Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Educational campaign results in anonymous $3,500 cheque

The educational campaign, Support the System that Supports You, has achieved an unexpected outcome in the form of an anonymous $3,500 cheque.

Last week, a bank cheque was delivered to a Centrelink customer service office in Launceston and was accompanied by a hand-written note which said:

“The enclosed bank cheque is to repay benefits that I received that I now realise I was not entitled to. The amount covers all the payments I received, plus interest. I apologise for not coming forward in person but feel morally bound to repay the money.”

While the cheque is a clear indication that the message has struck a chord in the community, the person needs to contact Centrelink to ensure that their payment is counted against their record and to ensure that the problem does not continue.

Parting with the $3,500 might be considered by some as one way of clearing your conscience but this anonymous customer would be much better off coming forward and discussing their changed circumstances directly with Centrelink.

While I applaud the intent to pay back what is owed, the only way to properly correct the record is for the customer to contact Centrelink to update their details. People who send in cheques anonymously need to realise that there can be no guarantee that such payments will be counted against their debt if they are caught doing the wrong thing.

The first phase of the Support the System that Supports You campaign has featured national television, radio and newspaper advertising. Thousands of Centrelink customers have already had their awareness raised about their reporting responsibilities. The advertisements underscore the importance of customers keeping in contact with Centrelink to ensure that they get paid their correct entitlement.

The advertisements are designed to target customers on Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance and Parenting Payment. Although most Centrelink customers try to do the right thing, our research shows us that these particular groups run a particular risk of not providing accurate and timely information.

Customers can update their details by calling Centrelink on 13 62 80.

Pictures are available: Centrelink website