Request documents and information using a subpoena

In some circumstances, you can apply to a court or tribunal for a subpoena to compel us to produce documents or give evidence at a hearing or trial.

Requesting documents

If your request is ambiguous, or the response timeframes are short, we may not be able to comply with the terms of the subpoena.

We can discuss your subpoena before it’s issued. Email us at Subpoena the details of your query and your phone number. We’ll contact you to discuss:

  • the information we usually hold
  • the document types that may contain the information, and
  • how to describe the documents in your request

Before the subpoena is issued, we cannot discuss:

  • any specific information within documents we hold
  • personal information
  • information about our system, or
  • whether specific documents exist or not

The subpoena must identify the documents and date period you need. We can only access, compile and produce documents that already exist for the date period requested. We cannot create a new document.

The subpoena should include the following details. When requesting documents that relate to:

  • an individual, include their:
  • corporations, including companies, include the:
    • entity name, and
    • Australian Business Number (ABN) or Australian Company Number (ACN)
  • businesses, include their:
    • full business or trading name, and
    • ABN

Subpoenaed documents

You can only use documents subpoenaed from us for the purpose of the legal proceedings in which the subpoena is issued. You cannot disclose or share them with anyone, except your representing lawyer, without the court or tribunal’s permission.

Conduct money

You must pay us $70 when the subpoena is served on us. It covers our costs to access, collate and produce the requested documents to the court or tribunal. Attach a cheque made payable to the Department of Human Services when the subpoena is served.

We may ask the court or tribunal for you to pay additional costs.

Service of subpoenas

We process subpoenas centrally.

Address the subpoena to:

The Proper Officer
Department of Human Services
Box 7788 Canberra Business centre
Canberra ACT 2610

Serve the subpoena with a $70 payment to us by:

  • Post:
    Subpoena Team
    Legal Services Division
    Department of Human Services
    Box 7788 Canberra Business Centre
    Canberra ACT 2610

Staple a cheque for payment to the subpoena. We encourage you to also send a copy of the subpoena by email us at Subpoena.

  • In person, between 9 am and 4 pm on business days:
    Doris Blackburn Building
    18 Canberra Avenue Forrest
    Canberra ACT 2603

Staple a cheque for payment to the subpoena. We encourage you to also send a copy of the subpoena by email us at Subpoena.

  • If you are a lawyer you can email us at Subpoena. We’ll accept an undertaking for payment.

After the subpoena is served

We may contact you, or your lawyer if you are legally represented, to discuss the documents requested and the legal purpose or justification for them. We may ask you or your lawyer for background information about the proceedings and why the documents are relevant to them.

Objecting to a subpoena

We hold customer information that is protected by secrecy laws. Please consider the legislation below if you wish to subpoena information from a particular programme. Commonwealth legislation can be located at the Federal Register of Legislation.

Centrelink Programme

Section 207 of the Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 and section 167 of the A New Tax System (Family Assistance) (Administration) Act 1999.

Child Support Programme

Section 16 of the Child Support (Registration and Collection) Act 1988 section 150 of the Child Support (Assessment) Act 1989.

Medicare Programme

Subsection 130 of the Health Insurance Act 1973 and section 135A of the National Health Act 1953.

We may object, in whole or in part, to a subpoena. We only object to a subpoena as a last resort. For example, where the subpoena is oppressive, unduly burdensome or requests sensitive material we should protect from disclosure.

We will first try to negotiate with you or your lawyer about our concerns where we can.


We need at least 2 weeks to respond to straight forward requests. The timeframe we need to respond will be longer if the request is for:

  • a large volume of documents
  • documents held in archives, or
  • documents that need a pre-release review due to sensitive material

We need 8 weeks if you request Medicare Benefits Scheme Summaries and Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme Summaries that are more than 5 years old.

If we need more time, we’ll ask the issuer for an extension.

For more information about timeframes, email us at Subpoena before the subpoena is issued.

Returning the documents

We will send the subpoenaed documents to the issuing court or tribunal. We will not send the documents to you or your lawyer unless we are ordered by the court or tribunal to do so and we are legally able to comply with such an order.

Page last updated: 10 April 2019

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