ABSTUDY

Dependent or independent

If you apply for ABSTUDY, we’ll assess you as being dependent or independent for payment.

Check if you’re dependent or independent.

Dependent

You’re dependent if you’re 21 or younger and aren’t independent. If you’re dependent, we’ll work out how much you can get using the:

  • Parental Income Test
  • Maintenance Income Test, or
  • Personal Income Test

Independent

If you’re 22 or older, you’ll get permanent independent status. If you’re younger than 22, you may be independent if you meet the permanent or reviewable independence status conditions.

Permanent independent status means you’ll always be independent. Reviewable independent status means if your circumstances change, you might be dependent again.

If you’re independent, we’ll work out how much money you can get using the:

If you’re independent, your parents’ or guardians’ income won’t affect your payment.

You’re not automatically independent if you don’t live with your parents or guardians, or they don’t support you.

Permanent independent status

You may get permanent independent status if you are:

This also applies if you:

Independent through work

You may get permanent independent status if you’ve supported yourself through work by:

Work related activity for 3 of the last 4 years

You must have been doing a work related activity for at least 156 of the last 208 weeks.

This can be a combination of work and payment related activities.

Work related activities include:

  • working full time, including self employment
  • doing an Australian Apprenticeship or traineeship
  • being unemployed and registered with us, but waiting to get a payment
  • being on sick, maternity or recreation leave, but not paid study leave
  • having a medical certificate to show that illness or incapacity stopped you from working full time

Payment related activities include:

  • getting a wage under the former Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme
  • getting support from the Department of Jobs and Small Business’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme
  • getting a benefit or payment from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs

This also includes getting an income support payment from us, such as:

Payment related activities may also include being in:

  • lawful custody, or 
  • a religious role supported by a religious order

You may need to give proof that you meet these requirements. Read more about Proof to support your claim.

Example - working for 3 of the last 4 years

Amos finished high school in November 2013 and then started a full time Australian Apprenticeship. He finished the apprenticeship in November 2015 and applied for a job seeker payment. We paid Amos Youth Allowance as a job seeker until September 2016, when he got a full time job. In February 2018 Amos left his job to study engineering. Amos is independent because he did work related activities for 3 out of the last 4 years.

Full time work for 18 months within 2 years

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

If you don’t always get 30 hours of work a week, 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

See if you’re considered independent using the check independence through work history tool.

You may need to give proof that you meet these requirements. Read more about proof to support your claim.

Examples - working for 18 months within 2 years

Mark has had 2 part time jobs for the last 18 months. Some weeks he works 40 hours, others he works 20 hours. He’s worked at least 390 hours combined in each 13 week period over the 18 months. 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. She worked 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 a total of 18 months out of 2 years.

See if you’re considered independent using the check independence through work history tool.

Part time work or earnings for rural and remote students

Use the Student Regional Area Search service to check if your family home qualifies as:

  • inner regional
  • outer regional
  • remote, or
  • very remote

You may be independent if:

  • your parental home is in an inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote area
  • you need to move away from your parental home to study, and
  • you’ve worked for 15 hours or more a week for at least 2 years since leaving secondary school

It also depends on your parents’ income. If you claim in 2018, they must have earned less than $150,000 in the 2016-17 financial year. If their income has changed a lot, we’ll look at the 2017-18 financial year.

You may need to give proof that you meet these requirements. Read more about Proof to support your claim.

See if you’re considered independent using the check independence through work history tool.

Example

Keira went to secondary school in Broome in remote WA. She finished in 2015 and spent 2 years working before continuing her studies. She worked 15 hours a week during the 2 years. In the 2016-17 financial year, Keira’s parents earned less than $150,000. In 2018, Keira needs to live away from home to start a Bachelor’s degree in Perth. She can get ABSTUDY as an independent student because she worked the required amount since finishing secondary school.

Earning 75% of the National Training Wage

Use the Student Regional Area Search service to check if your family home qualifies as:

  • inner regional
  • outer regional
  • remote, or
  • very remote

You may be independent if:

  • your parental home is in an inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote area
  • you need to move away from your parental home to study, and
  • you’ve earned at least 75% of the National Training Wage Schedule within 14 months after leaving secondary school

Example - part time work for rural and remote students

Gavin went to secondary school in Parkes in regional NSW. He finished in November 2016, then took a gap year in 2017. He lived at home in 2017 and earned $28,000 doing casual and part time work. Gavin’s parents earned $120,000 in 2016-17. In 2018, Gavin needs to live away from home to start a full time Bachelor of Science degree in Sydney. Gavin meets the conditions for independent status from February 2018. This is because he’s earned the required amount in the 14 months since he finished school.

See how much you need to earn in the National Training Wage schedule on the Department of Social Services website.

Reviewable independent status

Reviewable independent status means we review your status and you might be dependent again if your circumstances change. You must tell us if your circumstances change.

You may get reviewable independent status if you are 16 or older, and:

  • return to live in an Indigenous Australian community after being adopted or fostered by a non-Indigenous family for more than 2 years, or
  • have met the minimum age requirements for leaving school, and it’s unreasonable to live at home, or
  • have been in a de facto relationship for the last 6 months or more

This also applies if you are:

Independence conditions

If you’re younger than 22, you need to meet one of the independence status conditions to have permanent or reviewable independent status.

You're an orphan

To be an orphan your natural, adoptive or relationship parents must be dead, or legally missing and presumed dead. You aren’t an orphan if at least one natural or adoptive parent is known or presumed to be alive.

You have 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, you must:

  • be 15 or older
  • live permanently in the traditional community
  • live apart from your family once you have special adult status, and
  • be living away from your family when we assess you for ABSTUDY

You have or had a dependent child

The child is dependent on you if they are:

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

You’re still independent even if your child:

  • was adopted or placed into another person’s care
  • died, or
  • was stillborn and the mother got Stillborn Baby Supplement

You’re in lawful custody for 6 months

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

It's unreasonable to live at home

You may be independent if you’re unable to live at home with either of your parents due to extreme circumstances. This includes extreme family breakdown, violence or serious risk to your safety and wellbeing. A social worker will assess this if you’re under 18.

You can’t claim it’s unreasonable for you to live at home if you’re:

  • getting support, directly or indirectly, from either of your parents or a long term guardian
  • getting a regular government or student assistance payment, other than ABSTUDY or an income support payment like Youth Allowance, or
  • in state care

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

Your parents can’t take care of you

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

  • 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

Proof to support your claim

When you apply for ABSTUDY as an independent student or Australian Apprentice, we may ask you for extra documents. These need to show you meet the independence criteria.

We’ll tell you what we need when you submit your claim.

Read more about proof to support your ABSTUDY claim.

Page last updated: 14 June 2018