ROBODEBT HAS BEEN RULED UNLAWFUL
Stay off the phone and protect your rights!
Victoria Legal Aid have updated their robodebt advice and now have additional written templates available.
If you've never provided any payslips, bank statements, or other documents, then your robodebt was unlawfully cooked up using averaging; send them this letter which asks for an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) review, for recovery to stop, and for your money back:
If they haven't confirmed within 14 days that you are having your ARO review, there is a second template that should be upload via the Centrelink Complaints portal.
Take copies of both, and screenshots of the upload. If/when it gets to the Complaints stage involve your MP or a sympathetic Senator.
If you have provided any payslips, bank statements, or other documents in the past about your robodebt, that doesn't mean that it's accurate or even that it is free from averaging — people can have a 'mixed' robodebt that still contains elements of averaging, and the lawfulness of those 'debts' has not yet been tested and should not just be assumed.
There are also other reasons robodebts can be overturned or reduced that include:
- past defective administration
- duplicated employers & earnings
- averaging of PAYG tax for net-to-gross calculations
- income/working credits
- identity mismatch
- 10% penalty
- special circumstances
To challenge your robodebt you need also need an ARO — the template for requesting an ARO for robodebts that aren't simple averaging debts is now here:
For these robodebts the information below is still current.
If you need more information about how they manufactured your 'debt', make a Freedom of Information request.
We have a customisable template on out website:
I got a letter, now what?
- Keep a diary of all interactions with Centrelink
- Track down your payslips and other documents for the period
- Ask for a review
- Request a copy of your ADEX debt schedule and MultiCal
- Know where to seek legal advice
- Make a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for case notes from the disputed period
- If the debt has been passed on to a collection agency, request that it be sent back to Centrelink
- Insist that they update your online account after any changes are made
Request and write down a receipt number for every conversation you have with Centrelink, on phone or in person.
When you call them, the system generates a receipt number as soon as the worker has confirmed your identity and opened your file, so ask for it then — if they refuse, we have advice on dealing with it here.
Most people use a notebook, some use an app on their phone: whatever works best for you and lets you keep good records over time.
Please note that current legal advice warns against supplying any of these documents to Centrelink before seeking personalised legal advice.
We do understand that because of the extent of the power imbalance between Centrelink and the "customer", you may not feel free to refuse them: this advice is made available for those who find themselves in that situation.
- If you are writing to request duplicate payslips from a past employer, we have a downloadable template in Word format to get you started.
- Get organised so that you can find the bits of paper that you need easily: sort by employer and date, for example.
You don’t need a fancy filing system; clearly labelled used envelopes in a box will work great if that’s what you have.
Changes announced on 14/02/2017 mean that Centrelink can now accept bank statements as evidence as well.
You do not need to give Centrelink your entire transaction history, and we would advise against it.
They only need to see the record of credits from employers. If you can use a filtered search on internet banking to generate a list of just those incoming payments and then export that to PDF, that's great.
If you need to manually redact information from printed statements before you scan them, our understanding is that this is also allowable.
— Do not give them any information from outside the dates they have specified —
Request a Review by an Authorised Review Officer (ARO)
Can be done online, by phone, or in person at an office, but a written request is best.
Keep a copy of your request and get a receipt from the Post Office when you send it, or get it stamped and request a receipt number if you hand-deliver it.
Can also be uploaded via MyGov or the Centrelink app, using the Documents menu item; make sure to take and keep screenshots for verification.
Centrelink officers sometimes try to talk people into having a reassessment instead of an appeal, just stand your ground and reiterate that you want to request an appeal by an ARO.
Download Victoria Legal Aid’s template letter — it also formally requests a recovery hold.
- You can upload it via MyGov or the Centrelink app (take and save screenshots!) or post it to:
Reply Paid 7800, Canberra BC ACT 2610
Fax is 1300 786 102
- Follow up by phone to make sure your request for an ARO Review and recovery hold has been received and acted on (get a receipt number!).
These set out, in spreadsheet format, the calculations used to arrive at your debt figure. If it’s in any way unclear where their debt amount comes from, you need this document.
If a telephone operator offers to read the figures out to you so that you can note them down, do not accept. The printout they will send you is more complete and accurate, and they are required to send it to you if you ask.
Do you need more specific legal advice? Check out our list of Legal Aid and Welfare Rights organisations.
- A FOI request is simply a formal way to ask for documents
- Everyone has the right to access information held by Australian public authorities for free, including from the Department of Human Services (DHS).
- There are a few FOI tools available online, but we have an email template all set up and ready to go here, it just needs your name.
If you are dealing with debt collectors about your robot-debt, make sure you know your rights and don't let them bully you.
Private debt collection agencies do not have the right to make you pay, or sue you, or take money out of your wages or tax returns without your permission.
(although it seems Centrelink can and will take your tax return even if you are on a payment plan with a private debt collection agency)
Private contractors are required to comply with Centrelink’s “Collection Guidelines”. This means that they must give you an opportunity to negotiate reasonable repayments that you can afford.
If they can’t reach an agreement with you they are required to hand the case back to Centrelink.
If you are being harassed by a private firm acting for Centrelink, note the details and report them immediately to the Ombudsman
There are resources available to help with this, and organisations that will have your back.
Even if an agreement about payment has been reached, you can still ask Centrelink to collect the debt directly, rather than through a private debt collection firm — but you should be aware that Centrelink does have the power to take your wages and tax returns or take legal action against you.
- and that they send you written confirmation, and get a receipt number.
- Always get a receipt number or written confirmation for all of your interactions with Centrelink, and enter them in your Centrelink diary.