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Navigating Centrelink - tips for students.

Centrelink is a difficult organisation to deal with at the best of times. Here are some tips on how to jump through the hoops.


Most of your interactions with Centrelink will be online. This helps them to manage their huge workload with minimal staff but does not lead to you having a good experience or an easy time managing your payment.

Give them documents

When applying for a payment you will be required to provide them with a huge amount of information and documents. Your application will not usually be processed until they receive all of them, so take the time to double check that you have submitted everything they have requested. Unfortunately, some applications will take months to process, so it might be helpful for you to contact the Uni’s Financial Support Service to see if you are eligible for a scholarship, bursary, or loan.

While you are on a payment there will be some occasions where you will need to provide information and documents. Carefully note the dates they give you as missing a deadline may lead to a reduction or cancellation of your payment.

It is important to note that providing false information or documentation is considered fraud and may lead to prosecution. This might not just mean a reduction or cancellation of your payment, but it might also lead to criminal charges.

Tell them everything

Report any changes in your circumstances, even if you don’t think it is relevant. This includes moving house, getting a new housemate, changing subjects, getting an inheritance or scholarship, going overseas, or changes in your relationship status. Any unreported events can be used as a reason to reduce or cancel your payment.

Always report income when it is earned. It does not matter to them if you’ve been paid yet or not; it’s all about when you earn the money. If you are working while studying, the SRC has a leaflet about how your income affects your Centrelink payment. Use this information to calculate what your payment should be and if you notice any mistakes, talk to an SRC caseworker about your options.

What did you say

If you speak to a Centrelink staff member on the phone or in person, ask them for a receipt number for that conversation. Email that number together with a short description of what you discussed, to yourself, so that you can easily prove what you said if you ever need to in the future.

What did they say

Check your inbox regularly for messages, as it is assumed that you have read them. Respond as soon as possible to any requests to ensure that you do not miss any deadlines.

Centrelink are difficult to deal with

It’s not just you. They are difficult for everyone, starting with ridiculous wait times for telephone calls (about 2 hours), through to onerous application processes, and hefty penalties to people who simply cannot afford it. The SRC has lots of relevant leaflets that can give you more information on a range of Centrelink issues or if you have any questions talk to an SRC caseworker for free, independent, and confidential advice.

Additional Centrelink information: Payments for students Independence Parental income: Effect on payments Your Savings: Effect on payments Your Income: Effect on payments Relationships: Effects on payments

Need more help or advice?

If you need more advice about your specific situation contact an SRC Caseworker by completing the contact form (below) or call 9660 5222 and our reception team will complete the contact form with you.

Caseworker Contact Form


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