Centrelink is a difficult organisation to deal with at the best of times. The bureaucratic hurdles are so high that many people walk away without getting the payment they deserve, so it may benefit you to know the basics.

Centrelink deals with thousands of people everyday. Everyone has dozens of documents to process. It is not unheard of that something might go missing or be incorrectly processed. For this reason, keep copies of all of your documents, and email yourself receipt numbers for every conversation you have in person or on the phone. You will probably never need to recall that information, but if they lose one of your payments, or if they accuse you of being overpaid, you’ll be very glad you keep those records.

The delay in getting your first payment can be months. That means a long time without money. Talk to an SRC caseworker about your options in the meantime.

Centrelink workers are overworked and underpaid and sometimes not very well trained. Try to be patient with them. It is not the workers’ fault that you have to wait up to two hours just to get through to them on the phone. Plan ahead and have something else to do while you wait. The same applies when going to your local office.

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 cut off your payment. Make sure you keep proof that you reported these changes, just in case they make a mistake in processing it.

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, have a look on the SRC website for the leaflet on the Student Income Bank. This way you can calculate how much your payment should be, so you know if they have calculated the amount correctly. If you notice any mistakes, talk to an SRC caseworker about your options.

Read everything they send you. We know they send many, many letters and emails, about many, many (often irrelevant) things. However, you have to read them. You are assumed to have read them when it comes to challenging Centrelink decisions in courts.

If you have any questions at all about Centrelink send an email to help@src.usyd.edu.au. The SRC Casework Service is happy to offer free, independent, and confidential advice.

Contact us via email to help@src.usyd.edu.au or call 9660 5222 to book an appointment

Additional Centrelink information:

Payments for students


Parental income: Effect on payments

Your Savings: Effect on payments

Your Income: Effect on payments

Relationships: Effects on payments