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Centrelink

If you need financial support you may be eligible for payments from Centrelink.

If you have received a debt notice from Centrelink you have the right to appeal, read more here.

If you disagree with a Centrelink decision you can appeal the decision

If Centrelink has overpaid you get legal advice before talking to anyone else.

If you were overpaid and you knew or you should reasonably have known you were not being paid correctly  this can be a criminal offence. Get immediate legal advice.

Getting financial support

If you need financial support such as a pension, benefit or an allowance contact Centrelink to find out if you are eligible.

Disagreeing with a Centrelink decision

If you disagree with a Centrelink decision, you can:

  • ask for the reasons for the decision in writing. 
  • apply for an authorised review officer (ARO) to review your case (you should apply within 13 weeks after receiving the decision).

If you don’t agree with the ARO’s decision, you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal—Social Security and Child Support division (AAT). You should apply within 13 weeks after receiving the decision).  

If you’re unhappy with the first review decision of the AAT, you can apply for a second review. A second review is carried out by the General Division of the AAT (you should apply within 28 days of the first review decision).

It’s important to appeal the decision within the required time limit.

If you make an appeal outside of the time limit, you might not be able to get back pay. If you make your appeal within the time limit your payment will be backdated if your appeal is successful.

This doesn’t apply to debt cases and different time limits apply to reviews about Family Tax Benefits and Paid Parental Leave. Get legal advice.

If you don’t understand a Centrelink decision, get legal advice. 

Basic Rights Queensland gives free legal advice about disputes with Centrelink.

Accessing your Centrelink file

Accessing your Centrelink file may help you appeal a Centrelink decision.

You can view your Centrelink file or get copies of documents held by Centrelink by making an application under the Freedom of Information Act (FOI). You can ask Centrelink for an FOI form, or you can write a short letter asking for information off your file (under the FOI Act).

Once you lodge an appeal with the AAT, Centrelink will file the documents with the tribunal and give you a copy of the documents.

You should bring any relevant documents for your matter with you when getting legal advice. 

Representing yourself in the appeal process

The appeal process is designed for people to represent themselves and information is available from Centrelink, Basic Rights Queensland and Legal Aid Queensland.

Centrelink fraud

The courts treat Centrelink fraud very seriously, and penalties can include jail. 

If you were overpaid and you knew or you should reasonably have known you were not being paid correctly (eg not telling Centrelink you’ve started working or that you have a defacto partner) this can be a criminal offence.

Get immediate legal advice before speaking with Centrelink.

Even if you’ve paid all the money back or you’re paying it back in instalments, you may still be charged with a criminal offence.

Overpayments

If you think you’ve been overpaid get immediate legal advice before talking to anyone else about it.

Centrelink may ask you to come in for an interview to talk about the overpayments— but you don’t have to attend. Get legal advice before attending a Centrelink interview about overpayments.

Before agreeing to an interview (about overpayments) you can ask Centrelink to give you written information showing what payments have been made and how they’ve worked out that you’ve been overpaid. You’re entitled to receive documentation showing what you’ve been paid each fortnight, and what Centrelink says you should have been paid.

If you decide to attend an interview, Centrelink can make a record of what you say and can use it against you later in court. Get legal advice before attending an interview with Centrelink about any overpayment. 

Defacto relationships or 'member of a couple' relationships

Centrelink will ask if you are in a defacto relationship to find out if you’re eligible to receive a pension or benefit and how much you should be paid. If you are in a defacto relationship you will receive a lower rate of payment and your partner's income and assets will be taken into account, as well as your own, when your payment is calculated.

Centrelink looks at the circumstances of your relationship and may ask questions about:

  • where you live
  • who you live with
  • your financial arrangements with any person
  • who you socialise with
  • any sexual relationship you have with a person
  • how your friends and family see your relationship
  • whether you have any children from that relationship.

Centrelink can also get this information by contacting your neighbours, the Department of Housing, real estate agents, gas and electricity suppliers, local councils, or any other person who can provide details about your relationship.

If you disagree with a decision made by Centrelink about your relationship, you have a right to appeal it. You can also ask for “payment pending review” – a continuation of your payment at the single rate while your appeal is being dealt with.

Do I need legal advice?

You may need legal advice if you:

  • don't understand a decision from Centrelink
  • want to appeal a Centrelink decision, including appeals to the AAT
  • have been overpaid—get immediate legal advice before talking to anyone else or attending a Centrelink interview
  • are told you have to go to court, even if you’ve paid money back.

How to get legal advice

We may give legal advice about dealing with Centrelink, including advice about overpayments.

If you’re preparing an appeal against a Centrelink decision in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal:

The following organisations may be able to give legal advice.

Legal Aid Queensland gives legal advice about social security appeals.

Basic Rights Queensland gives legal advice and helps with early intervention for people with social security issues where the decision is still with Centrelink. They can’t help if your matter has been referred to court.

Townsville Community Legal Service gives legal advice and advocacy services to people in Townsville or north of Townsville with social security issues.

LGBTI Legal Service gives free legal advice and information to LGBTI clients, including legal advice in relation to Centrelink matters.

Queensland Law Society can refer you to a specialist private lawyer for advice or representation.

Who else can help?

These services may be able to help. They don’t give legal advice.

Administrative Appeals Tribunal can review decisions made by Centrelink. If you don’t agree with their decision you can appeal to the AAT.

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