When should I declare my relationship to Centrelink?

June 21, 2017
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We all know that first comes love, then comes marriage, but where the hell comes Centrelink?

If you’re receiving Youth Allowance, or any sort of financial help from the government while studying, you know how iffy they get about any change in your circumstances. But it’s not exactly the most romantic thing if during “the relationship talk” you’re wondering how your new love will affect your ability to buy food.

According the Centrelink, when assessing your relationship, they’ll look at five things: your financial relationship, your household, your social lives, your sex life and the nature of your commitment to each other. Now that’s all very good, but what about the non-traditional relationships and how do they fit in to what Centrelink views as a relationship?

After some very thorough searching of the Centrelink site, I’ve discovered the following, however, it’s important to remember that each claim is assessed on a case by case basis on the above conditions and Centrelink can still decide you’re a member of a couple even if you don’t meet their factors.

Totally standard hetero-monogamous couple

Oh, you lucky basic people. You’ve (presumably) gone through all the milestones together, from first date, to first couples’ Christmas.

While you may feel like you’re totally together because you’re Facebook Official, it’s actually when you take that giant leap of faith and move in together that you become Centrelink Official. It may be weird to hear, but that urban legend that you don’t become de-facto until you’ve lived together for at least six months, is purely fiction. The grown-up de-facto relationship takes form from the moment you put on your big boy pants and shack up together.


We still don’t have gay marriage, but don’t worry, Centrelink will still recognise your relationship if it means minimising your payments. When it comes to registered relationships, civil unions will be recognised in most states or territories, but where they’re not you’ll still be considered de facto. You’ll also still be considered de facto/registered even if you were married overseas, as Centrelink will not recognise this either. Boo.

Roommate you’ve got an on/off thing going with

This is where it starts to get a bit tricky, and I really hope anyone in this situation loves forms, because you’re going to be filling out a lot of them. You’ll become very familiar with the relationship details form, which to be honest, reads more like a therapy session than an actual government form. Expect to answer such fun questions as “Do you think there is any possibility that you will get back together?”, and “Are you and the other person free to form a sexual relationship with other people?” But hey, telling the government your plans for splitting chores is way cheaper than actual therapy, so go for it.

Multiple partners

Polyamory, the practice of dating multiple people, has seen a bit of a rise in recent times. This goes beyond casually dating around, to forming actual heartfelt solid relationships with a few people. It can take a whole lot of forms, but it’s when you’re all living together in a big de facto family that Centrelink takes notice. These relationships will all be assessed separately and when claiming, the lowest payment rate applicable for you will be applied. So choose those big family share houses very carefully.

Anne Rathbone

Anne is a law student at Flinders University, who spends way too much time with her cat and not enough with actual humans.