ASK ABE: Phone Debt

Dear Abe,

I just received a phone bill for $580. I don’t know what happened. Normally I pay a cap price of $50. I know I used a little more data this month, but that was because the internet wasn’t working at home and I had homework to do.
I can’t afford to pay that much. Can you help me?

Net Debt

…….

Dear Net Debt,

The SRC has a legal service that can help to consolidate (join together) all of your outstanding debts and contact your debtors. Unfortunately, if you were told about those extra charges, and you did use them, it is unlikely that you would be able to have them waived. However, you may be able to get a discount or at least get a payment plan through our solicitors’ negotiations.

Abe

ASK ABE: Do I need to pay to use an ambulance?

Dear Abe,

Is it true that you have to pay to use an ambulance?

Car Struck

——

Dear Car Struck,

Yes it is and they can be very expensive. The cost ranges from $252 to $5248 depending on the type of care and the distance travelled. If you have a Health Care Card or a Low Income Health Care Card (available to people earning less than $500 per week) you get a bunch of discounts including free ambulance in NSW.

If you have private health insurance you may also have ambulance cover. You can even get just ambulance cover starting at around $30 per year.

Also note that you will be billed regardless of whether you called the ambulance or not.

Abe

Ask Abe: Centrelink Over-payment

Dear Abe,

I have just received a letter from Centrelink saying that I have been overpaid. I had been reporting my income according to my jobs’ pay fortnight, but they wanted it to be according to their pay fortnight. I didn’t try to hide money from them. I’ve declared everything, but they’re getting really angry because it makes a difference to my student income bank.

Fortnight Mismatch

——

Dear Mismatch,

As you need to report your gross earnings you should be able to just keep records of the amount of hours you have worked during your Centrelink fortnight and multiply that by your hourly rate. That will help you for future reportings.

However, for this situation you need to first establish whether or not you have been overpaid. Ask for a copy of your file (Freedom of Information Act). Your file will be huge so it will take weeks to compile. Calculate what you should have been reporting and how this would have affected your Student Income Bank and therefore your payments. Of course you can ask the SRC for help with this.

In the meantime Centrelink will probably start taking money out of your payments to pay off the debt. If this will cause you extreme financial hardship contact Centrelink and see how small a payment they will allow you to have. Also consider going to the Financial Assistance Centre of the University to be able to pay it off as a lump sum. If you can show the debt to be incorrect you will be able to get this money back.

If they ask you to attend an interview in their offices I would advise you to decline, but instead offer to answer any written questions that they have. Do not do this without talking to SRC Help.

Abe

Ask Abe: Austudy – maximum allowable time for completion

Dear Abe,
I hope you can help me with a problem I have with Centrelink. I am in my third year of my medicine course and I am on an Austudy payment. Even though I didn’t receive anything while doing my Science degree, they say that it counts towards the amount of time I’m allowed to study and my payments will run out in the middle of the year. Is this true? And if so, what can I do?

Doctor in Trouble

—-

Dear Doctor in Trouble,

Centrelink should know better. The basic formula for the “maximum allowable time for completion” of your course is the normal length of your course plus the length of one subject. For example, for a Bachelor of Arts course that would be 3 years plus 1 semester. For a medical degree that would be 5 years plus arguably 1 semester (sometimes 1 year). In any case, the time that you took to do the Science degree does not count because it is part of THE way to gain entry into the Medical degree. That is, it is a graduate course. If it was not necessary then the time spent on that course would count. If this is confusing for you please contact SRC help to clarify your details.

Abe.

Hello Abe,
Even though it’s still really early in the semester I still feel that I’m heaps behind. I’ve got more assignments due than I know how to deal with. I’m starting to feel really stressed and finding my studies are suffering even more – it’s a vicious cycle. Can you give me some ideas that will help me?
Busy
_____________

Dear Busy,
This is the time of the semester when many students start to feel the pressure of assignments being due. Deal with each of those aspects one step at a time. Talk to your tutor now to see if you can arrange an extension. Talk to someone at Counselling and Psychological Services (Level 5, Jane Foss Russell Building) or the University’s Health Service (Level 3, Wentworth Building).

The Learning Centre runs free courses for time management. This can help you get your uni work under control while still having a social life. Check out their website at: usyd.edu.au/stuserv/learning_centre. Go to Student Resources then Module 10. This is an online resource for you to work through in your own time. It’s all really commonsense stuff but makes a real difference when you follow it.

Look at the CAPS website. Workshops coming up soon are listed at: sydney.edu.au/current_students/counselling/workshops/list-of-workshops/index.shtml You can also make an appointment with a counsellor to get individualised advice or thoughts on specific strategies.

If you’ve done all of these things and still can’t cope with your workload you might like to talk to an SRC caseworker about the possibility of withdrawing from a subject. This may attract an academic penalty, but you can at least check out what your options are. If you are on a Centrelink payment tell your caseworker as this might alter how you reduce your workload.

A final word of caution, when students feel pressured they can sometimes be less vigilant about referencing and proper paraphrasing when they write essays. If you know that you are cutting corners it is best to get help before handing your essays in. Talk to a lecturer, the Learning Centre, counsellor or SRC caseworker and ask for help. This is better than putting in an essay you know is not up to your usual standard and then being found guilty of plagiarism.
Abe

Managing Anxiety and your studies

Dear Abe,

Every semester I do really well in the first few weeks, then as the assignments start to come in, I get really stressed out to the point where I stop eating and have insomnia. I don’t have any friends to talk to about this, and my mum just thinks I’m being a sook. I really want to do well this semester so I can graduate and get a job. What advice would you have for me?
Determined.

———
Dear Determined,

I’m sorry to hear that you have been so stressed for so long. It actually sounds like you suffer from anxiety. That’s not being a sook. That’s having a legitimate medical condition. I would urge you to see a doctor to talk about it. Sometimes doctors aren’t very good at helping people with illnesses like that, so if you need help finding a good doctor that bulk bills ask an SRC caseworker. You can also register with the disabilities unit. You might be able to get later deadlines for assignments and extra time in exams. Try to be realistic about what you can achieve in a semester. It is far better to enroll in 2 subjects and pass them, than to enroll in 4 subjects and fail 2 of them. I understand that there are restrictions on the number of subjects you need to do to receive a Centrelink payment or satisfy visa conditions, but you may be able to gain an exemption. If you are not sure where to start make an appointment with an SRC caseworker.

Abe

Abe is the SRC’s welfare dog. This column offers students the opportunity to ask questions on anything. This can be as personal as a question on a Centrelink payment or as general as a question on the state of the world. Send your questions to help@src.usyd.edu.au. Abe’s answers can provide you excellent insight.

Ask Abe – How to Discontinue but NOT Fail

Dear Abe,

Is it true that I can change all of my subject choices before the end of March? The Faculty says that I could only do
that in week one. What is the real story?

Changeable

—-

Dear Changeable,

You cannot enroll in new classes after 14th March. In fact it’s probably not a good idea to enroll past week one mainly because you would have missed out on vital information in the first week of classes.

You can however ‘withdraw’ before the “HECS census date”. This will give you no academic penalty and no financial penalty if you are a local student or little financial penalty for International students.

If you drop a subject after the census date, but before the end of week 7 (17th April – remember, the 18th is a public holiday so the end of the week is Thursday not Friday) you will receive a Discontinue Not Fail (DNF). A DNF does not count as a fail on your transcript, however you are liable for fees.

There are occasions where you have extraordinary circumstances that mean you have to discontinue from studies at a later date. Come and see SRC HELP caseworkers for advice about late DNF applications and possible fee refund applications.

Abe

——

Abe is the SRC’s welfare dog. This column offers students the opportunity to ask questions on anything. This can be as personal as a question on a Centrelink payment or as general as a question on the state of the world. Send your questions to help@src.usyd.edu.au. Abe’s answers can provide you excellent insight.

Ask Abe – Tenancy

Hi Abe,

I moved into a place in Stanmore at the beginning of February. I paid my bond and 4 weeks rent in advance. Now that I’ve lived there a while I really hate it and want to move out. The house itself is dark and gloomy and I don’t really like my neighbourhood. I told my landlord but she said I had to stay until the end of my contract. This is a real problem because I’ve already signed a lease for another room in a different house. Please help me.

Doubled Up

—–

Dear Doubled Up,

There are 2 types of renters: tenants and borders/lodgers. Tenants are covered by the Residential Tenancy Act (2010). It sets down rules for both you and your landlord. In the situation you have described you want to “break your lease early”. As a tenant you would have to pay a penalty of between 4 and 6 weeks rent in addition to rent up on till the day you move out. If you have maintained your room in good order you should receive a refund of your bond.

You may be able to convince your landlord to let you find someone else to take over your lease in exchange for no or a reduced penalty. They are under no obligation to do this.

If you are a border/lodger you are covered by the contract that you signed. There is usually some clause in there about how to break the contract early. Again, you may be able to convince your landlord to allow you to find someone to take over your contract. If this doesn’t work you might like to speak to the SRC Lawyer about breaking your contract with as little financial penalty as possible.

Abe

Abe is the SRC’s welfare dog. This column offers students the opportunity to ask questions on anything. This can be as personal as a question on a Centrelink payment or as general as a question on the state of the world. Send your questions to help@src.usyd.edu.au. Abe gathers his answers from experts in a number of areas. Coupled with his own expertise on dealing with people, living on a low income and being a dog, Abe’s answers can provide  you excellent insight.

Abe gives tips for success at uni

Dear Abe,

I’ve attended all of the sessions and stalls available at O week.  I was wondering if there was anything else I needed to know to be able to do well at this degree.

Just a Little Bit


Dear Just a Little Bit,

I’ve seen lots of different types of people go through uni and I reckon there’s a bit of a recipe for success.

Attend all of your classes and do all of your readings.  This sounds like more work than just bluffing your way through tutorials, but you’ll actually pick things up much quicker and have a better understanding of the material.  Assessments and exams will also be easier to prepare for and you will score better marks.  Most importantly you are less likely to fail anything, meaning you won’t have to repeat a subject.

Check out the Learning Centre courses as soon as you can.  Some people say they have no time to do these extra courses, but actually putting in the time for them now, will save you heaps of time later.  Generally speaking people who get help from the learning centre will improve their marks by one grade.  That is, if you had got a pass for that assignment you’d probably get a credit with the Learning Centre’s help.  Check out their website too, they have great modules on referencing properly, time management and a bunch of other topics.

Deal with any problems you have during the semester WHEN THEY HAPPEN.  Talk to SRC HELP or someone in the Faculty to get whatever it is you need.
Most of all allow yourself to have fun.  This should be an awesome time of your life.

Abe

Abe is the SRC’s welfare dog.  This column offers students the opportunity to ask questions on anything.  This can be as personal as a question on a Centrelink payment or as general as a question on the state of the world.  Send your questions to help@src.usyd.edu.au.  Abe gathers his answers from experts in a number of areas.  Coupled with his own expertise on dealing with people, living on a low income and being a dog, Abe’s answers can provide you excellent insight.