water ombudsman scheme in 2020, 2025 and 2030?
We attended regular ANZEWON meetings throughout the year, including hosting the ANZEWON Chairs and Ombudsman meeting in Brisbane in February 2020, where we discussed complaint trends, governance issues and the impact of summer bushfires.
Since COVID-19, we’ve continued to connect via video conference discussing responses to COVID-19 and how we can continue to work with industry to support consumers. This has included talking with scheme participants about their COVID-19 recovery plans so we can assist where possible in the future.
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See the official copy of the 2019-20 annual report, as tabled in the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, on the Queensland Parliament's tabled papers website.