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
During the 11/12 financial year, I was working full time as a teacher between July 2011 - January 2012. I took leave from my position to undertake further study full time and lived off my savings until I began receiving Austudy in April through June 2012.
Due to the financial help from youth allowance and a scholarship I'm now lucky enough to not be endangered by this debt. However, many times during my studies I was taken off or asked to repay parts of my youth allowance, that was then later deemed a mistake.
Despite having a termination statement on file, the automated system assumed I was working at the employer I had left in Oct 2012. Thus a debt was calculated and I have been repaying this debt despite their error.
Having worked all my life, I had no option but to claim benefits after a very bitter marriage breakdown. I was suffering from severe depression and could not function on a day to day basis. The only benefit available to me was Newstart Allowance in 2011. I claimed the benefit for 12 months while I got my head straight.
I already had anxiety and depression from years of unemployment (not from a lack of trying to find work) this disgraceful cash grab has only further exacerbated my existing conditions.
When i got my letter it was like a kick in the guts. I have cushing's Disease. This makes my flight fight response work at high level 24 hrs a day 7 days a week. Any amount of stress and my body shuts down and I become ill. The last 4 yrs have been hell. In 2013 / 2014 for 5 months I was not working so I applied for sickness benefits.
Centrelink have decided upon receiving details from the ATO, that I was not entitled to Maternity Leave payments. For the year long period in question, I was on maternity leave for 5 months, and not working for another month. I had my child end of July 2014, and was off work until February 2015.
With our first baby on the way got a letter saying that i had to pay them back immediatly
September 2015 I received a letter from centrelink stating I had submitted the wrong earnings from Sep 2011 - June 2014. In the letter it stated "You are not being charged a recovery fee for this reporting period".
I was born with a life threatening condition X-linked Severe Combined Immune Deficiency Syndrome (SCIDS) which means my immune system does not function correctly and also have bronchiectasis the combination of which leads to a shortened life expectancy and regular medical treatment.
Nevertheless I decided to do my bit and work...
Its a weird question to be asked - how has the debt affected me.....I don't know how to answer it. I'm crushed. I did the right thing, I'm a good person, I didn't break the law and I was so careful because I was so grateful for the support. I'm confused, I feel bullied and I've been threatened.
This was a period of my life where I gave birth, left my abusive partner, had to take 7 months off work- alone- and cover expenses as a single mother. Not only are they trying to claw back the single parenting payment, but the paid parental leave, for which I did not qualify. At this time of my life I was suicidal.
Received letter right before Christmas, very stressed as I only work casually and don't get paid now until the middle of February
I am in hospital recovering from a stroke - and am (still) having terrible difficulty having a claim assessed for Centrelink support. I received a letter (vie myGov informing me of Overpayment relating to a period between Dec 2014 and April 215, when I was between employment.
I did not get issued with a debt but I was issued with a request for more information from 2014.
Because I found work, and dropped of the Centreelink reporting system, my Centrelink earnings for my employer and my ATO earnings per PAYG Payment Summary were different. Because of this it was automatically assumed I was a welfare cheat.
I am 72 and still work 22.5 hours per week, as I was doing when I applied for and was granted a partial age pension. Because I was born in the USA Centrelink forced me to apply for a US Social Security payment, which was granted, and my Australian age pension reduced accordingly.
I finished uni with a huge hecs debt, no savings, low salary as a pre school teacher but keen to start my life. Straight away I got hit with $13,000 worth of centrelink debt letters. I rang them feeling terrible like I'd made a huge mistake and have been paying it back weekly every since. Having now paid $4700 back in total.
They claimed I had entered incorrect fortnightly income across the entire year. I had not. I have the payslips to prove it. The confusion is that my payslips were issued on Mondays, and I reported on Thursdays. I wanted to appeal but they convinced me it could be an even bigger debt.
I received an alleged debt from when I was between jobs in 2011.
I am unable to work currently due to a car accident, and subsequently stuck on a waiting list as tac has been useless.
I am a sole parent raising an abused child through now vce with amazing results, for a child certain to become a victim of the system.
I get treated for high anxiety and have been for years and is a reason why i have spent time of the last few years unemployed.
the debt that i had supposedly incurred was 100% bogus, the debt was from a 1.5 year period while i was not receiving payments and had taken myself off all centrelink services, yet i still incurred an invisible debt.
Crippled me financially & emotionally. It's ridiculous and they can't prove it exists.
I am currently on sickness benefits fighting cancer, receiving approx $265 a week. Centrelink say I owe just under $1100 from 2011. I have to prove they are wrong, which they are, and I am currently appealing.
I reported my income for the required time before I had earned enough to be cut off. As my income was on a casual basis I reported accordingly. Now after all this time I was told by a woman I talked to they decided to average my payments over that time so I now I appear to have a debt .