Anyone affected by a decision of Centrelink, who disagrees with the decision, can apply to the SSAT for a review of the decision. Applications to the SSAT relate to decisions that affect people's pensions, benefits, allowances, student assistance etc.
Before the SSAT can review a decision, it must first be reviewed internally by the agency that made the decision. In social security cases, the decision must first be reviewed by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer.
Applications for review of Centrelink decisions can be lodged any time after a review of the original decision by a Centrelink Authorised Review Officer. If the application is about payment of a Centrelink benefit, you should lodge it within 13 weeks because amounts outstanding may not be payable if a successful application is lodged more than 13 weeks after the Centrelink review.
You do not have to pay to apply to the SSAT. The SSAT will reimburse you for reasonable public transport costs to get to the hearing. If required, an interpreter will be provided for the hearing, at no cost to you.
The SSAT does not pay the fees of lawyers or other professionals, should you choose to be represented at the hearing. It also does not pay the travel costs of friends or relatives who accompany you to the hearing.
Once an application is lodged with the SSAT, an SSAT Case Manager will contact you and provide information at each step of the review process. The SSAT will arrange a hearing date as quickly as possible, usually within six weeks. The SSAT will provide you with copies of relevant documents provided by Centrelink at least seven days before your hearing.
The hearing itself is less formal than a court. In Centrelink cases it is a discussion between the applicant, other parties (if applicable) and SSAT member(s). Centrelink review hearings usually last up to an hour. No one from Centrelink comes to the hearing.
At the hearing, SSAT member(s) will ask you questions about things it needs to know to make a decision. You will have the opportunity to tell the SSAT what you think is important and ask questions if you are unsure about anything. You do not need to express yourself in 'legal language'. The SSAT member(s) will usually take notes to assist them in writing reasons for the decision.
To prepare for the hearing, you should write down any questions you wish to ask the SSAT member(s). It is a good idea to make notes about events, dates and persons involved in the matter under review.
When you come to the hearing, you should bring with you any information relevant to your case. The SSAT already has the relevant documents provided by Centrelink. You can provide additional information if you wish.
You might find it helpful to contact a community legal centre or other organisation to assist you in preparing your case and/or be with you during the hearing. Links to a number of relevant organisations are given on the How to apply to the SSAT page. Your nearest SSAT registry can provide details of local agencies that may be able to assist you.
If you want to seek legal advice, it is best to do so while you are preparing for the hearing, not at the last minute.
You can also contact your nearest SSAT registry if you would like more details about the hearing.
You can bring a partner, friend or family member to the premises at which the hearing is to be held, for support. In most cases, the person will be allowed to go into the hearing room with you. However, as SSAT hearings are required by law to be held in private, the SSAT can restrict who can enter the hearing room.
The SSAT can arrange assistance with your special needs. Contact your nearest SSAT registry to discuss how your individual requirements may best be met. Assistance may include sign interpreters, hearing loop, help getting to and from the hearing and flexible hearing options (such as hearings by telephone or video-conference).
Call Freecall™ 1800 060 116 for teletypewriter service.
For information in another language, call 131 450 from anywhere in Australia. The Translating and Interpreting Service can call the SSAT on your behalf.
Contact your nearest SSAT registry if you require large print formats of the SSAT's general information documents.
The SSAT member(s) may tell you the decision on the day of your hearing. Otherwise, about 14 days after your hearing you will receive the SSAT's written decision in the mail. You will be notified if the SSAT has to delay making the decision in your matter until a later date. This could be to allow time for you to provide further information, for the SSAT to obtain further information or to allow the SSAT to consider any unusual legal issue.
The SSAT's decision is final. However, both you and Centrelink have the right to apply to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal for review of the SSAT's decision. This must be done within 28 days of the date of the SSAT's decision.
The SSAT looks at each individual case on its merits. It will consider all the relevant facts and law before reaching a decision. The Case Manager cannot give you advice about this. In recent years, the SSAT has changed the decision in about a third of all Centrelink cases reviewed.
The SSAT is an independent statutory body whose members are people with expertise in law, accounting, medicine or public administration. It is not part of Centrelink. It has the power to change Centrelink decisions, but only according to the law.