Challenging a Centrelink decision
Last updated: March 2021
The information set out on this page is intended as an introduction only and should not be relied on in place of legal advice.
To make contact with a legal centre specific to your location
Social Security Legal Advice Service (State-wide)
Provide advice and assistance when dealing with Centrelink and in appeals to the Administrative Appeal Tribunal.
The service is available to people on a government benefit, living in South Australia, and aged 15 and over
If you have concerns about a Centrelink decision that affects you, you have the right to know the reasons for the decision and can have the decision reviewed.
Centrelink does not discriminate against customers who exercise their right of appeal.
What are my rights under social security law?
You have the right to:
• receive written reasons for any decision that Centrelink makes about you or your payment
• appeal any Centrelink decision that you believe is wrong
• obtain copies of the law or policy which Centrelink used in making its decision
• obtain a copy of your social security file under Freedom of Information laws.
What kinds of decisions can I challenge?
The Social Security (Administration) Act 1999 provides that a person affected by a decision of a Centrelink officer may apply for review of that decision.
If Centrelink makes a decision that affects you personally, such as cancelling your Centrelink payment or deciding that you are not eligible for a payment that you have applied for, you can ask for the decision to be reviewed.
How do I challenge a Centrelink decision?
The social security appeals system is divided into internal review procedures (reviews within Centrelink) and external review procedures (reviews by tribunals and courts). You will need to start by requesting an internal review, because external tribunals will only look at a decision if it has already been reviewed internally.
First Step: Internal review
A good starting point is to talk to a staff member at Centrelink over the phone or at a Centrelink Service Centre. You can ask them to check the details of the decision they have made about you and also ask them to explain it to you. You can also give them more information or correct any wrong information they might have.
However, if this does not result in the decision being changed, you can ask for a free internal review by an authorised review officer.
The review officer will be a person who has not had any previous involvement in your case and can change the decision if it is wrong.
The review officer will:
• where possible, talk to you about the decision
• look at the facts, the law and policy
• change the decision if it is not correct
• advise you in writing about the result of the review.
You should appeal to the review officer within 13 weeks of receiving written notice of the original decision. If you ask for an appeal within this 13-week timeframe, you may receive backdated payments from the date you were affected by Centrelink's original decision.
You may still ask for a review after the 13-week timeframe, but any changes will only apply from the date that you requested the review.
You must apply for 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 Centrelink. If the decision is about a debt, you can ask Centrelink to put on hold your debt repayments until they complete your review.
An appeal for review can be made:
• over the phone
• in writing – by sending a completed Review of a Centrelink Decision Form available on the Department of Human Service’s website
• in person at a Centrelink Service Centre.
It is usually a good idea to inspect your Centrelink file before appealing for a review because it may contain information that is useful for the review.
The review officer will look at the information considered by the original decision maker and ensure that all relevant available information was taken into account. The review officer will also check whether any new and relevant information is available and correct any mistakes. When the review is complete, the review officer will send you a letter outlining the reasons for their decision.
If an internal review has been completed but if you still believe the decision made is incorrect, you can apply for an external review and seek assitance from the Social Security Advice on 83421800
How much does it cost to appeal?
Generally, there is no charge for an internal Centrelink review, a first review or a second review of Centrelink decisions.
At the AAT, each party will bear their own expenses and no costs can be awarded against you. In some circumstances, the tribunal may pay for your reasonable travel expenses. The tribunal will not pay travel expenses for a representative or a support person to attend the hearing.
Where to get help
Social Security Rights South Australia 83421800