This information is intended to serve as a general guide to Centrelink payments for students. For specific information contact an SRC caseworker. If you are unsure about whether you are eligible for a payment, you should always apply. Email yourself receipt numbers of any conversations you have with any Centrelink staff at any time, together with a brief description of what you spoke about, so that you have a record in future if you need it.
There are three main fortnightly Centrelink payments for full time students:
Youth Allowance (student) – For students under 25 years old, whether “independent” or “dependent”.
Abstudy – For Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students.
Austudy – For students 25 years and over (at the time you apply). You are automatically considered “independent”. To get any payment you need to first “qualify” then be “payable”.
A student must be full-time, studying 75% or more of a HECs load for a “teaching period”. The first teaching period starts at the beginning of January and finishes at the end of June, that includes the summer intensives and first semester. The second teaching period starts at the beginning of July and finishes at the end of the year, that includes the winter intensives plus second semester. A student must also:
- Be a citizen or resident of Australia for at least 2 years, with no indication that they will not remain a resident, and in Australia at the time of making a claim.
- Study an approved course, e.g., all undergraduate degrees and some Masters degrees at the University of Sydney.
- (For Austudy) Not have completed a doctorate.
- Have assets that do not exceed $280,000 (or higher under special circumstances).
- Not exceed the “allowable time”. This is normally the minimum time to complete the current course plus one semester. Austudy also looks at study in past degrees at the same level, e.g., both Bachelors degrees. Part time study (less than 75%) is counted as half a semester when calculating allowable time. Sometimes failed subjects may be exempt from being counted where there have been “special circumstances”.
Students who are part time due to circumstances outside of their control, e.g., subjects not offered, may qualify for YA (jobseeker) or JobSeeker Payment. Students who are too unwell to study full time may be eligible for Youth Allowance (temporary incapacity) or Sickness Allowance (Austudy). Students with a disability may be eligible for a reduced study load or in some circumstances, the Disability Support Pension, with a Pensioner Education Supplement.
To be considered “independent” by Centrelink a student must either:
- Be 22 years or more for Youth Allowance, or 25 years or more at the time of applying for Austudy. If a student is receiving Youth Allowance and turns 25 years, they continue receiving Youth Allowance.
- Be “unreasonable to live at home” because the relationship with their parent/s or other member of the house, has broken down. It may also be considered “unreasonable to live at home” due to extreme circumstances, including physical, emotional, or sexual violence, perpetrated to someone in the home.
- Have worked at least 30 hours a week on average over 18 months in any previous 2 year period.
- Be classified as an “inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote student” who has either:
- earnt over $28,859 from paid employment over any consecutive 14 month period since leaving school (less for periods before Jan 2020), or
- worked at least 15 hours per week for at least two years since leaving school.
- have parent/s who earnt less than $160,000 (higher if there are more children in the family) in the last tax year and leaves the family home because it is more than 90 minutes away from university by public transport
- Have been married, in a registered relationship, or in a de-facto relationship for more than 12 months. (Having a partner may mean that your partner’s income and assets will be assessed)
- Be an orphan, have been in state care, or be a refugee.
- Have parent/s who cannot exercise their responsibilities
- Have or have had a dependent child
If a student is not considered “independent” by Centrelink they are “dependent”, and their parent/s income and assets are assessed for payability, even if the student does not receive any support from their parent/s. Centrelink will assess the parent/s income using the Parental Income Test, and the student’s income using the Personal Income Test and will use whichever is greater.
MAXIMUM RATES PAID
Circumstances and income determine the amount of the payment. The maximum rates per fortnight are:
- $389.40 for the “at home” or “accommodated” rate (living in your parent/s home); or
- $562.80 for the “away from home” rate (“independent” or “dependent” but unable to study while living at home because of the study space or the distance from campus)
Students on the “away from home” rate may also be eligible for an additional Rent Assistance payment. This is added to Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy – not paid on its own. It is not available to students who rent from their parent/s. For students who share a house the maximum Rent Assistance is $101.70 per fortnight, while those who live on their own can receive a maximum of $151.60 per fortnight.
THE INCOME TESTS
Students who are “independent” and have no “partner” are assessed using the Personal Income Test. Students who are “independent” with a “partner” are assessed on both incomes using the Partner Income Test and the Personal Income Test. Students who are “dependent” are assessed on either a Parental Income Test or their Personal Income Test, whichever is greater.
THE PERSONAL INCOME TEST
Centrelink understands many students work more during holidays and the Student Income Bank (SIB) is designed to average out the impact of earnings. Each fortnight $480 is added to the SIB. If the amount of income earned in that fortnight is equal to or less than the SIB, there is no reduction to the Centrelink payment. The new SIB balance is the original SIB minus the income earned in that fortnight. If the amount of income earned in that fortnight is more than the SIB, the SIB balance becomes zero. The reduction of Centrelink payment is based on the amount of income earned minus the SIB. Payments are reduced by $0.50 for each dollar of gross income over $480, up to $575 per fortnight. Gross income over $575 per fortnight reduces payments by $0.60 for every dollar. If a student earns more than $1152.50 for the “at home rate” or $1445.5 for the “away from home” rate, they will not receive a Centrelink payment for that fortnight. The maximum the SIB can accumulate to is $12,000.
THE PARTNER INCOME TEST
If a partner’s income exceeds the “partner income free area”, the student’s payment will be reduced. The “partner income free area” is $1,117 per fortnight if the partner is aged under 22yrs or $1,196 per fortnight if the partner is 22yrs or over. The amount of partner income that exceeds the “partner income free area”, reduces the student’s payment by $0.60 per dollar. This figure increases if the partner has dependent children and different rules apply if the partner receives a pension.
THE PARENTAL INCOME TEST
Centrelink assesses the parental income of “dependent” students. Income can include combined parental taxable income, income from overseas, adjusted fringe benefits, maintenance payments from a former partner and net passive business losses. If parental income in the current tax year changes by 25% or more, Centrelink may use an estimate for the current year. Centrelink will not look at parental income for the period when one parent has a designated income support payment from Centrelink, or holds a Low Income Health Care Card. Where parents are separated, the student is only considered “dependent” on the parent they live with, or last lived with, and sometimes any new partner that parent has.
THE PARENT INCOME TEST – CUT OUT POINTS
If combined parental income is less than $58,108 a year, the student can receive the full payment. If parental income exceeds the “cut out” point the student will not receive a payment. If the parental income is between $58,108 and the “cut out” point, they will receive a reduced rate of payment by $0.20 for every extra dollar over $58,108. The “cut out” point varies according to the student’s family situation.
1 child >18yrs at home $108,730 per year
1 child >18yrs away from home $131,272
2 children >18yrs at home $159,352
1 child >18yrs at home, and 1 child >18yrs away from home $181,894
2 children >18yrs away from home $204,436
Both the student and their sibling need to apply and be considered dependent and eligible for Youth Allowance to get the benefit of this “sharing” of the income test.
To get an indication of the Parental Income Test “cut out” point:
- Use the current maximum fortnightly rate for each dependent child over 16 but under 22 [$389.40 at home or $562.80 ‘away from home’]
- If there is more than one dependent student, add the amounts of their maximum payment
- Multiply that by 130
- Then add the parental “cut in” point [$58,108] to find the “cut out” point.
WARNING – THIS IS AN INDICATIVE GUIDE ONLY. If you are in doubt, apply and have it assessed by Centrelink.
PAYMENT START DATE
It usually takes Centrelink many weeks to assess applications, but they will pay a lump sum back to the date of application if you qualify and are payable at that date. Students may face further delays in payments due to “Waiting” or “Penalty Periods”. These are also calculated from the date of application. The most common waiting period is the Liquid Assets Waiting Period. If a student has $5,500 or more in liquid assets (e.g., cash, trust funds, shares), their payment is delayed one week for every $500 over $5,500, to a maximum of 13 weeks. A student’s liquid assets can be reduced by the amount of their immediate study expens
STUDENT START UP LOAN
The Student Start Up Loan is an optional loan of $1,202 for students available two times a year. Loans are tax free and are repaid through the same system as HECS. They are interest free, however, they are subject to indexation under the same arrangement as HECS.
Information updated after 31 Jan, 2023. (CL-PAY) Important Notice and Disclaimer: This information does not constitute legal advice. Check with a caseworker for the most up-to-date information. Do not accept verbal advice by itself from any source including Centrelink. Get a decision in writing. Without this subsequent appeals or backdating are at risk.