If you disagree with a Centrelink decision you can:
- talk to the person who made the decision
- ask to see the documents (if any) that Centrelink relied on under freedom of information laws
- ask for an internal review by an authorised review officer.
If you disagree with the outcome of the internal review you can appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
If you are not happy with Centrelink’s service you can also make a complaint.
Talk to the person who made the decision
If you are not happy with a Centrelink decision, first talk to the person who made the decision. If you are still unhappy, ask for a review of the decision by an authorised review officer. You can ask for a review by phone or in writing. It is a good idea to keep a record of the date, time and receipt number of your phone conversation.
It’s important to get legal advice if Centrelink claims that you have deliberately or knowingly received payments you shouldn’t have and you disagree with this decision. Read Other support for Centrelink.
Make a request under freedom of information laws
Centrelink is required to keep all the records they have about you and you can get copies of this information.
It is often in a form that is difficult to understand but if Centrelink have made an obvious mistake about you, or recorded wrong information, you may be able to see it in the Centrelink documents provided. If you are having trouble understanding the documents, get help.
Ask for an internal review of the decision
An authorised review officer will look at the decision. The officer is a more senior person in Centrelink who has not been involved in your case.
You should ask for a review of a decision within 13 weeks from the date of the original decision. If the review is decided in your favour, you will usually only get back payments if the request is lodged within this 13-week period.
There is no time limit to appeal debts raised by Centrelink. You will have to continue making repayments during the review period.
You can give new information or evidence for the officer to consider as part of your appeal.
Appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal
If you disagree with the outcome of the review, you can appeal to the Social Services and Child Support Division of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (the tribunal). You can only appeal to the tribunal after your original decision has been reviewed by an authorised review officer.
There are no costs for making an appeal unless you hire a lawyer, which is not usually necessary. Most people represent themselves and you also can bring a support person to the hearing. An interpreter can be arranged if you need one. Centrelink will not be at the hearing, but a copy of your file will be given to you and to the tribunal.
If you disagree with the ‘first review’ decision of the Social Services and Child Support Division, you have the right to a ‘second review’ in the General Division of the tribunal, but you need to lodge this application within 28 days. Appeals to this division of the tribunal are also free of costs. You may wish to get legal advice before applying for a second review.
If Centrelink disagrees with a ‘first review’ decision made by the tribunal, it also has a right to appeal to the General Division for a ‘second review’. If this happens, seek legal advice.
Read the fact sheet Appealing a Centrelink decision on the Economic Justice Australia's self-help page.
Centrelink also has a complaints that you can use if you are unhappy with the service you received. You can make a complaint over the phone or in writing. You can remain anonymous if you prefer.
Centrelink aims to resolve complaints within five working days of receiving them. Complex complaints may take longer than five working days, but Centrelink should advise you if this will be the case with your complaint.
Your complaint may be dealt with more quickly if you contact them by phone.
You can also complain to the Commonwealth . Usually, the Ombudsman will ask that you first try to resolve your complaint directly with Centrelink.
Find out how you can get other support for Centrelink.
Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.
We help Victorians with their legal problems and represent those who need it most. Find legal answers, chat with us online, or call us. You can speak to us in English or ask for an interpreter. You can also find more legal information at www.legalaid.vic.gov.au
Reviewed 26 April 2022