Youth Allowance: How to Qualify as “Independent”

Youth Allowance is a payment available to Australian full-time students who meet a certain set of criteria. Sometimes it is available to students who are considered dependent on their parents. However this is assessed on your parents combined gross income. There are a few ways of being considered independent, and therefore not assessed on your parents’ income, but rather your own.

The easiest way to be deemed independent is to be 22 years or older. If you come from a country area you may be able to claim independence through previous work. However this is fairly rare. You may also be able to claim independence by virtue of being in a marriage like relationship. You will need to have been in this relationship for no less than 12 months while sharing a home, sharing bills and income, having a permanent outlook to your relationship, and being able to show that your family and friends view your relationship as permanent. Another way to prove independence is to show that it is “unreasonable to live at home”.

“Unreasonable to live at home” is a specific term that has a particular definition. It indicates that there is extreme family breakdown or other similar exceptional circumstances. It may indicate that there is a serious risk to your physical or mental well being due to violence, sexual abuse or other similar unreasonable circumstances. It is also considered unreasonable to live at home if your parent/s are unable to provide a suitable home owing to a lack of stable accommodation.

Of course there are lots of details and conditions that you should know about.  Contact an SRC caseworker if you would like to apply.

Special consideration for student carers

If you are sick or have experienced some misadventure that has stopped you from being able to complete an assessment or exam you can claim Special Consideration.
However, did you know that this includes being a carer for someone who is sick? Of course there are conditions. For example, you have to be their primary carer, and be able to prove that. The University’s policy says:
Students who bear a primary carer responsibility toward another person at the time of an assessment may also apply for special consideration on the basis of illness, injury or misadventure on the part of the person for whom they care if their ability to prepare for or perform the assessment is adversely affected.

So if you are in that situation, get the appropriate documentation and apply before the 5 day deadline.
If it is a situation that you can foresee, then you should talk to your teacher about getting special arrangements instead of special consideration. This might include doing your exam earlier or having a different type of assessment or something else we haven’t thought of.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker
call 9600 5222 to make an appointment or

For more information for student carers support and advocacy see:

Trouble getting your equipment bond back?

The SRC Legal Service recently assisted Christine Joseph and other undergraduate students at the Westmead Centre for Oral Health (WCOH).In 2011 over one hundred WCOH and Dentistry students were asked to lodge a $300 bond. The bond is mandatory at the start of the degree to all undergraduate Oral Health students. A receipt number was issued by the Centre to each student. The Centre staff verbally advised that this UGP bond would be returned to the students upon completion of their subject, provided they were “‘liability free’.

To be ‘liability free’, the students needed to promptly submit an ‘End of Year Clearance’ Form at the end of their degree in 2013 by a tight deadline nominated by the Centre. A memo was sent out to the students accordingly. Failing to follow the Centre procedure could mean  no ‘clearance’.

The students were also told by the Centre that the refund process usually takes approximately six weeks. Despite ongoing follow up by the students directly with the centre, and some intervention by the University faculty, no refund was paid almost six months after the students lodged their clearance forms. SRC Legal understands $31,500.00 UGP funds refundable to the 2013 graduates were held by the Centre on an interest free basis.

After SRC Legal took up the issue, the Centre responded to process the refund within a day.

If you experience a similar problem or know someone who has, please come and have a chat with our friendly solicitors at the SRC Legal Service. We are an independent free student legal service provided by the Students’ Representative Council for undergraduate students at Sydney University. We strive to empower under-represented uni-students. You can find our office on level 1 (the basement, Wentworth building, City Road.

To see an SRC Legal Service Solicitor call 9600 5222 to make an appointment.

Have you been overpaid by Centrelink?

If Centrelink writes to say you’ve been overpaid Youth Allowance or Austudy and owe them money don’t ignore it.  Deal with it straight away and quickly.

An overpayment occurs if you get paid too much. Check their letter. It may be because they think you have not declared your correct income or have not told them that you have gone part-time (i.e less than 18 cp per semester)

Check the facts. Check your University or financial records to see if you really have been overpaid.  You may need to ask for a copy of your Centrelink ‘file’ too.

If the debt is legitimate, check that it is the correctly calculated amount.  They deal with thousands of people everyday.  It would not be unheard of for them to make a mistake. Did they get the dates and amounts right? If they got it wrong then appeal.

If you have had a problem (“breach”) with them before you may also be charged a further 10% penalty.  They can give you this penalty also if you have been reckless or misleading when giving them information. You can appeal a 10% penalty too.

Ideally you would pay off your debt as quickly as possible.  Talk to the University’s Financial Assistance Office to see if they will give you an interest free loan.  Paying them quickly will show Centrelink that you genuinely want to mend the error of your ways.  But if you have no way of paying it off, negotiate a payment plan with them.  They can also take it out of your on-going Centrelink payment. They may want to take more money than you can afford.  Be prepared to explain to them how this will cause you financial hardship by outlining how much you spend on things like rent, food and medication. The main thing is to keep in contact with them.

If you have deliberately given incorrect information that has caused an overpayment, this is a serious issue.  For example, if you have been working, but have not declared you income, and you have accumulated a debt of over $10, 000 (or lower in some other circumstances) Centrelink will not only have you repay the debt but also try to prosecute you for fraud, which can carry a sentence of up to 12 months in gaol. The SRC strongly recommends that you consult with an SRC caseworker before talking to Centrelink. In general we suggest you only consider answering questions in writing, and do not answer any questions in a recorded interview.

If you have been overpaid because of a mistake that they made, not due to incorrect or false information from you, then you may be able to keep that money even though it is an overpayment.  There are some reasonably rare occasions where you may be able to get your debt written off or waived (cancelled).  Of course there are conditions.  Talk to an SRC caseworker about this too.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker
call 9600 5222 to make an appointment or email:

Have you come across ads online offering false medical certificates? Has anyone ever suggested you get one to use for Special Consideration? Ever considered making your own medical certificate? If you answered yes or maybe, then our strong advice is DON’T!! Just don’t do it.

Did we mention, this is not a good idea….at all….EVER.

There are a number of other reasons we say this. First and foremost because in creating, buying and/or submitting a false medical certificate you are committing FRAUD. This isn’t just against University rules, it’s also against the law, federal law, and potentially carries the risk of a prison sentence of twelve months, if prosecuted by the police.

Sounds serious right! It is! The University also treats this as Academic Misconduct and is referred to the University’s Registrar who appoints a solicitor to investigate. What may have seemed a quick and harmless way to gain special consideration may suddenly find you suspended for a semester or two, or even at risk of being kicked out of Uni. Think how hard it would be trying to explain to your family why have suddenly stopped attending Uni.

Beware, the University knows there are false medical certificates out there. Your Faculty receives hundreds of medical certificates every semester. They know what to look for, so their ability to identify a medical document that doesn’t look right is pretty high. This might be because the certificate looks unusual, or a high number of medical certificates are coming from the same medical practitioner or practice. Faculties routinely check the authenticity of medical documents with medical practices and practitioners, so submitting false documentation is far from “the perfect crime” and more likely to result in you facing serious misconduct allegations and potential police investigations if the University also decides to refer the matter to the police. Is it really worth it?

If you are stressed or struggling to the point that you even consider obtaining a false medical certificate, your best option is to talk to someone about what’s going on. You could speak to an adviser in your Faculty, a Counsellor at the University’s Counselling and Psychological Services, or an SRC HELP Caseworker. You can help explore other ways you might be able to manage your study load without risking far more serious consequences in the long term.

If you need to see a doctor, but your regular one is not available, look for a medical centre nearby, or attend the casualty unit at your local hospital.  If you are too sick to move you can get an after hours doctor to visit your home.  Check for details on the internet.

To see an SRC Help Caseworker
call 9600 5222 to
make an appointment or

ASK ABE: Strained living at home

Dear Abe,

I am currently staying with my girlfriend in her parents’ house. Her parents are really lovely, but I think it is causing a strain in all of our relationships. I moved out of my house because things were really awful there. Do you know if there is cheap housing available through the university?


Dear Strained,

I am sorry to hear that things are awful in your home. If it is because of physical, emotional or sexual violence you may be eligible for Youth Allowance (Unreasonable To Live At Home). Alternatively if you are over 22 years you would also be considered “independent”.

Hopefully that will help with your finances.

The University used to have 40 low rent beds available but I do not think they are available any more. The University has plans of building new accommodation (eg, Urbanest in Darlington, and Queen Mary in Camperdown), but it is completely unclear if there are going to be low rent beds or if there are going to be scholarships for the rent. Either way, the University has not announced how many beds will be provided. With over 51,000 students the only low rent accommodation available are the 38 beds offered at STUCCO. This is the student housing co-operative situated in Newtown.

In terms of emergency or temporary housing while you’re trying to get somewhere permanent to stay you can talk to SRC Help for some ideas. This way you can preserve your relationship with your girlfriend and her parents.


Help for Students with a Disability & Student Carers

Did you know the university has a service to assist students with a disability to access reasonable adjustments in managing their studies?
Disability Services works closely with the university’s administration and faculties to support students with a disability whether it be physical, sensory, intellectual or  psychological. If you find that your health is causing problems with your studies in an on-going way or that you are repeatedly applying for Special Consideration for your condition, Disability Services may be able to help you.
Check out their website to see if you are eligible and how to register:

Disability Services are located within Student Support Services – Level 5, Jane Foss Russell Building (G02), City Rd, Darlington Campus.
Are you a carer of someone with a disability?

The SRC Disabilities & Carers Collective meets regularly to provide student carers with information and support, and to lobby the university for carer rights. Anyone is welcome to meetings and you can follow their Facebook page “USYDdisabilities.carers”. Alternatively you can check out their webpage:  or email them at:

Do you need special consideration?

Special consideration is different to a disability plan. If you are not able to complete an assessment due to your disability, this should be accommodated by you disability plan. If you are not able to complete an assessment due to an unexpected exacerbation of an existing condition, or an illness or misadventure that has nothing to do with your disability you are able to ask for special consideration. As with all Special Consideration requests, make sure you get a specific additional Professional Practitioner’s Certificate on the day of your assessment to show how severely affected you were, and how you were affected, eg, unable to do exam or attend a lab.

Libraries, Libraries all around.

Libraries, Libraries all around.

You really shouldn’t rely solely on Wikipedia to research your assignments. (Or possibly at all.) Every Faculty has a library that specialises in information relevant to your course. These libraries vary in size and are generally located near your lectures. There is a Faculty Liaison Librarian who is able to help you navigate the resources available to you. You can ask questions at the help desk or you can email them.

The libraries are also where you’ll find some computers and photocopy machines. They also tend to have some of the loveliest sun shiny spots. If you manage to avoid snoring, you should be able to have a little kip there to rejuvenate yourself in time for your next set of study tasks.

Please BE AWARE: thieves also find libraries great places to hang out and pick up your stuff. Make sure you are careful with phones, computers, wallets, etc.

International Students – “Health Insurance Holiday Credit”

Did you know you may be able to apply for a “holiday credit” on your health insurance for the time you are not in Australia?

For those with coverage from OSHC Worldcare you need to be out of Australia for 30 days or more, and be able to present your passport, boarding passes or travel tickets. This credit cannot be paid out until the end of your degree.

If your coverage is with another company call them to see if they have a similar arrangement. You must apply within 30 days of returning, so

Contact SRC Help 9660 5222 |

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.