When I received my debt back in November of 2016, I had knots in my stomach and cried and just couldn't believe I had received a letter of this nature, it wasn't until not long after that I realised that so many other individuals would be targeted too.
Immediately the next business day I contacted Centrelink on the number they provided on the debt notice and the woman I spoke to said she could see there was an oversight and for me to get my payslips and all would be resolved, she told me not to stress about it.
I thought this was way too easy and turns out it was.
That same day I contacted my previous employer about obtaining these pay slips and spent months patiently awaiting her to be able to find them but unfortunately, all my records had been lost.
I was devistated. I had no idea what to do next or who to turn to.
It was like having the weight of the world resting upon my shoulders and I felt like I was a criminal even though I whole heartedly believed I did nothing wrong.
The way they quantified this debt was to average out my gross income and compared it to what I received accordingly, however for a period of, i think, 4 months I actually did not receive any centrelink as it was cancelled because my income was too high.
I requested any information I could from centrelink but they wouldn't or couldn't give me what I wanted.
In a pit of despair I reached out on Facebook to my friends and family, to which a friend referred me to the Not My Debt website where I found so much useful information about the next steps I could take.
I had an appeal made and reached out to my MP which proved useless, she did nothing.
After having a review by an Authorised Centrelink Review Officer my debt increased by nearly 1,000.
That was it. I didn't know what else to do, I felt hopeless, I had to move out of my mums place which put even greater financial stress on me.
At times Centrelink would increase my forced repayments because I didn't regularly ring to make sure it stayed the same. Those fortnights saw me in tears and depression.
I thought "maybe I should just give up and pay it, this is way too hard and I can't deal with this on top of uni" but then I thought "how dare they bully the nations most vulnerable, I'm going to fight this all the way".
It was only because of my support network of friends and family that assisted me through this ordeal that I survived it and I know not everyone is so fortunate.
My review officer then advised me of the AAT (administrative appeals tribunal) and I felt that tiny last surge of hope I had left in me.
I lodged my appeal, the process took a few months but it was well worth the wait.
They ruled in my favour that the debt couldn't be quantified therefore there is not debt.
I cried in relief when centrelink reversed the debt almost right away (which surprised me just as much because they have up to 28 days!).
I cannot begin to describe the feeling that washed over me.
To those who also suffer anxiety/depression and feel tired, please do not give in.
Please continue to charge forward with what you believe is right. There are people out there who will listen and support you all the way.
The AAT were absolutely amazing and so sensitive about everything they made the process so easy, explained everything clearly and concisely and did not judge me whatsoever, no catches and no strings. They are simply there to help you. They are not part of centrelink.
I know it's hard, I know it's so much easier to give in and just pay it because it's such a difficult fight but please, don't. That's what they want you to do, if they feel they have the right to bully you, then you bully them right back! We need to stand united to these bullies.
It's hard, yes, but it can be done.
This fight lasted a bit over twelve months, if it weren't for my family and friends I honestly don't think I would have survived to tell my story, this was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and unfortunately, I'm afraid they won't give up on me so easy...
The government only cares about it's 'rules and regulations'.
The people I've dealt with, such as the review officer, wanted to badly to help me. They did care (luck of the draw maybe?). She couldn't only do what she could with her rules and no more, must be hard for these guys.
The government waves its hand around and sends these people out to do their dirty work. The little guys have been amazing, the government however have been completely incompetent and absolutely ignorant in their response to these debt letters.
My 'debt' was due the day after christmas 2016 yet they claimed they weren't sending out letters in this period.
Bunch of selfish corporate liars.