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Centrelink payments and allowances
Centrelink payments are available to eligible Australian students and Permanent Residents while they study.
Student Financial Aid has trained advisers who can provide independent and confidential assistance and advice regarding Centrelink. If you are experiencing problems with Centrelink, book an appointment in person (or via phone or zoom if it is not possible to come onto campus) or you can contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org (you will need to quote your student number).
Student Support Payments
Youth Allowance is a government assistance scheme which is available to full-time students aged 16-24. Youth Allowance will be paid to students over 25 if they were receiving Youth Allowance immediately prior to turning 25 and remain in the same course. Part-time students aged 16-21 may receive a Youth Allowance if they have an approved activity agreement with Centrelink which can include a range of approved activities including part time study.
You will receive Youth Allowance as either a dependent student or an independent student. Dependent students are subject to a parental income and means test. For independent students, these tests do not apply.
The Standard Rate applies to students who live at home or students who do not qualify for the Away From Home rate.
Away From Home Rate
The Away From Home rate is higher than the At Home rate. If a student lives away from home, the Away from Home Rate does not automatically apply unless:
The Away From Home rate is still dependent upon parental income unless you are considered independent by Centrelink).
There is a Special Rate for commencing full-time students over 21 years of age who have been unemployed and receiving Centrelink Income Support for 6 out of the previous 9 months. The Special rate is higher than both the Dependent and Away From Home rates.
Parental income will not affect your rate of pay or eligibility. However, independent students may still be subject to the At Home rates if living with parents.
The following are the categories where students may be regarded as Independent under Youth Allowance:
Contact Financial Aid or Centrelink for further details.
Austudy is a government student assistance scheme for students who are 25 years or older. All Austudy recipients are considered Independent. Eligibility is determined on the basis of citizenship, personal and partner income and assets tests, as well as previous study and current study load. Students must be enrolled on a full time basis unless you have a substantial disability and are undertaking at least 25 per cent of the normal full-time load for the course.
ABSTUDY is the student payment available to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
ABTUDY recipients may also access the Residential Costs Option. Students can elect to trade their benefit for accommodation costs such as college fees. Students thinking about the residential cost option are encouraged to speak to Centrelink.
Abstudy recipients who are studying any Masters or Doctorate course at the University are entitled to a payment that is the equivalent to the Australian Postgraduate Award scholarship. This is considerably more than the regular ABSTUDY or Youth Allowance rate.
Other Centrelink Payments and Supplements
A full list of Centrelink payments is available on the Centrelink website.
Newstart Allowance is a Centrelink payment paid to people who are:
Unless your Newstart activity agreement includes study provisions, you will be in breach of your agreement if you refuse to take up suitable work opportunities offered to you. Study is not considered a good enough reason to refuse suitable work.
Centrelink Scholarships and Loans
Student Start-up Costs Loans and Scholarships
If you are a full-time student undertaking an approved scholarship course and are receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy, or ABSTUDY Living Allowance, you can apply to receive the Student Start-up Costs loan in two half yearly payments of $1035. The loan can be repaid after graduation thorough the tax system, similar to a HECS-HELP loan. This loan is interest free, but is adjusted yearly according to the consumer price index (CPI).
Students studying studying in 2015 who received the Student Start-up Costs Scholarship are still entitled to receive $1035 per semester as a repayment-free scholarship.
The relocation scholarship payment is intended to assist young people who are moving from a regional or remote part of Australia with their relocation costs, OR for young people from a major city required to move to a regional place to undertake their course. It is not intended to be available to a young person who has already relocated and commenced study in a previous year, OR for any young person who currently resides in a major city moving to another city to commence study.
Only dependent Youth Allowance students on a 'Living Away From Home' rate or students who meet *special category of independence are able to receive the Relocation Scholarship. Students should receive approximately $4376 for their first year. Rates for second and third year of study are approximately $2189 and for any subsequent year of study the rate is approximately $1094. A relocation scholarship is payable in addition to a Start-up Scholarship.
It is important to note that if you leave your course before 35 days after qualification of the scholarship you will need to repay these funds. A regional area is one that is classified as Inner Regional, Outer Regional, Remote or Very Remote under the Australian Standard Geographical Classification (ASGC):
You do not need to apply for a Relocation Scholarship -- they are assessed at the time of application.
A person studying at an overseas location as part of their Australian qualification may be eligible to receive the relocation scholarship. Overseas campus locations are treated the same as regional campuses for payment purposes.
Pensioner Education Supplement (PES)
Students in approved courses who are receiving a pension are eligible for a pension supplement per fortnight during teaching periods. There are two rates which are dependent upon study load.
Education Entry Payment
Education Entry Payment is a payment available to students who are receiving non-study related Centrelink payments to assist with the expenses of starting a course.
Rent Assistance is available for Youth Allowance, Austudy, ABSTUDY and Newstart recipients who live away from the parental home and pay rent. The rate is dependent upon the amount of rent you pay and whether you live alone or share with others. If you are not on the lease (and have difficulty proving your rental amount), contact Centrelink for a rent certificate or request a copy online.
Low Income Health Care Cards
Low Income Health Care Cards are available to Australian citizens and eligible Permanent Residents on low incomes. Eligibility for a Health Care Card is not dependent upon eligibility for a Centrelink payment. Benefits include reduced health care cost, eligibility for public transport concessions and reduced utilities costs. Applications for a Low Income Health Care Card can be made online.
The Fares Allowance is relevant to a limited category of students including dependent students who live away from their permanent home and receive the Away From Home rate. It covers the reimbursement of a single fare from the parental home to the tertiary institution at the start of the course, and a single fare to return home at the end of the year. One return journey during the year is also allowed if the course is longer than six months. Fares allowance is not for the purpose of daily travel.
If you are receiving a government allowance you may be eligible for a lump sum advance of between $250 and $500. The amount of the advance is repaid by automatic deductions from future payments. Conditions apply.
Income Support Bonus
A biannual income support payment will be paid to students receiving the Parenting Payment, Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY and Austudy.
Centrelink policies and procedures that may cause confusion
Scholarships as income
Scholarships awarded to students on the basis of equity or merit are exempt from being considered as income for the purpose of Centrelink up to the value of approximately $7904 per annum (indexed).
Master by Research courses are not approved courses for Centrelink. Only some Masters by Coursework courses are approved for Centrelink payments.
Payments over vacation periods
Students receiving a study payment from Centrelink are entitled to a payment during breaks throughout the year and over the summer vacation period. Part-time students who intend to pursue their course as a full-time student in the following semester may be entitled to a Centrelink payment from the time they finish their studies as a part-time student if the intention is to study full-time in the following semester.
Overseas study and travel
If you are currently receiving a student Centrelink payment such as Youth Allowance, Austudy or Abstudy you can continue to receive payment whilst overseas as long as you remain enrolled at The University of Melbourne and the overseas study will be credited to your University of Melbourne course.
If you are on the “at home rate” of Youth Allowance you are eligible for the “away from” home rate whilst overseas.
Rent assistance, however, is not payable for accommodation outside of Australia.
If you are not currently receiving a student payment and need to apply:
You need to let Centrelink know well in advance of your overseas travel. Centrelink require a letter from The University of Melbourne. It must be on official University letterhead and include:
Any time spent overseas not in a study period is not payable, your payment will be suspended. Contact Financial Aid, Campus Community for more tips on dealing with Centrelink.
Relocation Scholarship may be payable.
If you are travelling overseas, you should have a look at OS-HELP loans.
The Liquid Assets Waiting Period (LAWP)
There may be delays in receiving a Centrelink payment based on how much you own in liquid assets. This will only start to affect you if you have more than $5500 in liquid assets as a single person or $11000 as a couple. Liquid assets refers to money you can easily access, such as your bank savings, cash on hand, shares and debentures, term deposits, insurance bonds, monies owing from your last employer and compensation payments. The maximum waiting time is 13 weeks.
The balance of your liquid assets can be reduced by unavoidable or reasonable expenditure including living costs and study costs incurred in a 12-month period.
The Liquid Assets Waiting Period can be complex depending on your circumstances. We encourage you to apply for benefits as soon as you are eligible and to discuss your particular circumstances with Centrelink or Student Financial Aid.
More information about the Liquid Assets Waiting Period
Part-time work and the Student Income Bank
The Student Income Bank is available only to full-time students receiving Youth Allowance, Austudy or ABSTUDY. The Income Bank is not an actual bank account but a hypothetical balance. When your Centrelink payments begin, the balance of your Income Bank is zero. If you earn less from your job than the income-free area (currently approximately $437 fortnight), your Income Bank balance is increased by the difference between the income-free area and how much you earned. This means that you can earn income above the income-free area in a later fortnight without losing your allowance. The income bank can accumulate when you are not doing much part-time work, up to a maximum of approximately $10600.
With the income-free area, if your job pays you $300 in a fortnight, there is no effect to your payment and $127 is added to your Income Bank balance. If you earn over $437 a fortnight, the extra earnings are deducted from your Income Bank balance. If you have an empty income bank, the earnings above the income-free area will reduce your study payment by 50 to 60 cents per dollar earned.
The Income Bank is most effective if you choose to do the majority of your work during semester breaks. You can work a greater number of hours at the end of semester without your payments being reduced, having allowed the Income Bank balance to accumulate when you have been studying. Your fortnightly payment won't be affected by your additional income until your balance becomes zero again, when the normal income rules apply.
Living with a Partner
Students under 22 years of age will not be considered in most circumstances to be independent by virtue of living in a de facto relationship until the relationship has existed for 12 months. Until that time, you are considered to be a dependent student and your rate of payment is being tested against your parental income and not your partner's income.
Independent students with partners will be tested against their partner's income regardless of whether or not your partner provides financial support. Centrelink will consider the following in determining whether you are in a marriage-like relationship:
Students who are reliant on a Centrelink payment and who plan to live with a partner are strongly advised to seek advice about the potential impact on their payment before committing to a change in living arrangements.