How to fight a Centrelink debt


You have rights. You can appeal. So we have compiled this quick guide:

1) Appeal the matter to an Authorized Review Officer (ARO) at your nearest Centrelink office. Yes , that’s right, Social Security Rights Vic recommend going to a Centrelink office.

2) Make sure you get a printed receipt confirming your request for a review. An ARO will be appointed to your case. This could take up to 6 months.

3) You can also submit a complaint – this is a separate process.

4) You can also submit a free FOI request for all records and calculations relating to your debt. Check out this page here for more information about how to do that –…/acce…/freedom-information

5) Write to Centrelink CEO Hank Jongen at his email address –

6) If Centrelink are reducing (garnishing) your payment already, request that be reduced to $20 per fortnight because of financial hardship. This will be reviewed every three months.

7) If you need help, look up your nearest Community Legal Centre or Welfare Rights Centre.

8) Don’t get angry. Centrelink staff really had nothing to do with this.

Single mum Ruth successfully fought a $3,000 debt created by Centrelink when she was diagnosed with cancer. Ruth also appealed a parental leave underpayment and won.

Ruth told us: “There isn’t a lot of information readily accessible to most people about their rights and the presumption is guilty so there’s a dash of shame to colour the experience.

“Centrelink demanding people pay back an implied debt while it’s being appealed is dodgy. “

Thanks to Social Security Rights Victoria and our readers who have successfully fought a Centrelink debt and helped us put this little guide together.

Good luck. You are not alone


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