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
I am currently unemployed and am surviving on my savings alone, as I am a sessional academic for a number of different universities. Like most exploited young professionals on zero hour contracts, I still do not know for sure whether I will have work for the coming semester.
I was woken at 3am one night by a sms telling me that I had a debt and to check my human services inbox.
I had already paid this debt 3 months prior and this absolutely floored me. I was practically suicidal.
Centrelink have been relentless with this matter. I suffered 2x cardiac arrests in 2014 .
They are still investigating. I had to set up a repayment plan @ 10% of my supposed debt $161 p/fn. I have got it down to $30 now. I do not owe this as I was not working for 3 months .
I am a 65 year old single pensioner working 3 days. I've done casual adult education/TAFE teaching for 25 As a casual teacher, I declared my income every fortnight so my Newstart payments varied throughout. My pension payments have been cut to virtually nothing. I've had 2 phone calls to the debt recovery line.
I choose to stop receiving payments a while ago as dealing with centrelink was exacerbating my mental illness. That place just breeds hopelessness and despair. While on centrelink, the staff made me feel like a lying criminal and like I wasn't a functioning member of society.
Significant impact on stress & anxiety. I'm currently not working & was planning on going on austudy while I'm a full time student, but this has given me pause.
It has effected me greatly, the first notice i got was a letter of demand from Probe, then two days later i got a threatening phone call telling need to pay within days. Highly stressed i took my mother with me to Centrelink to find out what had gone on.
Financially this has affected my fortnightly budget with a roof over my head food plus extra expenses
It all started when I got a text from an extremely rude debt collector saying I had to call urgently. I called and the woman said I had to pay $2000 immediately. She wouldn't tell me what the debt was for but eventually said Newstart.
I worked several jobs in this period, 2 were not for the full financial year but they have been averaged out over the whole of 2013-14.
It's made me frustrated in that no one at Centrelink knows what's going on or wants to help.
It was very stressful because I couldn't understand what I had done wrong.
Stressed to no end knowing that I hadn't done anything wrong.
I had been made redundant from my job in January 2014 and was unemployed.
I went to centre link in February and applied for benefits. Yes it took me a month to get the guts up to walk into one of their office and ask for a hand out.
It has been a huge shock two years after the claim to receive such a debt I feel helpless and like my child and I are worthless in the eyes of the parenting payment. Something that should have been a lovely period of both our lives is now overshadowed by a forced loan I am now having to pay back even though I did nothing wrong.
At first I was going to pay it just to get it over and done with, however when I let my mother know about she got angry and told me to call them.
This is extremely distressing and upsetting as the amount of the 'debt' is so high. I discovered the letter about this debt on my last work day before Christmas.
I was in absolute shock and had a panic attack when I first received the letter. Then I was angry as I had to repeat the situation over and over again to different people on the phone. All the call centre workers agreed that it didn't sound right and just to lodge the complaint with my payslips. Payslips which of course I no longer had.
Financial Stress and anxiety as had to pay back the school bonus and Child Care Benefit as well as the Family Tax Benefit amounting to over $8000AUD depleting all our savings
It has concerned me a lot over the Christmas period, the short time frame given to pay back the debt initially stressed me out. The fact that it concerns payments from 5 years ago has made it very difficult to track down pay slips and documentation. I feel angry that I am the one accountable for proving the inaccuracies.
i am a disability pensioner i was hurt in a work place accident so trying to pay $140,000 back is impossible. They cut my centrelink payments all of November and what little savings i had i had to pay into rent which destroyed my christmas and probity will never financially recover.
I am one of the people who received a demand to repay $8500 due to my apparent failure to report my income correctly.
Extreme distress - unable to pay
I had just lost a job a week before receiving centrelink's letter and promptly applied for Newstart to make sure i would be ok. Having lost work around the Christmas period once before, i knew from experience that it can be one of the most difficult times to find new employment.
I am currently on Newstart unemployed and caring for an elderly relative and at risk of homelessness as I am couch surfing with relatives. Initially the distress, when the system calculated my debt, was overwhelming I felt alone and sick.
Firstly to clarify: