Complaints and Feedback Policy

1. Introduction

Scarlet Alliance, Australian Sex Workers Association (“Scarlet Alliance”) values feedback and complaints and recognises these as an essential part of our quality assurance and accountability to our members, partners, stakeholders, and donors.

2. Scope

All Scarlet Alliance staff, volunteers and contractors (including consultants) are required to comply with this policy.

Scarlet Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer acts as Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer, with the President acting as the complaints officer with regards to complaints against or regarding the Chief Executive Officer.

3. Application of policy

This policy applies fully to all Scarlet Alliance’s operations.

Where this policy is contradicted by contractual obligations to funders, the contractual obligations must be adhered to. Exceptions to such obligations should be sought from funders prior to entering contracts and any substantive areas of difference must be drawn to the attention of the Chief Executive Officer.

This policy does not relate to concerns that arise within the workplace between staff and/or volunteers. For these issues, staff and volunteers should refer to Scarlet Alliance’s Equal Employment Opportunity, Discrimination and Bullying Policy, Grievance Policy or Performance Counselling and Disciplinary Policy.

All Scarlet Alliance staff and volunteers abide by Scarlet Alliance’s Code of Conduct.

Orientation to this policy will be provided to all Scarlet Alliance staff during their induction by their manager and regularly during the course of their employment through all-staff training.

4. Definitions

The following definitions apply for the purposes of this policy:

a complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction made to Scarlet Alliance, related to our work or the complaint handling process itself, where a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.
a complainant is a person, organisation or its representative, making a complaint.
an enquiry is a request for information or an explanation.
feedback is opinions, comments, suggestions, and expressions of interest in the work of Scarlet Alliance.
a stakeholder or interested party is a person or group having an interest in Scarlet Alliance’s work.

A complaint is not:
a) a general query about Scarlet Alliance’s work
b) a request for information
c) a contractual dispute
d) a request to amend records, such as to correct an address
e) a request to unsubscribe from a Scarlet Alliance email list.

The processes for dealing with these issues is different and separate to that of Scarlet Alliance’s Feedback and Complaints Policy. Stakeholders wishing to raise issues such as these may do so via their Scarlet Alliance focal point or by emailing

Examples of complaints covered by this policy include:
a) a person is concerned about the way we have conducted a fundraising campaign
b) a person has concerns about one of Scarlet Alliance’s programs
c) a person is concerned about the behaviour of a Scarlet Alliance staff member
d) a person believes fraud involving Scarlet Alliance has occurred.

5. Principles

Scarlet Alliance is guided by the following principles in its handling of complaints.

Scarlet Alliance values feedback and complaints and recognises these as an essential part of our continued improvement, quality assurance and accountability to our members, partners, stakeholders, and donors.

This policy is available on our website. Complainants may raise concerns with us in ways that work best for them – by phone, in writing or in person. A person’s age, language, culture or disability will not be a barrier to providing feedback.

Stakeholders can make complaints to Scarlet Alliance in a safe and confidential manner. Records of complaints will be de-identified at the request of complainants.

We will strive to consider all complaints impartially and justly, without bias or favouritism.

We will acknowledge receipt of complaints and handle them in a timely way. We will let complainants know how we are handling the complaint and the expected timeframes for each stage of the process.

Our approach to complaints will consider the needs and circumstances of the complainant. This includes considering the complainant’s preferences for how we handle the complaint. We will also consider the practical and support needs of the person and provide referrals where appropriate.

Scarlet Alliance celebrates the diversity of its staff, volunteers, stakeholders and communities. We strive to be inclusive, advance gender equality and affirm people of diverse gender, sexuality and bodies.

Scarlet Alliance will afford all complainants dignity and respect.

Scarlet Alliance has zero tolerance for misconduct, sexual exploitation, and abuse of power. This is reflected in our approach to complaints on these issues.

6. How to make a complaint

Complaints can be made to Scarlet Alliance in a variety of ways, including in writing, by phone or in person.

To make a complaint, you can contact Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer:

Phone: 0402 633 424
Address: PO Box 854, Newtown NSW 2042

Scarlet Alliance staff or Committee members will direct complainants to the complaints officer to make a complaint.

To help us to assess and respond to your concerns, we encourage you to provide as much information as possible. If you are sharing information in writing, this can include:
a) your name
b) a way to contact you, such as an email address or phone number
c) your address or general location (such as your city or country)
d) details of your concerns
e) if the complaint relates to an incident, when the incident occurred and the people involved
f) how we can resolve your concerns.

If you call or meet with us to make a complaint, we will ask you for this information, and will require an email address to write back to confirm the details of the complaint.

If you make an anonymous complaint to Scarlet Alliance, we will assess and investigate the matter to the extent possible however we may be limited in doing so by having only the information you share with us. We will not be able to respond to anonymous complainants.

7. Process for handling complaints

Receipt and acknowledgement of complaints
Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will write to the complainant within five working days to acknowledge that the complaint has been received.

The acknowledgement will include:
a) confirmation that Scarlet Alliance has received the complaint
b) information on how the initial review will be undertaken
c) the timeframe for a response to be provided to the complainant on the outcome of the initial review
d) a copy of this policy.

If the complainant has made the complaint verbally, the written acknowledgement will include Scarlet Alliance’s understanding of the concerns raised and how the complainant hopes they can be resolved.

If the matter relates to Scarlet Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer, or they may not be able to handle the complaint fairly, Scarlet Alliance’s President will act as the complaints officer, or nominate an alternative person to handle the complaint.

8. Handling of serious allegations

Serious allegations include any relating to:
a) sexual exploitation, abuse, or harassment of vulnerable people including children
b) fraud or money laundering
c) serious misconduct by Scarlet Alliance personnel
d) matters that may involve criminality.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will consider risk in assessing all complaints, including:
a) risk to the complainant
b) risk to others
c) risk to Scarlet Alliance
d) risk to its members
e) risk to the wider sector

A serious allegation may be evident at the time of the initial complaint or may become apparent when the matter is being investigated.

At any stage it becomes aware of a serious allegation, Scarlet Alliance will consider referral of the matter to appropriate authorities, in addition to conducting its own investigation of the allegations. Any decision to refer to authorities will be done in consultation with the complainant or relevant individual or individuals, where appropriate.

Under these circumstances, Scarlet Alliance will also assess its reporting obligations to donors and regulators and act to ensure its obligations are met.

Scarlet Alliance’s Chief Executive Officer will advise Scarlet Alliance’s President of serious allegations and agree with the President the appropriate reporting of the matter to the Scarlet Alliance Committee.

9. Assistance and support for the complainant

In receiving a complaint, Scarlet Alliance will consider the assistance and support needs of the person raising the matter. This will include consideration of Scarlet Alliance’s duty of care to the complainant commensurate with the nature of the matters raised.

Where a complainant makes serious allegations, especially of sexual abuse or exploitation, Scarlet Alliance will consider the support and other needs of the survivor and any appropriate referrals. This may include medical, social, legal, and financial assistance.

Scarlet Alliance’s support for the survivor will in no way influence the nature of Scarlet Alliance’s response to the matters raised.

10. Initial review

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will undertake an initial review of the complaint within 15 working days following acknowledgement of the complaint.

The purpose of the initial review is to make an assessment of relevant issues and to determine how the matter is best handled. This includes:

a) determining whether the matter will be treated as a complaint and handled under this policy
b) if the matter is not to be treated as a complaint
c) determining whether another Scarlet Alliance policy applies to the matter
d) assessing the nature of the matter against criteria including:

i. severity
ii. health (including mental health) and safety implications
iii. financial implications for the complainant or others
iv. complexity
v. impact on the individual, public and organisation
vi. potential to escalate
vii. systemic implications
viii. the need for and possibility of immediate action

e) considering options for how an investigation of the matter will proceed
f) considering how the confidentiality of the matter will be protected
g) communicating with the complainant at the end of this initial review to

i. advise of the outcome of the initial review including whether the matter will be handled as a complaint
ii. proposing options for how an investigation might proceed
iii. seeking the complainant’s views on the handling of the matter
iv. advising of the process by which a determination will be made
v. advising of timeframes for the investigation

h) where the outcome of the initial review is not to handle the matter as a complaint, advising the person of the alternative handling of the matter and how they can appeal the decision if they wish to do so.

In some circumstances, a complaint may be resolved at the initial review stage. This includes situations where a misunderstanding has occurred or where additional information or other actions immediately satisfy the complainant.

There may also be circumstances where the complaint is treated as a complaint under this policy, but rejected at this initial stage for being frivolous, capricious, or vexatious. Complainants whose complaints are rejected on these grounds may appeal the determination.

Where an initial review determines a complaint is outside Scarlet Alliance’s jurisdiction, Scarlet Alliance will advise the complainant of that and provide assistance in identifying a more appropriate organisation or authority for the handling of the matter. This may include police or other authorities or another organisation to which the complaint more directly relates.

11. Investigation and determination

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will investigate the issues raised by the complaint within 30 working days following the initial review.

In some instances, the complaints officer may arrange for another person to undertake the investigation. This may be to ensure sufficient time and attention is able to be given to the issues if the matters are more serious, or to ensure sufficient expertise and independence is available to investigate the issues.

Scarlet Alliance will ensure sufficient resources are available to investigate complaints.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will approach the investigation based on the approach determined in the initial review and with regard to the preferences of the complainant for how the matter is to be handled.

This will include any person who is the subject of a complaint having an opportunity to respond to the issues raised.

Steps in the investigation may include mediation of the issues or other strategies to resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the complainant.

Once the complaints officer has identified the issues involved in the matter, obtained all relevant information and taken any steps toward resolution with the complainant (if appropriate at this stage), they will make a determination of the outcome of the complaint.

In making this determination, the complaints officer will consider:
a) the complaint
b) the preferred resolution of the complainant
c) relevant information obtained through the investigation
d) the outcomes of any steps taken toward resolution with the complainant
e) other relevant considerations.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will be guided by Scarlet Alliance’s values and its commitment to fairness in all aspects of the complaints handling, including in making a determination.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will confirm the determination in writing to the complainant, providing relevant information obtained during the investigation and the reasons for their determination. Scarlet Alliance will also advise the complainant of the option to appeal the determination.

12. Appeals

Scarlet Alliance will handle any appeal of a matter under this policy within 30 working days of a complainant making an appeal.

A complainant can advise the complaints officer of their wish to appeal a determination. The complaints officer will refer all such requests to the President for consideration.

Alternatively, the person may directly approach Scarlet Alliance’s President to appeal:

13. Quality assurance, record-keeping and reporting

A complaint can alert Scarlet Alliance to serious misconduct or failures, shortcomings in its work or issues in how we interact with others.

For these reasons, Scarlet Alliance values complaints as an opportunity to learn and make improvements.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will review and analyse complaint information to determine how Scarlet Alliance can improve its systems, processes and practices. This will include through discussion with relevant Scarlet Alliance staff, utilising de-identified summary information from complaints, and implementation of improvements.

Scarlet Alliance’s Risk and Audit subcommittee will receive a summary report of any complaints received at each meeting and advise Scarlet Alliance’s subcommittee of the matters, including any changes that will be made on the basis of investigations.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will maintain a complaints register and monitor patterns in complaints over time as an additional quality assurance strategy.

All complaints will be treated confidentially. Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will ensure records of complaints are securely stored. For paper records, this includes in a locked cabinet. For electronic files, this includes in restricted access areas of Scarlet Alliance’s file storage.

Scarlet Alliance’s complaints officer will de-identify complaint records at the request of complainants.

14. Breach of this policy

Any staff member or volunteer who is found to have breached this policy may be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination of employment or volunteer engagement.