Independence test for ABSTUDY

We use a number of tests to work out how much you should be paid. We use the Independence Test to see whether you are dependent on your parents or guardians.

If you are dependent, your parents’ or guardians’ income may affect how much you get paid.

If you are independent, your parents’ or guardians’ income will not affect your payment.

If you are considered independent, we will use the Personal Assets Test, Personal Income Test and Partner Income Test to work out how much money you can get.

You are not automatically independent if you don’t live with your parents or guardians, or are not supported by them.

If you are independent, you may get:

  • permanent independent status, which means you will always be independent, or
  • reviewable independent status, which means your circumstances could change, and you might be dependent again

Permanent independent status

You may get permanent independent status if you:

Reviewable independent status

Reviewable independent status means that, if your circumstances change, we may review your status and you might be dependent again. You must tell us if your circumstances change.
You may get reviewable independent status if you:

Independence conditions


To be an orphan, your natural, adoptive or relationship parents must be dead, or legally missing and presumed dead.

You are not an orphan if at least one natural or adoptive parent is known or presumed to be alive.

Special adult status

Special adult status is only recognised for ABSTUDY in the Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia.

You must have been granted special adult status in an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australian community in a traditional coming of age ceremony. Community elders must have approved the ceremony.

To qualify for this you must:

  • live permanently in the traditional community
  • need to live apart from your family once you have special adult status, and
  • be living away from your family when we assess you for ABSTUDY

Dependent child

To be considered dependent, a child must be:

  • your birth, adoptive or relationship child, and
  • completely or mostly dependent on you or your partner, or was completely or mostly dependent on you or your partner if the child was in your partner’s care during your partnership

The dependent child may have been adopted or placed into another person’s care. The child may have died or been stillborn and the mother was paid Maternity Allowance.

Work related activity for 3 out of the last 4 years

Work related activity is any of the following:

  • working full time, including self employment
  • an apprenticeship or full time training agreement, like an Australian Apprenticeship
  • getting an income support payment such as Youth Allowance as a job seeker, Newstart Allowance, youth or formal training allowances, Special Benefit or support from the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme
  • being unemployed and registered with us, but waiting to receive a payment
  • being on sick, maternity or recreation leave - but not paid study leave
  • getting an income support pension from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Sickness Allowance, Carer Payment, Disability Support Pension, Parenting Payment single or similar payment
  • having a medical certificate to show that illness or incapacity stopped you from working full time
  • were getting a Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme wage
  • being in lawful custody, or
  • being supported by a religious order

You must have been doing work related activity for at least 156 out of the last 208 weeks, or 3 out of 4 years, overall. This can be a combination of any of the above activities.

We may ask you to give us evidence that you meet the requirements for independence.

Read more about:

Amos finished his secondary studies in November 2010 and started a full time Australian Apprenticeship. He finished the apprenticeship in November 2012 and registered for an income support payment with us. Amos received Youth Allowance as a job seeker until September 2013, when he got a full time job. In February 2015 Amos left his job to study Engineering. Amos is independent because he did work related activities for 3 out of the last 4 years.

Worked full time for 18 months within a 2 year period

Full time work means an average of 30 hours of work a week. You must have worked for at least 18 months within a 2 year period. This doesn’t have to be for 18 months in a row, or at the same job.

If your job is not regularly 30 hours a week, then you can average your work hours over a period of up to 13 weeks.

Full time paid work includes:

  • periods of paid leave
  • overseas employment
  • unpaid leave due to employer shutdown outside of your control, and
  • full time apprenticeships and traineeships

Check to see if you qualify with the check independence through work history tool.

We may ask you to prove you meet the requirements and to give us details of your working hours or earnings.

Mark has had 2 part time jobs for the last 18 months. Some weeks he works 40 hours, in others he works 20 hours. He has worked at least 390 hours over a 13 week period 6 times - 18 months is 6 periods of 13 weeks. Mark is independent because he worked an average of 30 hours a week for 18 months.

Jacinta left secondary school 2 years ago and worked full time as a sales assistant for 6 months before doing a 6 month TAFE course. When she finished her course, she worked full time for 12 months. Jacinta is independent because she worked full time for 18 months out of 2 years.

Regional or remote, worked part time and moving away from home to study

If you’re from a rural or remote area you may be considered independent sooner. Read more about Changes for new students from rural and remote areas.

Check to see if your family home qualifies as inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote using the Student Regional Area Search service.

You must also be a full time student who needs to move away from home to study. Since leaving secondary school you must have:

  • earned at least 75% of Wage Level A for the National Training Wage schedule included in a modern award, in 18 months, or
  • worked part time for at least 15 hours each week for at least 2 years

Check the National Training Wage schedule on the Department of Social Services website.

Your parents’ or guardians’ income must also be under $150,000 in the base tax year, or in the current tax year if their income has dropped or risen a lot. The base tax year is the tax year that ended on 30 June in the calendar year before the calendar year in which you are claiming ABSTUDY. For example, if you claim ABSTUDY between 1 July and 31 December 2015, the base tax year is 2013-14. If you claim between 1 January and 30 June 2016, the base tax year is 2014-15.

We may ask you to prove that you meet the requirements and to give us details of your working hours or earnings.

Gavin went to secondary school in Parkes, in regional NSW. He finished school in 2013, then took a gap year in 2014, lived at home and earned $28,000 doing casual and part time work. Gavin’s parents earned $120,000 in the 2013-14 tax year. In 2015, Gavin starts a full time Bachelor of Science degree in Sydney, so he needs to live away from home. Gavin meets the conditions for independent status from May 2015 - 18 months since he finished school

6 months in lawful custody

Time in lawful custody includes time spent in correctional institutions, remand centres or youth training centres. You must have spent 6 months or more in total in lawful custody and be:

  • a secondary student 18 or older
  • a tertiary student, or
  • an Australian Apprentice

Unreasonable to live at home

It may be unreasonable for you to live at home with either of your parents if:

  • there has been an extreme family breakdown or other such exceptional circumstance
  • it would seriously put you at risk of violence, sexual abuse or other such unreasonable circumstance, or
  • your parents can’t give you a suitable and stable home

You can’t claim it is unreasonable for you to live at home if you are:

  • getting support, directly or indirectly, from either of your parents or a long term guardian
  • getting a regular government welfare or student assistance payment, except for ABSTUDY, or
  • considered to be in state care

If your parents live in separate homes, you must meet the criteria for each home.

Parents can’t take care of you

Your parents can’t take care of you if they are:

  • in prison
  • mentally incapacitated and unlikely to get better
  • living in a nursing home or a similar institution and unlikely to get better, or
  • missing and no one has been able to find them

Page last updated: 30 November 2017