Explanations and formal reviews of a Centrelink decision

Find out what you can do if you disagree or want more information about a decision we’ve made.

What you need to know first

If you disagree or want more information about a decision we’ve made, you can ask for an explanation or apply for a formal review.

Explanation of a decision

If you want more information about a decision we’ve made, you can ask us for an explanation at any time. We may be able to sort out your concerns without needing a formal review.

You can request a pause on debt repayments while you wait for an explanation of a debt decision.

Once you’ve asked for an explanation, an experienced staff member will call you to explain our decision. We aim to contact you within 14 days. If we can’t reach you by phone, we’ll send you a letter asking you to call us for an explanation.

You don’t have to pay for an explanation of a decision.

Formal review

You can apply for a formal review of a decision we’ve made. You may want to apply for a formal review if you understand our decision but disagree with it. You don’t have to ask for an explanation first.

When you apply for a formal review, an Authorised Review Officer (ARO) will review the decision. The ARO will:

  • speak with you about the decision, where possible
  • look at the facts, the law, and the policy involved in the decision
  • change the decision if it’s wrong
  • contact you to let you know the outcome of your formal review.

You can also request a pause on debt repayments during a formal review of a debt decision.

You don’t have to pay for a formal review.

When there are formal review delays

We aim to finish a formal review within 49 days. Some may take longer than this. It depends on the details of the review.

We have a high number of formal review applications in the queue for processing. This means it may take longer than usual before we get to your application.

If you’ve asked for a formal review, an ARO will attempt to contact you to discuss your review before they make a decision. There’s no need to call us to check on the progress of your formal review while it’s in the queue.

How to pause your debt repayments

You can ask us to pause your debt repayments while we complete an explanation of our decision or a formal review. You can do this when you talk to us about the debt decision. The pause will generally be for 6 months. If your explanation or formal review takes longer than 6 months, you’ll need to contact us to extend your debt pause.

When to apply for a formal review

You can apply for a formal review of a debt decision at any time for almost all of our payments.

Debt decision time limits are in place for the following:

  • ABSTUDY
  • Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme
  • Tertiary Access Payment.

You should apply for a formal review of claim and entitlement decisions within 13 weeks from the date we tell you about the decision. You can still apply for a review after 13 weeks. If we change the decision, you may only get your entitlement from the date you applied for the formal review.

There is a limited time to apply for a formal review for some payments. Read about formal review time limits for:

How to ask for an explanation or apply for a formal review

You can ask for an explanation or apply for a formal review by doing one of the following:

To use the form, fill in and return to us the Explanation or formal review of decision form.

For ABSTUDY OR Assistance for Isolated Children decisions, use the ABSTUDY and Assistance for Isolated Children (AIC) Explanation or formal review of decision form.

If your Centrelink online account is linked to myGov, sign in now to upload your supporting documents.

Sign in to myGov

You can also use the Express Plus Centrelink mobile app.

Read our guide to uploading your Centrelink documents online.

If you can’t give the form or supporting documents to us online, you can send them to us at:

Centrelink
Reply Paid 7800
Canberra BC ACT 2610

What you can do if you disagree with the Authorised Review Officer’s decision

If you disagree with the AROs decision, you can apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) for a review of the decision. You can ask us to pause any debt repayments until the AAT’s review is complete.

The AAT is an independent tribunal. They can change decisions but only according to the law. They can only review a decision after an ARO has reviewed the decision.

There are different process for reviews about:

When to apply to the AAT

There are time limits for applying to the AAT to review the ARO’s decision.

For Paid Parental Leave Scheme, you have 28 days from our ARO’s decision to apply for an AAT review.

For all other decisions, you should apply for an AAT review within 13 weeks from when you receive our ARO’s decision. You can still apply for an AAT review after 13 weeks. However, if the AAT changes the decision, you may only be paid from the date you applied for the review.

How to apply for an AAT review

Go to the AAT website and follow their instructions to apply for an AAT review.

After you submit an application, we’ll send the AAT a statement. It will contain the reasons for our decision and relevant documents. You'll also get a copy of our statement and documents.

There are 2 levels of review by the AAT.

You may disagree with the outcome of the AAT's first review. If you do, you may be able to apply for a second AAT review. You should make an application for a second AAT review within 28 days of receiving the first AAT review decision.

Decisions made by the AAT are binding on both you and us. Either of us may appeal a second AAT decision to the courts, but only on a question of law.

For some types of decisions, there may be an AAT application fee.

We’re unable to assist you with the costs of pursuing a review by the AAT. The AAT is also unable to award you costs if you’re successful. We don’t ask you to pay our costs if you’re unsuccessful.

What else you should know

Legal assistance

You can choose to have your own legal representative if you apply for a review of a decision.

Free advice and assistance is available from the following organisations:

Compensation claims

In some cases you may be able to claim compensation. This is if you think we've made a mistake that has caused you a financial loss or other harm. You should explore options such as a formal review before you consider a claim.

Read more about claiming compensation from us.

Page last updated: 8 February 2024.
QC 63907