Back in 2016 I started studying my Masters degree and signed up for Austudy, I also dropped my hours back at work to focus on my studies.
I made sure I kept copies of my payslips, and took care to not earn too much money whilst claiming the allowance.
In March this year I received an email prompting me to check my mygov account as I had a letter from Centrelink.
When I eventually logged in to check it, it asked me to confirm my earnings for both the tax periods.
Thankfully I clicked on a wrong button and I got a notification to call a number.
When I did the man on the phone told me that I owed nearly $8000 in overpayments from Centrelink.
When I asked him how this could have happened, he was really unhelpful and couldn’t provide me with information. But he said that if I didn’t accept this debt, then I would be liable to pay more in fines.
I told him that I did not accept the fine, and asked for an extension which he granted me.
I went to see my accountant who confirmed my earnings for each fortnight I claimed Austudy.
After numerous phone calls and uploading 35 payslips to Centrelink, my case went to a review.
That review found that I was overpaid by 6 cents which they waived.
This whole situation cause me a lot of stress as I rightfully claimed Centrelink and lived on the bones of my arse for a year whilst I studied.
I’m lucky that I had resources to fight my so called “debt”.
Initially I felt threatened by the whole prospect of owing money I don’t have, but I quickly realised that they were wrong.
It was a tough fight, but I’m glad I took them all the way to a review!
Also, I wanted them to send me a 6 cent debt letter, I would’ve framed it!
The whole process has been handled poorly by the government.
I feel for those who’ve been treated badly by the government, and forced to pay back money that they didn’t owe in the first place!
By taking away the human element in checking the payments, the government has found many soft targets to retrieve money from. Poor form in my opinion!!