Service Directory for Drug and Alcohol Users

newstart allowance

To be eligible you have to be:

  • unemployed;
  • able and willing to work;
  • actively seeking work;
  • 21 years or over, but under Age Pension age (for anyone under 21 see 'Youth Allowance', below);
  • an Australian resident; and
  • able to provide various proofs of your identity (see 'Proof of Identity' below).

To apply you will need to register as unemployed. You will be interviewed and given forms to complete. Centrelink will make an appointment for your interview. At the interview, they will check your proofs of identity and that you are still unemployed and looking for work.

You will receive a continuation form (a 'dole' form), that you need to return in person to your local Centrelink office every fortnight. It may take up to three weeks before you receive your first payment in your bank account. This may be longer if you have to serve some waiting periods. Waiting periods and penalty periods will affect when you get your first payment. These periods include:

  • Ordinary waiting period (one week).
  • Income maintenance period (no maximum period) - covers payouts of annual leave, sick leave, long service leave and maternity leave. The length of the income maintenance period is based on the length of the leave paid out. If you were working part time you may be able to get a part payment during the income maintenance period.
  • Liquid assets waiting period - includes 'realisable' assets (commonly money in the bank, e.g. termination pay, but not superannuation). This applies if:
    • single people with no dependent children have above $2,500 in realisable assets; or
    • people with partners or single people with dependent children have over $5,000 (waiting period of up to thirteen weeks).
  • Newly arrived residents waiting period - affects most people who come to Australia, apart from refugees or people who enter under humanitarian grounds (two years).
  • Voluntary unemployment penalty period (reduced payment rate, see below) - this is where Centrelink alleges that you left work voluntarily 'without reasonable excuse'. This does not apply if you left because of harassment, health reasons such as stress, or for any reason which applies to your particular situation. It may be necessary to have the support of your union in dealings with Centrelink in this area.
  • Unemployment through misconduct penalty period (reduced payment rate, see below).

Note: Different waiting periods may sometimes be served together.

keeping your newstart allowance

Now that you've gone through the whole tortuous process of getting Newstart Allowance you don't want to lose it. Here's what you have to do.

If you move out of the area or change your postal address, tell them, or you could lose your payment. If Centrelink thinks that you have lowered your particular chances of getting work by moving they may stop your payments for up to 26 weeks. Check with them before you move.

You have to be able to prove to Centrelink that you are actively seeking work all the time. This is called the 'Activity Test'. Every time you put in your dole form, you have to list the jobs that you have applied for that fortnight. When you first start receiving Newstart Allowance, if you are a job seeker you will be issued with a Job Seeker Diary. This requires up to 12 prospective employers to be listed. Generally, this will need to be completed for the first 12 weeks of payment. If job seeking efforts are satisfactory, you will not be issued with another one. In some instances Employer Contact Certificates will be issued. They usually require the signatures of two prospective employers or Job Network Members who have assisted you with an application.

Activity Test suspensions

If you don't complete this 'Activity Test' Centrelink can 'suspend' you and give you a penalty. However, you should not be suspended if a requirement is unreasonable for you, or if you have 'reasonable excuse' for not complying.

An Activity Test suspension can be imposed, if you don't have a 'reasonable excuse', for:

  • becoming 'voluntarily unemployed' (resigning from your job) or being sacked due to misconduct;
  • not signing a Preparing For Work Agreement or not meeting the terms of the Agreement;
  • not taking reasonable steps to find work;
  • not attending a job interview or a suitable course;
  • rejecting a suitable job offer; or
  • not declaring earnings correctly.

If you are a student, you can also be suspended if you don't attend classes or if you aren't making 'satisfactory progress'.

First and second failures in a 12-month period mean that a person's payment can be suspended until they 'rectify' that 'failure'. For example, if you miss a 'Job Capacity Assessment' you will not be paid until you have undertaken that assessment. A third failure in a 12-month period can result in an eight-week (four fortnights) non-payment period.

You can appeal against an incorrect waiting or suspension period, or if you think a suspension is unreasonable. You can also ask to have waiting periods waived. Get independent advice about how waiting periods and penalty periods apply to your particular circumstances.

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