Handakte WebLAWg quotes the Kurier reporting that the people’s advocates are getting more work, or at least were in 2002, as the result of a TV series about them. The Volksanwalt (Hausmaninger in The Austrian Legal System – ISBN 3-214-00239-2 – calls them People’s Advocates) is a kind of ombudsperson introduced in 1977. Ombudsmen or ombudspersons act as intermediaries between the public and the administration. There are three Volksanwälte, one from each of the three strongest parties in parliament; they serve for six years and can be reelected once. The Volksanwaltschaft/People’s Advocates’ Office is a federal office intended to help the legislature supervise the administration. About one-third of last year’s complaints from citizens were outside their jurisdiction, however.
There isn’t anything quite like this in Germany. Some Länder have Bürgerbeauftragte: Rhineland-Palatine has had one since 1974 (German); and there is a Petitionsausschuss (German), a committee on public petitions to which people can apply on federal level.
For any language enthusiasts who have read this far, there is a Volksanwaltschaft in Südtirol / South Tyrol too, and there is a website giving the details in German, Italian and Ladin. I heard of a child in South Tyrol who spoke Ladin at home, German at kindergarten and Italian everywhere else. Here is what is apparently a Ladin news site (but I’m open to correction here).