We are collecting stories on the site because we think it's important to have a way to people to add their voice to this issue by sharing their story. It's puts a human voice to the issues with using technology and automating systems and providing a blanket solution without providing staff and people that can right wrongs and help people when there is an error.
Please share your story with us if you have a Centrelink debt story that you believe has been issued in error or due to a fault in the system.
As frustrating as it is, persist with the appeals process, and know others are behind you.
Stories are 100% anonymous
This debt has severely affected my mental health.
I suffer from terrible anxiety and I constantly fear that my life is ruined because of this. I cannot afford to pay back such a large amount of money quickly.
One Saturday morning in either February or March 2016 I received a phone call on my mobile from Centrelink. I thought that it was odd that they should call on a Saturday. I was told that I owed $3000 as a result of overpayment on my Newstart Allowance. I told them that I didn't have the money in my account.
I had to report every 2 weeks , which I did with my pay slip, always, but they say there was an error
My stress levels went through the roof because I knew that I had done the right thing, and they gave me only 28 days to prove my case.
I've been through this twice now. Both times it was obvious to me where the mistake lay in their algorithms and I was able to explain it. But I was told I had to prove it anyway.
Both debts were 100% waived but after a painstaking wait.
Receiving a debt notice of 6.5k has almost destroyed me. I question if life is worth living, because I don't know how I'm ever suppose to get by and pay this off.
Countless tears, breakdowns, anxiety. I feel as though I have no support, and that the Government will win this.
I felt very stressed, it affected my everyday life!
I couldn’t think straight, I couldn’t sleep. It affected my work where I have to be alert. I felt like I was a criminal when I did nothing wrong.
I have made so many complaints about this, and I am seriously considering ending my own life as a result of this, not just because of the debt, but how Centrelink have handed this
Am utterly broken. Two disabled kids whose therapy I already can't afford. I'm immune supressed with bacterial infection in my tooth that could kill me, and I can't afford to get it removed. My car needs repairs.
So much frustration and anxiety.
I am lucky that mine was dealt with (mostly) in a short period of time but that is only due to my persistence.
It was keeping me up at night, making me wait around, constantly retelling the same story with no outcome.
I'm a Masters student living in Melbourne only just surviving on the money I earn to buy everything. I received a letter from Centrelink last month saying that I owed $3700 from 2 years ago.
Huge anxiety single parent with two children one with a disability, contacted Local member of parliament was given telephone number of local Manager of Centrelink, very polite, but still said pay your debt or else...
Not sleeping ,,,, anxiety ,,, worrying as haven’t been on Newstart for 3 years !!!!!
I worked in mental health since 2006. I live with Bipolar, PTSD and Dissassociative disorder. In 2011 I had to stop work as I was fighting a 12 month long depressive episode. I was actively suicidal and ended up hospitalised.
I received this debt more than a year after starting my current job after providing payslips on request after a call informing me I had a $400 "provisional debt".
I was ordered to pay over $14000 in June 2019 for debts from 2014-2015. I believe these figures are very incorrect.
The letters you receive do not give any information why and they just demand your hard working dollars that are already spent on taxes and HECS.
I got this debt a few years ago and they reckon I owed them money because at the time I was on parenting payment partnered n they said my partner earned 60000 in 2 years n I stated less... but my partner at that time was on sickness benefit for almost a year waiting for surgery so he couldn't have enered that.
Anxious, and getting no help from the people I speak with at centrelink.
Worried I won't be able to afford to pay bills if they win
I returned home from UK after attending my dad's funeral to be inundated with emails adding if this debt.
It had been a really stressful time anyway but this nearly pushed me over the edge.
Wife and I incurred 2 debts each for working at the same 2 companies at the same time, for the same amount of pay.
Wife has never worked due to disability.
I apparently earned $1300 per week for 6 months at a stainless steel factory. Same with my wife.
Was on AusStudy, had baby No.5, got postnatal depression, fell behind in studies and failed to tell centrelink...
Recieved debt letter and robo call, 0 support 0 care, too depressed to fight ...started paying back debt, finished paying back this year. The end.
I found out I had a debt straight from the debt collector.
At first I thought it was a scam but then found out I had been getting letters from Centrelink to my very old address.
Original debt was $5,000 — I became physically sick for a few days, later my psychiatrist had to increase my antidepressants, which was triggered by this one letter.
As a single parent of 3, it’s hard enough to survive from fortnight to fortnight in a low paying industry, let alone receiving a massive debt from Centrelink that dates back to 2011.
I have suffered depression and anxiety since I was 18 yrs old, I am now 49 and the added pressure of this debt is slowly killing me.
I already suffer from depression and anxiety, and am on medication for both, but today I was told by the Commonwealth ombudsmen that there is nothing they can do, despite admitting that it was clearly a structural issue.