Reviews and appeals about my payments and child care rebates
The Department of Human Services was created on 26 October 2004 as part of the Finance and Administration portfolio. The Human Services Legislation Amendment Act 2011 integrated the services of Medicare Australia, Centrelink and CRS Australia on 1 July 2011 into the Department of Human Services.
If you are affected by a decision about your entitlements, you have the right to appeal the decision.
If you are seeking to review or appeal a Child Support decision, visit objecting to Child Support decisions.
Your review rights
If you are unhappy with a decision made about your Centrelink entitlements, the following information can inform you about the next step you can take:
- Talk to us
- Ask for an internal review of the decision
- Social Security Appeals Tribunal
- Review process for specific payments
- Administrative Appeals Tribunal
- Court appeals
- Legal assistance
These services are free of charge, except for court appeals and legal assistance. The department does not discriminate against customers who exercise their right to seek a review of a decision.
Talk to us
If you would like more information about a decision you should contact us. We will check the details and explain the decision. This gives you a chance to correct misunderstandings and present new information.
Ask for a review
If you do not agree with a decision you can ask for a review. We will forward the matter to a review officer who has not been involved in the decision and can change the decision if it is wrong.
You can ask for a review by either:
- telephoning us
- viewing the Review of a Centrelink decision form, filling it in, printing it and posting it to any Service Centre, or
- visiting a Service Centre
The review officer will:
- talk to you about the decision where possible
- look at the facts, the law and policy
- change the decision if it is not correct, and
- advise you in writing about the result of the review.
Important information about timeframes
There are some important things to know about the time you take to request a review of a decision.
If you apply for a review of a social security decision after 13 weeks of being given notice of the decision, you may only receive your entitlement from the date you applied for review.
You must apply for a review of some Family Tax Benefit decisions within 52 weeks of being notified of the decision.
There is no time limit if you are asking for a review about money you owe us, however you may have to pay back the money while the decision is being considered.
Different rules apply to ABSTUDY and Assistance for Isolated Children recovery of debt decisions, which normally should be requested within three(3) months. There is no time limit for requesting a review of other ABSTUDY or Assistance for Isolated Children decisions.
For Paid Parental Leave scheme decisions, parents must seek a review normally within 28 days of the decision. Employers should refer to the Employer Toolkit on the Paid Parental Leave for Employers page for information about employer reviews and time limits.
Social Security Appeals Tribunal
If you believe the decision made by the review officer is incorrect, in most cases you can then seek review by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal (SSAT). However, if the decision is about ABSTUDY or Assistance for Isolated Children (and not a debt), or about a rural ex-gratia payment, there may be a different review and appeal processes.
The Social Security Appeals Tribunal is an independent tribunal. It has the power to change decisions but only according to the law and only after a review officer has reviewed the case. You should make an application to the SSAT within 13 weeks of being notified of the decision. If you apply more than 13 weeks after being notified of the review officer’s decision and the decision is changed, you may only receive your entitlement from the date you applied for review.
If you are unhappy with the SSAT decision you can have this decision reviewed by applying to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
You can apply to the SSAT for a review of a decision by:
- phoning Freecall™ 1800 011 140*
- visiting or sending a written application to an SSAT office
- applying in writing.
Application forms are available but are not compulsory. Applications to the SSAT are free of charge.
For more information you can:
- refer to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal website
- write to the SSAT at GPO Box 9943 in your nearest capital city.
Decisions made by the SSAT are binding on both you and the Department of Human Services. You or the department may apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for a further review of the SSAT decision.
* Calls to 1800 numbers from your home phone are free. Calls from public and mobile phones may be timed and charged at a higher rate.
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) is a higher level review that aims to provide fair, impartial, high quality and prompt review with as little formality and technicality as possible. Both individuals and government agencies use the services of the AAT.
Applications are required to be lodged in writing within 28 days of receiving the SSAT decision, although a late application might still be accepted.
There is no charge for lodging an application to the AAT. The Department of Human Services will not assist you with costs in pursuing a review by the AAT. You cannot be awarded costs by the AAT if you are successful and in turn you cannot be required to pay the Department of Human Services costs if you are not successful.
Forms on which an AAT application may be lodged are available from the AAT Registry in each state capital city or from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal website. For more information you can:
- phone 1300 366 700*
- refer to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal website
- write to the AAT at GPO Box 9955 in your nearest capital city.
After you have lodged an application to the AAT, the Department of Human Services will lodge with the AAT a statement of reasons for the decision and all relevant department documents. You will receive a copy of the statement and documents.
The AAT will then hold a conference at which you can talk to a Department of Human Services representative. At this conference, the AAT will seek to clarify the issues and, if possible, resolve the matter to the satisfaction of both parties.
If the matter is not resolved, the AAT will give each party the opportunity to present evidence and argue their case, usually in a public hearing.
Decisions made by the AAT are binding on both you and the Department of Human Services. Either can appeal an AAT decision to the Courts, but only on a question of law.
*Calls from your home phone to ‘13’ numbers from anywhere in Australia are charged at a fixed rate. That rate may vary from the price of a local call and may also vary between telephone service providers. Calls from public and mobile phones may be timed and charged at a higher rate.
An appeal against an AAT decision on a question of law is made to the Federal Court. Ultimately, a full Federal Court decision can be appealed to the High Court, if the High Court grants you Special Leave to appeal to the High Court.
Court appeals are not free, but you may have the lodgement fee waived and keep costs down by representing yourself. If your appeal is unsuccessful, you may have to pay costs incurred by the Department of Human Services. If your appeal is successful, the Department of Human Services may have to pay your costs.
An application should be lodged with the Federal Court Registry within 28 days of receiving the AAT's decision in writing, although a late application might still be accepted in some circumstances.
Court requirements are usually more formal than the AAT. For more information you can:
- contact the Federal Court Registry in your state or territory
- refer to the Federal Court of Australia website
- seek legal assistance
You can, but do not have to be, legally represented at any stage of the review and appeals system. Many people have been successful at all stages without representation.
Reviews of ABSTUDY and Assistance for Isolated Children decisions
If you are not satisfied with a review officer's debt decision, you can seek a review through the Social Security Appeals Tribunal.
If you are not satisfied with other decisions of a review officer, you can seek a review of those assessments by the relevant federal minister.
For other ABSTUDY decisions you will need to appeal to the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations by writing to:
Income Support Group
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
GPO Box 9880
Canberra ACT 2601
For other Assistance for Isolated Children decisions you will need to appeal to the Minister by writing to:
Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth
Canberra ACT 2600
Review of the Paid Parental Leave scheme
Information for parents
If you do not agree with a decision regarding Parental Leave Pay, parents normally have up to 28 days from the date the decision was made to seek a review.
Note: you cannot request a review of our decision about who provides your Parental Leave Pay (either us or your employer) or matters that relate to dispute resolution. For information on dispute resolution please see the Parental Leave Pay topic.
If you are not satisfied with a review officer’s decision, you can then apply for a review of an assessment decision to the SSAT. However, you must normally do this within 28 days of the review officer’s decision.
Information for employers
Employers should refer to the Employer Toolkit on the Paid Parental Leave for Employers page for information about employer reviews.
Review of rural ex-gratia payments
The department administers a range of rural programs including payments that are not covered by legislation. These include:
- Climate Change Adjustment Program
- Interim Income Support Payment
- Transitional Income Support
- Professional Advice and Planning Grant
- Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package
- Exceptional Circumstances Exit Grant.
While decisions about these payments can be reviewed by a review officer, you cannot seek a review of a decision about these payments by the SSAT. The last point of formal review is by the Rural Programs Team.
Note: although the Farm Family Support (Western Australia pilot) is an ex-gratia payment, this payment has the same appeal processes as legislated payments. Applicants of these programs may appeal to the SSAT and the AAT, as above.
As with all other programs administered by us, if you are still not happy with the review outcome, you are able to make a complaint to the Commonwealth Ombudsman who can look at whether our decision or actions were fair and reasonable in the circumstances. You can contact the Ombudsman’s Office on 1300 362 072 for the cost of a local call anywhere in Australia.
Claiming compensation from us
If you think we have made a mistake that has caused you a financial loss or other detriment you may be able to claim compensation. This does not apply if you think there is a remedy through the review and appeal system. Read more about claiming compensation from us.