Centrelink is the federal government program that deals with all welfare payments. All Centrelink payments are means-tested and have residency requirements. Our general advice regarding payments is: if you think you might be eligible but are not sure, apply anyway. If your application is rejected, you have the right to appeal.
Most postgraduate students who are eligible for payments need to be enrolled full time in an approved degree.
All graduate certificates and graduate diplomas are approved for Centrelink payments.
Only a few master’s coursework degrees are approved. Find out if your degree is approved for Austudy payments(scroll to pages 27–28 for University of Sydney degrees).
Unfortunately, research degrees (e.g. Master of Philosophy and PhD) are not approved courses for Austudy or Youth Allowance for students. If you’re a part-time HDR student, you may be eligible for a JobSeeker payment.
If you receive a Centrelink payment and your study circumstances change it is important that you report this to Centrelink within 14 days of the change, or you could face possible fraud charges and be forced to pay back money. Changes to your circumstances can include:
ABSTUDY provides a range of payments for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students in approved degrees. Find out if you’re eligible for ABSTUDY.
Unlike Austudy and Youth Allowance, you may be eligible for ABSTUDY if you are studying a research master’s or doctorate and not receiving any other financial support.
If you receive Austudy, Youth Allowance, or ABSTUDY and pay rent, you may also be entitled to Rent Assistance. If you receive a Centrelink payment you will be automatically assessed for Rent Assistance.
A Health Care Card (HCC) enables you to access free or low-cost dental care, discounted prescription medications, and concessions on energy bills and water rates. If you receive Austudy, Youth Allowance, or ABSTUDY you will be automatically issued with a Health Care Card.
Even if you don’t receive a Centrelink payment, you can apply for a Low Income Health Care Card, if your income is under $702 per week (single and no children). This amount is higher for couples and parents with dependent children.
If you are enrolled as a part-time student, you are usually not eligible for student payments from Centrelink. Some exemptions do apply, e.g. Disability Support Pension.
If you are at least 22 years of age, unemployed and are studying part time, you may be eligible for a JobSeeker payment, but you will be expected to participate in activities designed to increase your chances of finding work (mutual obligation). There may be circumstances in which some part-time or full-time study can be included in an activity agreement, if Centrelink accepts that such study will help you find work.
Students who have disabilities may be eligible for the Disability Support Pension (DSP). The DSP is increasingly difficult to obtain, and applicants are required to meet medical as well as non-medical requirements. Find out more about the Disability Support Pension. If you are finding the application process challenging, we recommend you speak with a Centrelink social worker by calling 132 850 (8am – 5pm).
If you are the principal carer of a child under 8 years of age (if single) or 6 years of age (if you are partnered), you may be eligible for a parenting payment. Find out more about parenting payments.
Centrelink may be able to assist with a one-off special payment if you are experiencing financial difficulties due to:
You can apply for a crisis payment online.
If you already receive a Centrelink payment you may be able to get an advance payment depending on the situation. We recommend you speak with a Centrelink social worker by calling 132 850 (8am – 5pm).
You have the right to appeal decisions made by Centrelink. You can call and ask them to review a decision or lodge an online request for review. You should request a review within 13 weeks of the Centrelink decision. Find out more about Centrelink reviews and appeals, including how to submit an Explanation or formal review of decision form.
If you need help with a Centrelink matter, contact us.
The Welfare Rights Centre (WRC) provides free legal telephone advice on resolving issues with Centrelink, and in certain matters you may be able to make an appointment with a solicitor or caseworker. The WRC website has useful information on your rights, and fact sheets on how to deal with a range of Centrelink issues.
The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) is a registered charity run by the unemployed, for the unemployed, as an independent volunteer organisation. The objective of the AUWU is to protect the rights and dignity of unemployed people and to alleviate poverty and disadvantage. The AUWU website has useful information, including the details of their National Advocacy Hotline.
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Written by SUPRA Postgraduate Advocacy Service March 2023