In 2008, the Commonwealth Government passed laws to recognise same-sex couples. These included changes to social security legislation. From 1 July 2009, a person who is in a same-sex de facto relationship will be recognised as having a partner by Centrelink for social security and family assistance purposes.
What has changed?
Presently, a person who has a same-sex de facto partner is treated as a single person when Centrelink calculates their entitlement to social security or family assistance.
From 1 July 2009, if you are in a same-sex de facto relationship you will be recognised as having a partner by Centrelink. This means that Centrelink will consider the income and assets of both you and your partner in determining your entitlement.
As a result of these changes, some people may receive a different rate of payment, or may no longer be entitled to a payment, once their partner’s income and assets are assessed with their own. The extent to which a person’s payment may be affected by their partner’s income will depend on the type of payment they receive (and other circumstances).
This change will apply both to people who are already receiving a Centrelink payment and to people who apply for a payment or service after 1 July 2009.
The reforms will also recognise children of same-sex couples for the purposes of determining eligibility for the Family Tax Benefit and other family assistance payments.
From 1 July 2009, same-sex de facto couples may also have access to:
How do I know if I am considered to in a same-sex de facto relationship?Under the changes, a same-sex de facto relationship exists where:
- partner concession card benefits
- bereavement benefits
- exemption of the family home from the asset test where one partner enters a nursing home (see: Medicare and aged care)
- recognition as independent for Youth Allowance if you are in a same-sex de facto relationship for over 12 months.
In determining whether someone is a member of a couple, Centrelink will look at a number of factors including the length of the relationship, whether it is a sexual relationship, whether a couple shares finances and domestic tasks, and if they socialise as a couple. For more general information on de facto relationships, see: De facto relationships: Am I a de facto partner?
a couple are not legally married, are not related by family and have a relationship as a couple living together on a genuine domestic basis; or
a couple has a registered their relationship under the law of a state or territory (for example, in Tasmania).
It is important that couples who are unsure of their relationship status get some independent advice to prevent being overpaid. For free independent legal advice, contact the Welfare Rights Centre on 02 9211 5300 or 1800 226 028.
What do I have to do?Centrelink has advised people who currently receive a Centrelink payment or service and who are in a same-sex de facto relationship to notify them of this before 1 July 2009. This will ensure that people affected by the changes are not overpaid from 1 July and do not have to pay back some or all of their payment.For more information contact Centrelink on 13 62 80 or visit www.centrelink.com.au.
For free independent legal advice, contact the Welfare Rights Centre on 02 9211 5300 or 1800 226 028.
GLRL social security campaignThe Gay & Lesbian Rights Lobby is concerned about the negative impacts of the social security reforms on vulnerable members of our community.
We have lobbied for, and will continue to lobby for, a longer period to phase-in the new laws and mechanisms (such as grandfathering) to ease the burden of these changes.
However, it is important that people prepare for the new laws to be in place on 1 July 2009 unless further information is given.