If you’re independent through work

You may be an independent student if you support yourself through paid work.

There’re a few different ways you may be independent through paid work.

Seasonal agricultural work for students

You may be independent if you earn at least $15,000 from seasonal agricultural work before 31 December 2021.

You can claim independence this way from 1 March 2021 if you can show all of the following:

  • you earned the money from approved agricultural work
  • you earned it between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021
  • your parents’ or guardians’ income is below a certain amount for either the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 financial years.

Approved agricultural work includes:

  • picking or packing fruit or vegetable crops
  • planting, pruning, irrigating and harvesting crops and packing them into boxes
  • pruning and trimming vines and trees in order to cultivate and sell produce such as commercial fruit and nut crops
  • work on a dairy farm including herding, feeding or milking cows, operating milking equipment, cleaning the milking plant and yards
  • farmhand work including feeding livestock, herding livestock and cleaning pens, cages and yards
  • work in a shearing shed such as shearing sheep.

Some work won’t be approved, even if it’s done on a farm. For example:

  • working as a nanny on a cattle farm
  • wine-making, brewing, distilling, or giving wine tastings at a vineyard
  • producing smallgoods
  • producing dairy products such as yoghurt, condensed milk, flavoured milk or sour cream
  • painting or maintaining barns, sheds or other property
  • driving produce to a mill or market.

When you claim, you’ll need to give us evidence of what type of approved agricultural work you did. This needs to be work you did between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021.

Evidence to show the type of work you did may include:

  • a letter from your employer, on a company letterhead if they have one
  • an employment agreement or contract
  • a Relocation Assistance agreement as described on the JobSearch website.

You’ll also need to give us evidence of the amount of money you earned. Your gross earnings need to be at least $15,000 between 30 November 2020 and 31 December 2021. Gross earnings are your earnings before tax is taken out. Evidence of earnings may include:

  • payslips
  • a letter from your employer, on a company letterhead if they have one
  • payment summaries
  • payroll report
  • profit and loss statement
  • tax returns
  • receipts for work done.

This form of independence also depends on your parents’ or guardians’ income.

Full time work

You must work full time, for at least 18 months within any 2 year period. You don’t need to work for 18 months in a row, or in the same job. Full time work is an average of 30 hours a week.

You may not work 30 hours every week. If this is the case, you can average your work hours over a period of up to 13 weeks.

Paid work includes:

  • paid leave
  • overseas work
  • unpaid leave due to employer shutdown outside of your control
  • full time apprenticeships and traineeships.

See if you’re considered independent using the check independence through work history tool.

Impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19)

For claims lodged from 1 January 2021, we recognise that coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected work in 2020. If you claim as independent through work from this date, we’ll consider you fulfilled your work requirements for 6 months. This means you include the period of 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020 in the time you worked. Because we do this automatically, you don’t need to tell us and you won’t need to provide proof.

For example, Tracy finished school in Melbourne in 2018 and started working full time in a cafe in February 2019. COVID-19 meant she lost her job in March 2020. Tracy is studying physical therapy in February 2021. We count the period from 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020 as time Tracy worked. This is even though COVID-19 meant she couldn’t work. Tracy is independent because she worked full time for at least 18 months in a 2 year period.

Part time work or earnings for rural and remote students

You may be independent if you meet all the following criteria:

  • your parental home is in an inner regional, outer regional, remote or very remote area
  • you need to move away from your parental home to study
  • you’ve worked since leaving secondary school
  • your parents’ or guardians’ income is below a certain amount.

Use the Student Regional Area Search to find out which area your family home is in.

Since leaving secondary school, you need to have either:

You can’t include hours worked and income earned while still in secondary school.

You need to give us proof of your work.

Impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19)

For claims lodged from 1 January 2021, we recognise that coronavirus (COVID-19) has affected work in 2020. If you claim as independent through work from this date, we’ll consider you fulfilled your work requirements for 6 months. This means you include the period of 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020 in the time you worked. Because we do this automatically, you don’t need to tell us and you won’t need to provide proof.

For example, Max went to secondary school in Oatlands in Tasmania. He finished high school in 2018 and started working part time in a shop straight away. COVID-19 meant he lost his job in March 2020. Max is studying construction management in February 2021. We count the period from 25 March 2020 to 24 September 2020 as time that Max worked. This is even though COVID-19 meant he couldn’t work for that period. Max is independent because he worked at least 15 hours a week for at least 2 years.

What your maximum parental income can be

It also depends on your parents’ or guardians’ income. If your parents’ or guardians’ income is over the limit you might not get Youth Allowance.

Your parents can have a combined parental income of $160,000 per year. There’s also an extra $10,000 added to the parental income limit for each of your eligible siblings.

For example, Luke lives with his mum and dad and his 2 school-aged sisters. His sisters are eligible siblings so the combined parental income limit cut-off is $180,000.

Eligible siblings are any of your siblings under 22 years of age unless they are 1 of the following:

  • living away from home and are, or have been, a member of a couple
  • living away from home and have, or have had, a dependent child
  • getting Youth Allowance, ABSTUDY or Disability Support Pension as an independent person because it’s unreasonable for them to live at home
  • in state care.

For part time working rural and remote students you can pick which financial year you use to calculate parental income. You can choose from 1 of 3 financial years, whichever is most beneficial for you. It can be any 1 of these, the financial year:

  • before you take a gap year, referred to as pre-gap year

  • of your gap year, referred to as base year

  • following your gap year, referred to as post base year.

For seasonal agricultural work students, you can choose from either the 2018-2019 or 2019-2020 financial years.

Page last updated: 24 February 2021