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New Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert is “passionate” about driving systemic change

Cynthia Gebert joined the TIO at the beginning of May as the organisation’s new Ombudsman. She brings over ten years’ experience to the role as the Energy & Water Ombudsman of Victoria, and over the years has learnt that change doesn’t just happen – you have to push for it.

“I am passionate about driving systemic change. This is one of the key reasons why I was drawn to the TIO – for the opportunity to work with a team of clever and engaged people who come to work each day to both resolve individual complaints and help improve the customer experience of the telco industry as a whole.”

Growing up in regional NSW, Cynthia understands the digital divide that’s facing Australia’s regional and remote communities. 

“I grew up on a rice farm in regional NSW. If I wanted telephone service at my mum and dad's, I would have to stand under the overhead petrol tank – which is hardly the most sensible place to stand – just to get to get reception.”

“In a lot of areas, this kind of patchy service is still common, and that makes it hard for people in these parts of the country to truly participate in society the way that metro areas take for granted.”

Coming fresh into the telecommunications industry, Cynthia’s experience of phone and internet services is like that of any other consumer - she understands just how important these services are to everyday life.

“We’re working in an industry that has become more and more entrenched in our daily lives, and more and more essential to the ability of individuals and small businesses to function in society. As the independent dispute resolution service, we are uniquely positioned to share the experiences of customers and improve industry performance using data and insights.”

Last week Cynthia chaired a digital inclusion panel at the Financial Counselling Australia Conference and was struck by the regulatory differences between energy and water and telecommunications when it comes to the essentiality of those services. She recognises one of the key functions of the TIO is to use its data and insights to “shine a light for the telco industry, government and policy makers to get the consumer protection settings right.”

Cynthia is a “passionate advocate” of External Dispute Resolution schemes, and believes they are a key mechanism for accessing dispute resolution, particularly for those who are most vulnerable.

“When you have a problem with a phone or internet service, it can get really complicated. And it becomes more and more complicated when you factor in people’s circumstances, their financial position, their health and safety. As an Ombudsman service, it’s really important that people in vulnerable situations, who have nowhere else to turn, to know that we’re here to help.”

Read more about Ombudsman Cynthia Gebert