VIC HECS Debt Due to Incompetence - What to Do?

Australia's #1 for Law
Join 150,000 Australians every month. Ask a question, respond to a question and better understand the law today!
FREE - Join Now


15 June 2016
In late 2012, I was unemployed and living in Tasmania. The employment agency that I was assigned to by Centrelink recommended that I undertake further study and explored my strengths. I already have a teaching degree that I obtained in 2010, but could only get the odd casual relief.

As I had worked as an assistant nurse in a previous life, I headed down the path of completing a bachelor of nursing which I commenced in 2014. The course was approved for Austudy by Centrelink and a HECS loan was also approved.

In mid 2015, I relocated to Melbourne and transferred my course. This was approved by Centrelink as was a one year extension of my course due to different course requirements and some practical catch-up due to bilateral knee surgery. That was over a year ago. I am just about to finish the equivalent of my second year and I have one year to go.

I am a distinction level student and I have never failed any units. It is now October, 2016, and Centrelink just requested that I confirm my study details and I discovered that the end-date was not extended to 2017. I called to find out why this occurred and I was informed that my Austudy should never have been approved in the first place because I have a previous degree (I did receive Austudy for two years of my previous degree, 2009-2010) .

They promptly cancelled all payments today and said I now have to apply for Newstart allowance and look for a job. I have been receiving Austudy for this course for almost 3 years now and apparently I cannot continue studying full-time at university level and be on Newstart. My problem is, I now have a huge 3 year HECS debt and no prospect of completing the course that they approved. I am also left high and dry with no income until Newstart allowance is approved.

Where do I stand from a legal perspective in relation to payments being ceased after prior approval and paying back a debt for a course that I am not able to complete due to their incompetence? If I was not approved in the first place, I would not be in this situation. Courses are generally extended on medical grounds and due to course relocation.


Well-Known Member
31 October 2015
Austudy payments are administered by the Department of Human Services and decisions are obviously at their discretion that said you have a right to appeal. While previous tertiary study undertaken at the same level is taken into account in measuring allowable time. You may have grounds to appeal on the grounds that this has occurred due to circumstances beyond your control which may be:
  • You have been, disabled by an illness or other medical condition
  • had to relocate, and repeat part of a course or start the course again because of the educational institution.
Based on these points if you feel the facts of your situation have not been considered you should contact your Austudy contact to discuss the matter further and ask for a review based on this information.