ASK ABE: Discontinue NOT Fail

Hi Abe,

I had an absolutely shocking time last semester and failed every subject I attempted.  I have previously had an excellent record, but had a lot of family problems last semester.  Is there any way that I can have last semester wiped off my record so my bad marks don’t spoil my record?


Dear DS,

If you had a serious illness or misadventure (your family problems may be described as this) that was out of your control, became worse after the deadline for DC (end of week 7) and seriously affected your ability to study, you can apply to have those fails or absent fails changed to DC (Discontinue Not Fail) grades. You will need to be able to explain how your illness or misadventure affected your study. Naturally you will need documentation from a doctor or counsellor, a community leader or someone else who knows about the issues your family have been dealing with. Remember that this is not just a method to “clean up” your transcript, but rather for students who have not had a genuine opportunity to demonstrate their competency in the subject.

You may also consider talking to an SRC caseworker about having your HECS/fees refunded. The deadline for applying for a fee refund if you are a local students is 12 months, but it’s so easy to forget that you’d be better off dealing with that straight away too. Fee refunds for international students have only recently been changed by law. Talk to SRC HELP for more information.


ASK ABE: Youth Allowance and Casual Work

Dear Abe,

I am on a Youth Allowance payment and I also work a casual job with varying hours. Sometimes I receive the full payment just under $500, but other times I get much less than that.
I heard that there is some sort of banking system that affects the amount of money I get, but I am very confused by all of this. Could you please explain why my payments vary?

Nursing Student

Dear Nursing Student,

The banking system you are talking about is Centrelink’s way of keeping track of the extra money you are earning. It is called the Student Income Bank. Each fortnight you are allowed to earn $415 without any reduction in your Youth Allowance. If you earn less than $415, the left over carries over to the following fortnight. For example, if you only earned $115 in the first fortnight, you will be allowed to earn $715 ($415 + $300) in the second fortnight. This process keeps going until you’ve accumulated a maximum of $10,100. Your Youth Allowance payment is reduced when you have earned more than your Student Income Bank. That is, by 50 cents in the dollar for amounts between $415 and $496, then by 60 cents in the dollar for income over $496. If you are unsure about whether you have been paid the correct amount, gather all your paperwork and talk to an SRC Caseworker about it.


Dear Abe,

I’ve got a million things going on in my life at the moment and uni just can’t be my number one priority. I can’t imagine that I will be attending many classes from now until the end of the year. I know I’ve missed the HECs census date, but is there a way that I can avoid failing.

Past Census


Dear Past Census,

You are still in time to apply for a Discontinue Not to count as Fail grade (DNF). Look on your faculty website for details on how to do this. This means you will have no academic penalty, but will still be liable for fees. However, if you can show that you reasonably believed that you could complete the subject at the beginning of the year, then things disintegrated beyond your control, you may be able to apply for a refund. Ask an SRC caseworker for details based on your personal circumstances.


ASK ABE: Plagiarism

Dear Abe,

I was really pushed for time so I used something I read in an article for my assignment without putting it in the bibliography.  Now I’m in trouble for plagiarising.  My friend told me that if I tell them I didn’t mean to do it that I wouldn’t get into trouble.  I wanted to check what you thought.

Short Cut

Dear Short Cut,

You are already in trouble because you plagiarised.  The first thing you should do is talk to an SRC Caseworker about your situation.  We generally find it best to tell the truth about what you did and why.  Make sure you are diligent with future assessments, as the penalties become significantly more severe.  Be prepared to accept a zero for that assignment as a minimum penalty.  This usually means failing that subject.  Note here, that it is just as bad to copy from your own previous assignment, as it is another piece of work, without using correct referencing.



I am very confused about what the census date is.  This is my first semester.  Do I need to do anything or is it all automatic.



Dear Cen-suss,

The census date is always the 31th March and 31th August.  It means that whatever you are officially enrolled in on that day, you will be billed for.  This is for local students with HECS or for international students.  The census date is approaching now, so look carefully at all of your Units and make sure that you are happy to be doing the ones you are enrolled in. If you withdraw before the Census date you might avoid a later fail mark.  If you’re not sure what to do, talk to a faculty subject advisor.
Remember: if you are receiving Youth Allowance or Austudy you will need to maintain a minimum full time load, which is 18 credit points or more (24cp is the standard load).  If you have a “temporary incapacity” such as illness or a longer term disability that prevents you from studying full time then talk to SRC Help to see if you can get Centrelink on a lighter study load.


Abe’s answers can provide you with excellent insight and helpful tips for surviving as a student.
To ask Abe a question send an email to:



ASK ABE: Pregnant and don’t know what to do

Hello Abe,

My girlfriend is pregnant and I just don’t know what to do. If she wants to keep the baby I guess I’ll support her but I’ve only got 2 years to go in my course and I’d rather finish my studies then think about starting a family. I don’t even know if I love her or not. What would you suggest my options are?

Not Ready to Be a Daddy

Dear NRBD,

I’m sorry to hear that you’re in this situation. I would encourage anyone who is having sex to use a condom, as that is the only way to stop the spread of sexually transmitted infections. If you are in a monogamous relationship then you could consider some of the other contraceptives available. Now that your girlfriend is pregnant it would be a good idea for her to talk to a counsellor. The university has a free counselling service that keeps your issues confidential. You can talk to a doctor who is also bound to keep your situation confidential. Beware of counselors and doctors who give advice based on their personal beliefs rather than your welfare.

If you do decide to keep the baby then both you and her will need to negotiate your situation. You need to work out what you’re willing to commit to, and what else you will need. If you decide to terminate the pregnancy then you can talk about your choices with the doctor. Be aware also that this kind of stress will often impact upon a student’s ability to study effectively. If you find that you are too stressed to focus on your study talk to a caseworker at the SRC to get special consideration with your subjects.


ASK ABE: Centrelink cut-off

Hi Abe,
Centrelink want to cut me off my payment because they say I should have finished my degree by now. Do you know anything about that? PD.

Hi PD.,
What you’re talking about is called the Maximum Allowable Time for Completion. It affects lots of students. The basic principle behind it is that you are allowed to get paid until you have exceeded the amount of semesters it would take for most people to ordinarily complete their degree plus one extra semester. Sometimes it’s plus one year, but that’s only when your subjects are a year long. So if you’re doing an Arts degree that’s 3 years plus 1 semester full time equivalent. Remember that this tells them when you should be cut off. It is not dependent on whether you have received a payment for all of that time or not. If you have been studying longer than the Allowable Time talk to an SRC caseworker as they can advise you if you can get that time extended. You may have been part time in an earlier semester but they have counted it as full time or you may have not passed a semester for reasons beyond you control.

We have found some Medical and Vet students who have been incorrectly assessed. This is because they need another degree to be able to start their graduate degree. Their previous degree should not count. So medicine and vet is 5 years long, so they should be allowed 11 semesters at least – you may be able to argue that the subjects are a year long and therefore you should have 12 semesters to complete the course. If Centrelink tell you otherwise, it might be worth appealing this decision. I helped a student with this last year and he received a back payment of more than $5000.


ASK ABE: Fare Allowance to travel home

Hi Abe,

A friend from my home town says that people at their uni can travel back home for the holiday break for free on the trains. Do you know anything about that?

North Coast

Hi North Coast,

If you are on a Youth Allowance dependent (away from home) payment or if you are part of a Centrelink couple where you have to live away from the family home because of study Centrelink will give you a “Fare Allowance”. This is a reimbursement (you pay first) of the cheapest and most practical mode of transport to and from your family home. You’re entitled to this payment for each semester of study you attempt.


ASK ABE: Sexual Harrassment

Ordinarily, this column is hosted by Abe. However, as this is an autonomous wom*n’s edition, this week’s column will be hosted by Peek-a-Boo.

Disclaimer: This column can contain questions that are sent to us from current USYD students, however for this special women’s edition they are not from real people. We have decided to write fictitious questions based on fictitious scenarios to provide a space for the questions that many find hard to ask.

Dear Peek-a-Boo,

I am in my second year of uni and trying really hard to do well. I’ve been asking lots of questions during and after class in order to get a good idea on what to write in assignments. My tutor encourages me in class and as far as everyone else can see I am doing quite well. However, I think my tutor has taken things too far. He invited me to his office and touched my leg while he talked to me. I am very shy and am scared about what people will say about me if I tell them. I didn’t mean to confuse him about what I wanted and now I feel like I can’t go back to his class. I’ve missed four classes already. I have to do this subject at some point because it is compulsory. I really don’t know what to do.

Dear HG,

I’m really sorry to hear that you are feeling confused and scared. Most people will feel threatened, foolish and embarrassed under these circumstances, however it is normal to feel uncomfortable in the situation that your tutor has created and he has a responsibility to make sure that you are not intimidated by him.

The University has very strict policies on sexual harassment, which includes a safety net to ensure that your marks will not be affected if you make a complaint. You absolutely have the right to be safe at university, and no one has the right to touch you inappropriately without your consent. You have options on how to move forward, and you should consider all of them and their possible impacts on your education, health and wellbeing when considering what you would like to do.

I highly recommend talking to someone regardless of whether you want to make a complaint or not. You do not deserve to feel bad about what this person has done to you. The SRC has caseworkers you can talk to about the processes of making a sexual harassment complaint. They will explain how the university will go about investigating your allegation and what the possible outcomes are. There are also university staff members who can explain these processes. The SRC caseworkers can also suggest other courses of action you can consider. Remember, though, that it is ultimately your decision to take whatever action you choose. No woman deserves to be touched inappropriately or be made to feel uncomfortable or intimidated by another person, nor should any student experience threatening or intimidating behaviour from another person on campus. There are no excuses and no situations where it is ok.

The SRC Caseworkers are always happy to help and to discuss your options with you. You may also wish to seek the support of a women’s health service. Go to to find a service in your local area, or if you find it easier to access online services provides information for people who have experienced sexual harassment.

Remember, you are not alone and there are services and people out there who can help you.



Contact SRC Help for confidential professional and independent assistance with Harrassment or discrimination issues

Call to make an appointment with a caseworker or Drop-in (no appointment required): Tuesdays & Thursdays, between 1 and 3pm

9660 5222 |

ASK ABE: Not so Healthy Relationships

Ordinarily, this column is hosted by Abe. However, as this is an autonomous wom*n’s edition, this week’s column will be hosted by Peek-a-Boo.

Disclaimer: This column can contain questions that are sent to us from current USYD students, however for this special women’s edition they are not from real people. We have decided to write fictitious questions based on fictitious scenarios to provide a space for the questions that many find hard to ask.

Dear Peek-a-Boo,

My friend needs help. I think her partner stops her from doing assignments and going to uni.
I don’t really know what’s happening but I think her partner is jealous that she has something interesting to do that doesn’t include them. She’s told me that when she’s been studying or hanging out with her uni friends that her partner accuses her of cheating and lying about where she’s been. I know that my friend loves her partner very much and tries hard to please, but something doesn’t feel right to me. Is there anything I can do to help?

Worried Friend.


Dear Worried Friend,

Thank you for having the courage for saying something about your friend. Many people notice a friend in trouble and just hope it will  get better, without wanting to interfere.
From what you have said, it sounds like her partner is trying to control her, which is a form of domestic violence. We know from research that it is likely that controlling behaviours will escalate if there isn’t change in the relationship.
You can tell her that you’ve noticed that things can be difficult for her. Offer to help her with anything if she needs. It is likely that she will not take up your offer of help initially, but you being present in her life will be a great help.
Be aware that if her partner is controlling, they may try to push you out of her life. Try to be patient with her and stay on her side.

There are community organisations that can give you more information. Talk to an SRC caseworker about getting some contact details or take a look at for information on healthy relationships.

Peek-a-Boo (in lieu of Abe)


Contact SRC Help for confidential professional and independent assistance with Harrassment or discrimination issues

Call to make an appointment with a caseworker or Drop-in (no appointment required): Tuesdays & Thursdays, between 1 and 3pm

9660 5222 |