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We all wish there was a manual on how to be an adult. Or maybe, that’s just me. Once you slip through the door of “I’m 18”, you realise you’re an adult now and one of the harshest realities of being an adult is money. Unfortunately, this responsibility also couldn’t come at a worse time: you probably turned 18 in Year 12, will be at the start of university or somewhere in between. You’re already busy enough worrying about everything else (read: assignments, ATARs and university offers), let alone money.

Fortunately, the Australian government issues payments and documents that may help you out financially. Unfortunately, for many, this is still confusing; nobody tells you what, when and how to apply for it. That’s what we’ll be discussing today in the view of a student who has just completed Year 12 and intends on university the following year. (Scholarships are a different beast that’s been tackled here.) We’ll be breaking down some of the walls that make these government financial applications seem so daunting by collating a lot of the basic information and adding a few titbits here and there.


Tax File Numbers

What are they and when should I get one?

A tax file number (otherwise known as a TFN) is provided by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO). It’s a 9-digit personal reference number that you’ll need:

  1. to do any type of (non-cash in hand) paid work in Australia

  2. to get superannuation

  3. to study in a Commonwealth Supported Place (CSP, or those courses that allow you postpone your higher education fees until you can pay it off)

If you haven’t applied for one by the end of Year 12, it’s probably high time to get one between Year 12 and university (or basically any form of higher education).


How do I get one?

If you think you fit into any of the categories above, apply through the ATO by simply checking their website. The process will differ a little depending on whether you’re an Australian resident or not.

For Australian residents, you can check here, complete the online form and print the summary form. Once you’ve printed the form, book an appointment with Australia Post and head to a participating branch to complete the interview. You can check where you nearest participating Australia Post is here. Basically the interview is just to confirm you’re a legitimate Australian. Bring ID as stated on the website. Alternatively, you can attend with ID at your nearest Centrelink service centre.

If you live in a rural area and/or can’t go to an Australian Post office, you can order online, phone 1300 720 092 or ask Centrelink for a TFN form. Then, fill and send it via the post with copies of documents of identification to the address on the form.

If you have a foreign passport, are a permanent migrant or temporary visitor, then I’d advise you check whether you are able to apply for a TFN, as this depends on your visa or documents. You can check that here.


How do I fill out the form?

Most of it is relatively self-explanatory. Just read it carefully and fill in as instructed. There’s an online FAQ available here and if that doesn’t quite answer your questions, you can call 13 28 61 between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Friday. If the online form doesn’t work, try the following email: [email protected] (9am – 5pm Monday – Friday) for technical support.


How long does it take and does it cost to get one?

It can take up to 28 business days for your TFN to arrive after you’ve completed the application. Applying for a TFN is free.


Centrelink (Youth Allowance and Health Care Cards)

Who are they?

Centrelink is a branch of the Department of Human Services that provide payments and services to eligible Australians, including Year 12s and university students (especially those 18+). The payments and services you’ll want to know at the end of Year 12 are most likely: (1) Youth Allowance and (2) Healthcare Cards.


What can they do?

As a university student from a not-so-high socio-economic status, having physical or mental disabilities or having to relocate for university, you’ll be probably faced with the issue of money and an inability to access health care services. Centrelink counteracts this issue by offering payments like Youth Allowance and services like Healthcare Cards to slash prices on public health services (e.g. paying for medicine) or provide free basic health care (e.g. free trips when you go to the doctor).


Am I eligible for Youth Allowance?

Basically, Centrelink has a bunch of criteria that you must follow and if you fit them, great – apply for these payments! Most of them are personal questions such as who is in your family, what age(s) are they, your and your parents’/guardians’ financial situation (including income) and if you’re studying part-time (1-2 units) or full-time (3+ units) at university. It will also increase if you’re leaving home to study at uni. It might seem a bit suspicious, but the government doesn’t want any random person to give money to, so they assess everyone very carefully and confirm you’re a real university student in need of money. You can find out if you’re eligible for Youth Allowance here.


How to apply?

This has 4 main steps:

  1. Make a MyGov account.

  2. Get your supporting documents ready.

  3. Make a claim and follow the prompts to apply for Youth Allowance.

  4. Track your claim.

All the information for this can be found here. By the way, you should keep that Customer Reference Number (CRN) you made during this process somewhere safe; it’s basically your passport at Centrelink.


How long until I receive notice of my Youth Allowance claim?

You’ll be able to receive it fortnightly according to the rates stated here, starting from 13 weeks before your course begins.


Anything I need to do to maintain my Youth Allowance payment?

It must be updated quite regularly. If any personal details change or you’re going overseas, you’ll need to update Centrelink. If you work a part-time/casual job, you’ll need to update Centrelink fortnightly on your earnings. If you are considered a dependent of your parents/guardians, you’ll also be filling out a parent income test with them annually. It might take a fair bit of waiting or a few trips to sort out any issues, but it’ll be worth it to have a bit more money in your pocket.


Am I eligible for Health Care Cards?

Eligibility depends on your circumstances. Usually, you’d have to be receiving a government payment to receive one of these. Health Care Card eligibility can be checked here. There’s also a number of other concession and health care cards, including the Low Income Health Care Cards for those who don’t earn a lot, but you must satisfy an income test to be eligible.


Anything else I’m eligible for?

There may be a number of other payments and services you’re eligible for, many of which can be determined by completing this quiz. Some sweet perks also include that you might now become eligible for certain equity scholarships e.g. Monash’s UniStart Support Scholarship, which often use Centrelink to prove that you’ve experienced financial hardships.


If you have any questions, please either ask within the forum or contact the ATO for TFN help or Centrelink for Youth Allowance help.