I received a $1000 student start up loan and youth allowance payment during 3 months of 2016 while I was at university.
I lodged this claim in February however due to the slow process I was not actually paid until the end of April 2016. By this point I had found another job so I finished the university term and started at my new job in July of that year.
Fast forward to July 2018, I receive a letter stating I owed approximately $3000 in Youth Allowance debt, despite having been issued a PAYG Summary from Centrelink for $1800 for that period in 2016.
I spend months on the phone to Centrelink and tracking down all my old payslips and bank statements to send away to them.
I then get issued a different debt amount of $1900 and get told that I can either start paying the debt or have it sent to a reviewing officer.
I ask for the matter to be reviewed so I get put through to a call-taker that stated that they were a reviewing officer.
She spends 5 minutes going through my file and says that the debt is legitimate and that I will have no choice but to pay it.
I subsequently file an appeal through the AAT, who then tell me that the debt has not actually been reviewed by an Authorised Reviewing Officer, so they send it back to Centrelink which restarts the appeal process through them.
Months later I finally get a call from an Authorised Reviewing Officer who asks me some questions that actually voice my concerns with the debt and what my issues with it are.
He then states that it looked as if the "debt" had amounted because I had not reported during the time that my claim was being processed and backdated for 3 months. I was then told that as I had not been sent any letters telling me to report during the time that my claim was being processed, it was possible I may not have a debt as I could not be aware of my reporting obligations and that I had also reported correctly when receiving the payments each fortnight.
The next week I was sent a letter saying I did not have a Centrelink debt.
This process took a year of constantly making and receiving phone calls from Centrelink while nobody at Centrelink actually understood what my concerns and views were until I spoke to a real human who actually took the time to review my file properly.
As someone who has been in a consistent full-time job for three years it was disheartening to see how those who use Centrelink when it is absolutely needed get abused by the system.
I've only been on Centrelink for those three months while studying and I reported my income correctly and followed instructions given to me by Centrelink.
I'm incredibly disappointed in how this system has come about and believe that a majority of people who would trust the system may end up rolling over and paying a ridiculous amount of "debt" back to the Centrelink system.