Dishonestly Obtain a Financial Advantage (Centrelink Fraud)
Sentencing in the higher courts
Please note that suspended sentences were abolished in the higher courts earlier than that of the Magistrates’ Court, and therefore all offences committed on or after 1 September 2013 will not have this available as a sentencing option.1
 Sentencing Advisory Council. Abolished Sentencing Orders, accessed January 29, 2021, https://www.sentencingcouncil.vic.gov.au/about-sentencing/abolished-sentencing-orders.
Examples of Dishonestly Obtain a Financial Advantage (Centrelink Fraud)
- A woman incorrectly reports her income to Centrelink and receives more money from Centrelink than she is entitled to
- A Carer continues to receive money from Centrelink even though the person they cared for has died
What is the legal definition of Dishonestly Obtain a Financial Advantage (Centrelink Fraud)?Deliberately engaging in conduct resulting in obtaining a financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity for yourself or someone else. And knowing or believing that you or someone else was not entitled to the financial advantage.
LegislationThe section that covers this offence is section 135.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995.1
Elements of the offenceThe following elements must be proven in court for an accused to be found guilty of this charge:
- The accused engaged in a conduct; and
- The conduct resulted in the accused obtaining a financial advantage for himself or herself from another person (C); or
- The conduct resulted in the accused obtaining a financial advantage for another person (P) from a third person (C); and
- The accused knew or believed that he or she was not eligible to receive that financial advantage, or that the person (P) for which he or she obtained a financial advantage from another person (C) was not eligible to receive that financial advantage; and
- The other person (C) is a Commonwealth entity.
- You did not do anything to cause the Centrelink to give you more money
- You received the extra money as a result of an error made on the part of the Centrelink
- You did not know or believe you were not eligible to receive the money
Questions in cases like this
- Was Centrelink responsible for giving you more money / did they make the mistake?
- Can they prove that you did something that caused Centrelink to give you more money?
“Did you lie to Centrelink?”
Questions that a Judge May Ask a Jury to ConsiderA Judge presiding over this matter would ask the jury to consider two things:
- Did the accused obtain a financial advantage from Centrelink?
- If so, did the accused obtain a financial advantage dishonestly?
Ultimately, the jury must look at the surrounding circumstances to decide if the accused acted dishonestly.
“Can the Prosecution prove that the accused was dishonest?”
The maximum penalty for the offence of (s135.2 of the Criminal Code Act 1995) is imprisonment for 12 months.
What can you be sentenced to for this charge?
With Centrelink cases it depends on how much money is involved and for how long the money was received. In serious cases you may face imprisonment.
Other Important Resources
- Sentencing Advisory Council. “SACStat Higher Courts – Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth): s 135.2(1) – obtain financial advantage from a Commonwealth entity
- VCC summaries – Commonwealth dishonesty offences: Sentencing decisions from 1 January 2016 to 31 August 2016
- Criminal Code Act 1995: Obtaining Financial Advantage (p. 155)