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AIAL Presentation: “What were they thinking?” Reflections on administrative decision making

The AIAL invites you to a presentation by Deborah Glass, Victorian Ombudsman.

Register your place here

It is sometimes easy to forget that decisions made by public authorities are made by humans, who tend to like clear rules and procedures; some set criteria to make the ‘right’ decision. Most public authorities develop internal policies that guide their officers' application of the laws they administer. However, when applied inflexibly, these policies and procedures can lead to a loss of judgment in circumstances where discretion should be exercised. The result: some administrative decisions lack common sense, contradict the overarching purpose of the law and/or disproportionately impact on individuals or a section of the community.  

As former Victorian Ombudsman, Norman Geschke said: “While at times discretion has been exercised where it should not have been, these instances are far outweighed by those where discretion and flexibility has not been exercised where it should have been.”

The exercise of discretion is the obvious ‘grey area’ of administrative decision making. The benefits of mastering how to make good decisions within this grey area are many and include: ensuring fairness for members of the community, limiting the prospect of successful challenges to decisions, and strengthening public confidence in government administration. By exercising discretion when it is due and applying rules flexibly, administrative decision makers can facilitate outcomes that are in the public interest, represent justice and support the role of government in regulation and enforcement.

It can be instructive to look at real-life case studies where discretion was lacking and wonder of the decision-makers involved: ‘what were they thinking?’.


Image The Victorian Ombudsman is Deborah Glass OBE. She was appointed in March 2014 for a term of 10 years. Deborah was raised in Melbourne where she studied law at Monash University. Deborah practiced law briefly in the city, before joining a US investment bank in Switzerland in 1985. She was appointed to the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission at its inception in 1989, where she became Senior Director, instrumental in raising standards in the investment management industry.

Deborah moved to London in 1998 where she became the Chief Executive of the Investment Management Regulatory Organisation. In 2001, she joined the UK Police Complaints Authority, and in 2004 became a Commissioner with the new Independent Police Complaints Commission of England and Wales (IPCC).  She was the Commissioner responsible for London, and for many high profile criminal and misconduct investigations into police conduct. Deborah was appointed IPCC Deputy Chair in 2008, carrying operational responsibility for the IPCC's regional Commissioners, and was awarded an OBE for her service in the New Year Honours List in 2012.

Deborah is committed to ensuring fair and reasonable decision making in the Victorian public sector, and to improving public administration. She holds a firm belief in public sector integrity and the protection of human rights.

Seminar details

Wednesday 11 April 2018

1.00 pm – 2.00 pm

A light lunch will be provided

Russell Kennedy Lawyers, Level 12, 469 La Trobe Street, Melbourne

RSVP by Monday 9 April 2018 by registering here.

This seminar is free to attend, but bookings are essential. 

This presentation qualifies for one CPD unit for solicitors and barristers.

For more information about the presentation, please contact your host:

Emma Turner
AIAL Chairperson - Victorian Chapter
Special Counsel - Public Law, Litigation and Aged Care at Russell Kennedy Lawyers

03 8602 7223

For further resources or information about the AIAL, visit the website here.

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