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.


Exams – Tips for less stress and success


With exams coming up you might want some advice and tips from the University experts on dealing with exams and stress – see below.

USYD Learning Centre: (Information courtesy of:

I want some help managing my time to study for exams.

  • It usually helps to make a detailed plan for the time between now and your exam.
  • Make your plan as accurate as possible. Remember to include the time you need for transport, eating, family, work, sleep, etc.

Update your plan each day.

  • Find out as soon as possible what topics you need to study, and work out how much time you have for each topic before the exam.
  • At the end of each time you study, look at your plan and consider what you have achieved. Before you leave your desk, make a list for what you will need to cover the next time you sit down to study.

Here are some tips for using your time efficiently:

  • If you can, choose the best time to study when you are naturally alert and focussed. For example, if you are a ‘morning person’, don’t try to study late at night.
  • Before each task, remind yourself of its specific purpose. For example, do you really need to read the whole chapter, or do you just need to check the paragraph about one particular topic?
  • If you lose concentration while you are reading or studying, stop. Think about how this paragraph fits into the big picture. Is it important?
  • Skim-read every article or book chapter before you read it in full. That is, first read the title, abstract, introduction, headings/topic sentences and conclusion. What is the main topic and purpose of this article, book, chapter or section?
  • How does this fit into the big picture of what you are learning?
  • If you find that you are procrastinating (e.g. spending your time on things which are a low priority), stop and deal with it immediately.

I want some help managing stress, anxiety or nervousness about exams.

The first way to reduce any stress, anxiety or nervousness about exams is to be prepared.

  • Find out as early as possible what topics will be included in the exam.
  • Also find out as early as possible what the type and conditions of the exam are (e.g. How long? Where? Open book?
  • Essay questions, short answers or multiple choice?)
  • Make a plan for revision of the important topics, early in the semester.
  • Look at some exam papers from previous years and practise writing answers.
  • You can look for past exam papers in the library. You can also ask your lecturer and the office of your faculty, school and/or department.
  • There are also a number of strategies you can use to boost your confidence and calm.
  • Discuss the exam with other students beforehand, including any worries, but also the topics that you feel confident about.
  • Lower the stress hormones in your body through physical exercise.
  • Familiarise yourself with the environment of the exam.
  • Remind yourself of the positive points: e.g. You have successfully completed other exams before, and you have prepared for this, so this exam will probably be OK too.
  • On the day of the exam, wear something you feel good in, and take along helpful things, such as a water bottle and your favourite pen.

Remember though if you have any have any problems before, in or after the exams feel free to consult with a SRC Caseworker – call 9660 5222 for an appointment.
Also be aware that the SRC can loan you a calculator if you forget or just don’t have one for your exam – come down to the SRC at level 1 of the Wentworth Building

CAPS Exam Anxiety Management workshop

The Counselling Service (CAPS) is running a workshop on Exam Anxiety Management – Learn practical strategies for coping with exam and performance anxiety on Wednesaday 4th June, 1 – 2pm.
If you would like to attend the workshop please arrive at the CAPS reception (Level 5, Jane Foss Russell Building) 10 minutes prior to the start of the workshop.

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 |

Free Health Care – Get It While You Can

Low income earners may be able to get a Low Income Health Care Card that entitles you to a range of services for free or cheap. This includes reduced price pharmaceuticals (about $6), free emergency ambulance, free lenses and glasses frames, and free hearing aids. It can also help you to negotiate reduced prices for movie tickets, physiotherapy, chiropracty, acupuncture, etc.

To be considered a low income earner you need to be earning, on an 8 week average, less than $519 (as a single person with no dependents). This is not available to international students. If you currently receive a Centrelink payment you should already have a Health Care Card.

ASK ABE: From the Country

Hi Abe,

I am from country New South Wales. I have a large family
that I miss very much. Uni is frankly giving me the shits.
I’m finding it really hard to get through my studies. Is it too late to quit now? Will I get any credit for the work I’ve already done? What should I do?

Country Boy

Hi Country Boy,

I am really sorry to hear that you’re having such a difficult time. There are a few options for you to consider. You can discontinue your studies for this semester. However, you will not get any credit for the work you’ve done this semester. You can only get credit for subjects you have successfully completed. I think you should talk to a counselor about your situation. You may be able to develop techniques that will help you cope with your homesickness. This might allow you to complete this semester. Having said that if you do want to discontinue some or all of your subjects talked to the SRC about the process you should use.


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.


The Serious Consequences of Ignoring Fines

If you get a traffic fine as a result of an Infringement Notice or Penalty Notice issued by the Police, local government authorities or other prosecuting agencies, you should not ignore it. Read it carefully and make sure you understand the alleged offences for which you have been fined. Most importantly, take note of the due date on the fine.

If you do nothing about the notice before the due date, State Debt & Recovery Office will send you a penalty reminder notice, which gives you a further 28 days to deal with the fine.

What to do about your traffic fine? Your options are:

Pay the penalty amount in full

Pay the penalty amount by part payments, as long as it is paid in full before the due date listed on the penalty reminder notice

Ask for an internal review if you think there are any issues with the fine
Elect to have the matter heard in a Local Court (but make sure you receive legal advice before doing this.)

There is a deadline for all of these options. If you miss a deadline the option may be lost. For example, a court election date may apply despite a pending internal review.

What if you don’t do anything?

There are serious consequences for ignoring a fine, financially and legally. If you default on a fine, the amount of money you owe will increase due to enforcement actions. Your driver licence could be cancelled or suspended. You could have your car registration cancelled, your wages taken in part to repay the fine, your assets seized or you could be ordered to do community service. Worse case scenario, you could even be sentenced to do community service (as an alternative to a sentence of a period of imprisonment), depending on the seriousness of the case and the extent of your debt.

How can SRC Legal Service assist you?

We can discuss your alleged offence with you and explore the options you have.
If you decide to pay the fine but have difficulties financially, we can help you work out a repayment plan that works for you and help you apply for an appropriate repayment plan.

If there are special circumstances which we think the issuing authority should look at before they decide to pursue the fine, we can help you write to the issuing authority for an internal review.

If there is room for challenging the fine after unsatisfactory internal review, we can also represent you in court on the condition that there is a reasonable prospect of success after reviewing all your evidences.Seek leniency from the court

To make an appointment with the SRC Legal Service, call the SRC office on 02 9660 5222.

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.